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I'm sure every parent has days like this:

Your child has been a troublemaker all day. You are exhausted, and at your wits' end. It would be nice to just take a break, to have someone else take over for an hour - or a day. But you're alone and the partner is at work for another "X" hours. The weather is bad; you can't go to the playground or zoo.

You feel like screaming.

What would you do to keep sane? Let's hear some ideas.

Update:
"Taking a break" is what I'd do too, but sometimes it's not easy. My reference situation is a toddler -- too young to be "parked" in front of a TV, and too old to be placed in a crib. Lock him in his room? Doesn't feel right.

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closed as not constructive by Robert Cartaino Aug 5 '11 at 3:05

As it currently stands, this question is not a good fit for our Q&A format. We expect answers to be supported by facts, references, or expertise, but this question will likely solicit debate, arguments, polling, or extended discussion. If you feel that this question can be improved and possibly reopened, visit the help center for guidance.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

4  
I really appreciate your on-going contribution to this site but this question is really chatty. One of the difficulties facing a site like Parenting is keeping the questions (and answers) a product of expertise (or at least hard-earned experience). This question sounds like someone had a hard day and really just needed to reach out to a support group. I can appreciate the sentiment but I really have to close this as not a good fit for this site. See: Good Subjective, Bad Subjective –  Robert Cartaino Aug 5 '11 at 3:04
    
Fair point. The article is good, thanks for reminding me of it. –  Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Aug 5 '11 at 6:58
    
@Robert .. not sure I agree .. part of good parenting requires taking care of yourself. Perhaps some editing ... –  tomjedrz Aug 22 '11 at 7:36
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7 Answers 7

up vote 3 down vote accepted

Take a break.

Our daughter must not have been more than a few months old when I just needed a break. I put her in her crib ("somewhere safe") and took a 30 minute shower. She cried. A lot. But I needed the break. It would've been worse for us had I not taken the break. Quite frankly, I don't think she cares or remembers anymore (she is 1!).

Since then, anytime I need a break and I can't find anyone else to take her for a little while - she just goes in her crib or playpen with a couple of her toys (if the weather is bad). It's easier when the weather is nicer - in the stroller and we go for a walk.

I am as much of a human as she is, and I need a break too. If I can't take care of myself, I sure as heck can't take care of her.

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leaving a baby 30 minutes alone seems quite long to me. But I would not dare judging the situation I did not experience myself. This really might have been the best option for both under those circumstances. I would suggest to add to your answer: tell (or explain, if you can) your child that you need a break to calm down and will come back soon. I imagine this could be better than just leaving without saying anything about why you go and if/when you'll return. –  BBM Aug 4 '11 at 22:04
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  • Get out of the house. Put raincover on a stroller and just walk around.
  • Go to library - this is the best. In US they often have a space for kids with toys and baby books.
  • Go to the mall.
  • IKEA (if you have one around) might have a playspace for small kids.
  • Go to the indoor playground.
  • There is got to be a toy which will keep him busy for a while, for my son it was Thomas the Train Engine simple set. Activity table kept him busy for some time as well.
  • Get out a new toy.
  • Have a schedule - this way instead of one long day you have a series of short periods of time that is easier to survive.
  • Keep the nap as long as possible - it is a life saver. The days when my son napped were much easier then the ones he did not. Even if he does not nap try to put him in a crib for some time on schedule.

Edit: also, if possible, give mom a way to get out of the house to the gym or another place of her choosing on her own regularly: ask family member to babysit, hire a babysitter for several hours or stay with child by yourself on weekend.

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Why is your baby crying?

After eliminating all the basic needs: food, sleep, hygiene, wants stimulation, consider to

Wear your baby

We have a "high-needs" baby (only 3.5 months old) that must be carried. She used to sleep on her swing but not anymore. Consider baby-wearing (slings, baby carriers) and go about your day. The motion and your body heat might put them to sleep.

