The art of the mommy time out

Taking a mommy time out has saved my mommy mojo more times than I care to admit.

You know how you send your kids to their rooms (or a naughty step, or the corner, or a thinking chair) to think about what they’ve done? In my house, we called it time out.

When my oldest was about three, my husband and I were having a spirited discussion. I must have raised my voice (shocking, but true). My son put his hands on his hips and shook his finger at me and said

Mommy! You stop that. Go sit in time out right now.

The funny thing is that I actually did it. I went in the bathroom, closed the door, and took a time out. I didn’t even potty. I just calmed myself down.

time out mommy

My kids are old enough that they don’t get put in time out any longer. I send them to their rooms to read (there are no televisions or toys in their bedrooms) and think. I’ve been known to send them to the back yard too.  In the heat of tween discussions, I’ve been known to just yell

get out of my house.

But I still put myself in time out.

Ever since that first trip to the bathroom, I’ve enjoyed my mommy time outs.

I’ve even enjoyed them when my kids were not around.

No matter how heated and adult the situation, I can always excuse myself to go to the bathroom. No one ever checks to make sure I actually go potty.

(Even if the idea of other people knowing I need to potty seems embarrassing, it is NOTHING LIKE as embarrassing as when I lose my cool and say things I wish I hadn’t said. No one is going to gossip about me needing to potty… but if I drop a big ugly word bomb at ladies bible study it’s going to get talked about.)

I’ve been doing this for years now. My kids have never figured it out.

I’ve developed a few variations on the mommy time out over the years. I’ll bet at least one of them will work for you.

Four Mommy Time Out Ideas

four ways to take a mommy time out

Excuse me, I need to pee. It buys me about two minutes. That’s enough time to say a short prayer, flush the potty, and wash my hands (and splash my face if I am close to tears). It works in the middle of a heated discussion. My husband has, only once, tried to continue the conversation through the door. If that happens, just ask for a roll of toilet paper from the other bathroom.

I’m going to check the mail. Oddly, this one buys me about five minutes of peace. That’s enough time to realize I’m stressed out because of the noise level and mess. If I’m really uptight, it gives me time to realize I need to call a friend. When I walk back in, I invariably ask the kids to turn down the television and pick up their trash.

I need a time out! I’ve yelled this mid-tantrum. I immediately went to my room. My kids crept in about ten minutes later to bring me a glass of water and a hug. By that time I had finished my cry and was ready to hug them back.

I need to check the laundry. This gives me the perfect excuse to wander away. If I need more time I can actually put some laundry away. When the kids were little, it bought me about a minute. Now that they are older, it buys me a LOT of time. They know if they bug me I’m likely to give them a chore.

What do these have in common?

Separation. Space. Solitude. Prayer. Perspective. Plan.

No matter who I was when I walked out of the room, I walk back in a better mom. I walk in as the mom with a plan, the mom with words of wisdom and encouragement, the mom who did not lose it.

I don’t remember to put myself in time out nearly as often as I should, but when I do… it works.

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Susan Baker
I have a passion for encouraging weary worn out mothers to find joy in everyday motherhood and peace in unlikely places. I have two elementary school boys, one nerdy husband, and two cats. I have a strange fascination for bad puns, the color pink, socks, and books. I worry about running out of toilet paper, wine, and chocolate.. I serve an amazing God. I live an ordinary life filled with wonder.
Susan Baker
Susan Baker

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  1. Such a great suggestion!! Since I have my Homeschool Bible and my Marriage devotional Bible in my bathroom that works doubly well for me.

    Thank you for the reminder that sometimes we just need to take a breather to think before we speak and do.
    Crystal Green recently posted..Grace Unplugged Soundtrack GiveawayMy Profile

    • I used to keep a Bible and a devo in every bathroom with my kids were in preschool. I’ve been teased for it more than once.

      I should probably return to the habit. We gutted all the bathrooms during the remodel and somehow I never returned the reading material.

      Knowing I read it on my phone doesn’t exactly do the same thing. Perhaps a tastefully framed verse on the wall would be a good idea. Hmmm…

  2. This is very much like the “count to 10” strategy except that it also gives you the separation aspect. I’ve never thought of that but, wow!, there are sure instance when checking the mail would give a much needed break in the anger cycle. Great suggestions!
    Mo recently posted..Guest Posting TodayMy Profile

    • Mo, counting to 10 works too. 🙂 I think the trick is to find something that works for you and that you’ll remember to do! What works depends a LOT on the age of the kids. Yesterday, I walked to the end of our street and back while the kids were in the house. There’s no way I would have felt comfortable doing that when they were in diapers. Walking to check the mail would be a very different idea if I had a box at the post office.

      The separation helps me reset. It pulls me “off stage” where my every facial expression is on view. That helps me. Since other party also has a second to reset, I’m always hopeful they’ve had a chance to rethink and calm down too. Honestly, no matter how big the temper tantrum is, my kids don’t continue it when I’m “going potty.” They stop, or at least put it on simmer. Given some of the tantrums in our house, that’s a big deal.
      Susan Baker recently posted..Lessons from a list – First (angry) things firstMy Profile

  3. Funny, often my top blows BECAUSE I need space. So I should just go get space, eh? Instead of letting them get to me, losing my cool and then taking a time out. 😛
    When I had little ones (think, under two), I went to get the mail often. I have an “ear” for the truck, and would take the time to go and meet the postman. As my kids have grown, I *need* to go out less often, but still will go, if I catch him. He always notes if it’s been a while. Funny, though, that’s usually a GOOD sign! Or a sign that it’s been too cold.

    • Figuring out that I need a little space was HUGE. Since I wrote this post, we’ve transitioned to being a homeschooling family. Oh wow do I need space these days. Sitting on the front porch for five minutes can work wonders when I’m strung out. I confess, I know my mailman’s name because I’m standing there waiting for the mail so often (Unless it’s raining).

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