5 Signs You Need a Parenting Break. Now.

5 Signs You Need a Parenting Break. Now.

5 Signs You Need a Parenting Break. Now.

Parenting can drown you. It can overwhelm you to the point of making you feel like you are on the edge of something unavoidable. A tipping point where you either regain your balance or you find yourself lashing out. Everyone now and then needs a break, and perhaps no one more so than parents. As mothers and fathers we find ourselves cascading from one day to the next lost in a haze of muddy clothes and snack packs. We bounce between mealtimes and travel times and find ourselves caught in time loops that feel both somehow fleeting and eternal. Is it Tuesday again? I hadn’t noticed. Here are some red flags that you can watch out for that will let you know if you are due for a respite from the kiddos.

1) You Only Speak in Kid Language.

When was the last time you had a conversation with another adult that wasn’t centered around your children? More than that, when was the last time you sounded like a grown ass adult in a conversation? There are only so many refrains of The Wheels on the Bus that the human ear can stomach. Pushing those limits is unwise. Whether you’re stuck talking a toddler onto a potty, or trying to mediate a battle between six year olds, you need to speak like an adult to other adults or else you will, and I think this is science, go mental. Conversing in concert with the monosyllabic, even if they are your teenagers, is only advancing the course of our species so far. Be a part of the solution, friends. Talk like a grown up.

2) You’ve Started Resenting Your Kitchen.

Maybe you think of it as the land where dishes go to multiply and die. Or maybe you just can’t stand the taste of your own cooking anymore even though you are Jean Freakin Georges. Whatever your kitchen is to you, it should serve as the hearth of the home, not a source of anxiety. If the kitchen feels like just one more space you have to clean maybe you need some time away from it. Take a night off. Let the dishes soak if you have to, or if someone else will do them all the better. Let someone else do the cooking too. Order takeout, or gasp, actually go to a restaurant. Get yourself vaccinated of course before you head out there into the big bad. 

You know who doesn’t look like this in their kitchen? Me.

3) Dressing Up = The Sweatshirt Without the Stains.

Speaking of COVID surely our fashion sense has been amongst its greatest victims. I’m sure Instagram is full of people who are dressing up even in quarantine. But some of us are raising toddlers out here. I’m lucky everyday if I don’t wind up purple with my hands full of poop. Fashion to me is what is stain resistant and comfortable. I am not here for Vogue. God bless you if that’s your thing, but I am just trying to make it to nap time over here. If you are like me and the last time you got dressed up public hugging was a common occurrence then maybe you are due for a night out on the town. Or at least, you know, a night where you change into the good sweats. 

4) You Don’t Remember the Last Movie You Saw/Book You Read/Art You Made.

Yes, you need to have stayed awake the whole time for it to count. Have you taken in anyone else’s creations or created something yourself lately? How about doing both? Why are we here if not to enrich our souls through art? I truly believe art is as necessary as air. We need fiction and painting to thrive. Broadway Babysitters believes that children need art. I believe in that mission, or else I wouldn’t put my name on their platform. You need to refill the well for your kids. How are you going to tell them one day how amazing Godfather 1 and 2 are and how they can just skip right on past 3 because ugh, with Sofia, it’s a mess, if you don’t have this valuable piece of knowledge at your fingertips? You need the time now to have your Godfather film festival night, to benefit them someday. For your kids’ future, get some culture. 

“I have a sentimental weakness for my children and I spoil them, as you can see. ”

5) You Lose It.

I am here to tell you that I have gripped my child’s wrist too tightly and yelled at her too loudly. It’s only happened a few times, but it has happened, and I take full responsibility for it. I do not believe in corporal punishment, so these actions for me crossed some invisible line that I have where I knew that I had personally gone too far. I was never proud after these moments. I always felt awful. Like dirt really. But these things happened and I need to own them. I have felt myself become overwhelmed by my children, and I needed a break. It’s as simple as that. Instead of reacting in anger I needed to step away, and I didn’t. If you find yourself on the edge of crossing your own boundary step back and take a break. Get someone else to watch the kids. Regroup and gather your strength. If you see yourself in this list, there is help! Take a parenting break as soon as it is possible for you to do so. Hire a sitter, or get that spouse, friend, grandparent to step in. Stay sane, parents. It’s a long road ahead. Make sure you are fit for the journey.  


Remembering Your Identity as a Parent

I didn't meet my husband until age forty, and I am in the unusual position of birthing two children after that age.

I’m an old mom, something I thought was deeply uncool when I was a child. Old moms smelled like hummus. They walked around with NPR tote bags full of overdue library books. In my experience they were weird women with frizzy hair who wore too many scarves. Now there is an old frizzy haired mom who stares back at me from the mirror every morning mocking me. “You don’t donate enough to NPR to earn a tote bag,” she says. Even she is passing judgment. 


Old mom smell.

The secret they don’t tell you is that being an old mom is actually kind of amazing. I got to lead my swinging single life for years. I got to travel the world, I got to work in the field I love, and I still got to have the kids. Of course, it’s a gamble to wait, and fertility is fickle. I was very lucky in that department, and I don’t recommend that women just hang out until age 40 and then give the whole kid thing a whirl. But in truth, now when I see moms who are barely out of high school, I can’t help but feel sorry for them. Having a child opens you up to new worlds, but it also limits you. No longer are you free to take that solo road trip out west. You’ll have to save that for imagination time with the kiddo. Forget about those drunken one nightstands in your twenties. I mean literally, forget about them. You’re a parent now. You need to be home for bedtime. So how do you keep that roaming spirit alive inside of you when you are tied to a nap schedule? How do you balance your own desires with your child’s? How do you live your life while teaching them to live theirs?