Nap-time with Baby

Adults can benefit from a catnap as well. When my baby is due for a nap and is absolutely resisting, I lay down and cuddle with her. We both take a nap. If your baby is mobile, consider safety: sleep on the floor in a properly baby-proofed room.

If all else fails, this always works for us (for now, anyway),

Give Baby a relaxing bath

Assuming, of course, that your baby enjoys a bath.

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Hide.

Seriously. Sometimes, when things feel like they're going to spiral out of control, the best thing to do is get the kids cordoned off someplace reasonably safe, then go somewhere else (in the house or yard) and take a few minutes to calm down.

Tossing a movie on to the TV and giving the kids a large bowl of popcorn can give you just enough time to compose yourself.

If the child is an infant, sometimes all you can do is put him or her down in their crib with some toys and go into another room. Yeah, they'll probably cry and scream, but they were doing that anyway and so were you. Turn on some music, close the doors, and decompress.

You're not going to do your kids any favors by escalating things.

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You need some friends, or at least some other families with kids your own age, with whom you can do some tag teaming. When this kind of day happens, you can call them and ask to visit, or ask them to visit, or setup a "play date."

My wife and I had a vocal, energetic, willful toddler. We found a group of families with kids around the same age at our church through the child care program for mass.

My 19-year-old daughter's best friend is a kid she met in that circle when she was two.

Get out of the house, go to local playgrounds and parks, the local YMCA, the neighborhood pool, etc. When your child starts playing with another child, find the parent, give your phone number, get theirs, and ask about a play date another day. Then call in a couple of days and follow through. In a few weeks you will have three or four friendships in the making, and some folks you can turn to for help when your day goes sideways.

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Try taking the child into a new situation - if you're inside the house try taking them outside for a few minutes.

Try a different play activity. Maybe try some messy play, like baked-bean painting or rice pudding squidging.

Try giving the child something where they're allowed to be "naughty", like ripping up paper (maybe for papier mache) or kicking cardboard boxes.

These are all short activities which aim to distract and then occupy the child for a little while, allowing you to get a breather.

EDIT to add more:

Take every opportunity to get other people to help out. Take a friend and a book to a local playground; visit a toddler group and ask someone to look after your child for a few minutes; find a trustworthy babysitter who can do an hour or so during day times, consider putting your child into a nursery for a couple of afternoons a week.

Some children just need a lot of activity and attention. This is exhausting!

EDIT again: About bad weather - children sometimes love it. Splashing in puddles, playing with wet grass, wet leaves, and so on. Obviously you wrap up, and make sure there's a change of clothes, and some nice time afterwards.

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you got already some very good answers (like e. g. (a) taking a short time out by just leaving the room and leaving the child alone - under safe circumstances! or (b) "now to something completely different": change the situation with another toy, going outside together, or whatever).

One more thought:

Well, if you fell like screaming, maybe you should just ....scream. However, if the child is too young to understand and could get scared, this might be a bad idea....

Alternative: some violence against innocent objects, like hitting the sofa or a soft pillow with your fist to "decharge" a bit. Maybe you could do that without the child (staying in his room for a short wile) seeing that.
On the other hand, this might be a change to show your child(ren) that it is better to find a way to let off steam which does not harm any person around.

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I sometimes do thump the mattress, or a wall, or some other nearly object that I know won't get damaged. The problem is that sometimes my toddler sees this and takes it as a lesson that when you're upset it's okay to throw things around. That's not what I want to teach. –  Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Mar 13 '12 at 9:05
    
@TorbenGundtofte-Bruun: sure - I already noted there could be unwanted side-effects. Have you tried taking a very, very deeeeeep breath loudly (which also the child can easily hear and will learn that this is the right time to stop his annoying behavior)? –  BBM Mar 14 '12 at 15:15
    
Taking a deep breath is good and works, but much earlier in the scenario. At this stage ("you feel like screaming") I just don't have enough mental energy left to take a Zen approach. –  Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Mar 14 '12 at 15:41
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