There is a selfishness trap here which I think parents are in danger of falling into. Pursuing your own needs isn’t selfish, it’s necessary. You have to practice self-care. What lesson would you be teaching your child by neglecting yourself? That you are unworthy of attention? Our children look to us for every cue. They will spot your sadness from a mile away. You need to live your life too, mom/dad, because if you don’t you will end up living vicariously through your children, which history tells us always works out for the best. No one ever found fulfillment living someone else’s life. I’m pretty sure Buddha said that, or if he didn’t he should have.

And now here comes the guilt! “But my children are everything to me,” you say. Of course they are. And you are everything to them. That’s why it’s so important that you come at them as a wholly developed adult human person. That’s who your children need. A doting mess who obsesses over every failure and lives for every success is helpful to no one, least of all your child. You need to get your own life mom/dad, and keep living it. In between diaper changes and scraped knees, you have to do you. Lest you grow resentful of your children, or drive yourself mad in the process.

My love.

Here is where I lay my privilege cards out on the table. I have a lovely supportive partner who often takes the children so that I may have some Frances time. Not mom time, Frances time. This is when I am able to write, something that I have always enjoyed. It’s time when I feed my soul. I may not have showered in 72 hours. But there are words on the page and my heart is full and open. I know without a doubt that this time that I take makes me a better mom. Even if my baby is lying next to me crying, as she is this very moment, still, I am a better mom for it. I know that she is full, and dry, and warm, and that this is just her tired cry which will pass in a second. In the meantime my purpose is better served here. Being Frances instead of mom, even just for a few moments. And just like that, the crying stops, and I can be fully present for myself again. Then I can be there for my daughter more than ever. 

Not everyone has this luxury. I know there are countless parents out there doing it on their own, and I salute you every last one. If you have a partner, a grandparent, or a trusted friend who can give you a slice of time carved out just for you I promise that it will make a difference in your well-being and in your parenting. Hire a sitter. Take advantage of it. Give thanks for it. Remember who you were before you were a parent and honor that person’s wishes. Take some time to listen to your soul and live your truth. Do it for your kids. 


Welcome to Frankly Frances

This is not an advice column. I promise you, if I had any advice for anyone it would be don’t take my advice. I had cereal for dinner last night. I am in no position to offer you practical tips on parenting during the pandemic, nor do I have recipes for one-pot dinners you can whip up on a work night. What this is, and what I hope it becomes for you, is a place to shout into the void on all things family. Parenting can be a lonely place. Here you are not alone.  

This can be a place where we celebrate your kid’s school re-opening causing you to scream, “YAY!” Or it can be a place where you lament the closing of said school again with a barely audible cry of, “HELP!” Both are completely welcome responses here. The point is, this is a sounding board. A place where it’s safe to rant about those little bugs of love that you hardly ever want to leave alone in a basement. This is a safe space, parents. Welcome to it.


The whole fam in one frame.

I am the mother of a 14 year old stepson, a 2 year old daughter, and a 7 month old daughter. Evan, Lorelei, and Calliope in that order. Evan is with us on the weekends, but during the week it is just myself and the two girls for five long days every week. I am a former New Yorker and Broadway performer who ran away to the coast of Maine to marry a sailor and raise babies by the water. I moved up here in June 2018. I miss NYC all the time, but I know that it isn’t going anyplace. 

Raising babies in the city has its own struggles very different from raising children in the country. We suffer from a lack of resources up here. There are very few people in Maine and even fewer Mommy and Me classes. When my daughter Lorelei came in February of 2019, I was determined to be an active parent and to socialize her as much as possible for both her sanity’s sake as well as mine. I didn’t know any moms in coastal Maine, and I didn’t want her starting at a disadvantage. So we sought out and finally found a new moms group to attend once a week. Then we found a music class, then a nature class, and pretty soon we were occupied with baby dates most mornings. It wasn’t Park Slope, but I was making do. 

Of course, when the pandemic came, all of that went away. Now we have Zoom music class, a rather sad if game attempt to entertain toddlers by watching a senior woman bang pots and pans on her kitchen webcam. We have Zoom moms group, which mostly consists of moms trying to corral their babies to stay in front of the computer for an hour while they lament the loss of what once was. Incidentally I got a recent email saying that Zoom moms group was kaput, so chalk another victory lap off for COVID.

Look, there is no acing this parenting thing. There are only various levels of failure. The baby is going to hit its head, and you can only pray it’s not hard enough to turn her into the girl who carries the dead bird in her lunch box. You’re going to mess this up because parenting is just bouncing from imperfect moment to permanent damage and back again before snack time. No one is nailing it. 

So in this space, we are going to celebrate those failures as opportunities to grow, or at least as chances to laugh heartily at ourselves before we burst into tears. Life is short.  Let’s hold each other up when necessary. Did the kids survive the day? Congratulations mom/dad. You are parenting. Sometimes it’s as simple as that. Give yourself a pat on the back mom/dad. You deserve it. Welcome to Frankly Frances. Thank you for taking the journey with me. 



Hi I'm Frances Mercanti-Anthony: mother, wife, actor, writer, lobster lover. Join me for more truths about life, motherhood, and creativity.