Fighting Fatigue through Taking Respite

Fighting Fatigue through Taking Respite image

Fighting Fatigue through Taking Respite

If I could go back in time and help myself through the parenting years, I would tell myself to, “Take more time for respite!” In my effort to be a protective and devoted mother, I forgot the essential truth that you can’t pour from an empty vessel. My shortsightedness was unfair to me, my husband, and our children.

What are the things that got in the way of taking time off to recharge?

1) Planning

The best time to plan respite is BEFORE you need it. I would think about taking some time off to recharge, but then I would convince myself that everything was fine and I didn’t really NEED to take a break. Then when I became overtired or stressed, it was too late to make arrangements and I lacked the creativity to think of anything that would be rejuvenating.

Taking respite should be planned and scheduled at least every year, quarterly if possible. Respite should be added to the list of yearly things that must be done…annual physical, dental appointments, eye exams, family vacation, etc. Respite is just as necessary as those other self-care activities.

2) “Unqualified” Respite Caregivers

Somehow I convinced myself that my husband and I alone had all the parenting knowledge of the universe and that no one else could possibly parent our children for a weekend in a manner that was up to our standards. The problem with this logic was that as we became more fatigued, our parenting skills were in a corresponding decline.

Respite caregivers need to be safe and responsible, but they don’t have to walk on water to qualify to watch the children for a weekend. The children will survive if they eat different foods (even junk food). They will be able to manage the health issues and if there is an emergency, they will be just as capable of dialing 911 as I would be. There might be a less strict adherence to the bedtimes and chore charts, but the children will survive. Actually, the parents are not the only ones who need a break. Children need a break from the routine once in a while, too. Also, if you want to model ideal parenting, then you must include time for respite for children to learn about life balance strategies and to value themselves in the future.

3) Cost

This is where planning ahead and having some creativity really helps out. Respite doesn’t have to be a five star resort with room service. It can be trading houses with someone, going camping, having the kids go away for respite and enjoying a stay-cation at home. (Alert!!!! If you do stay home, DO NOT use respite time to clean out the basement or garage or get caught up on paperwork.) Use respite time to rest, rejuvenate, recreate (play), reconnect with your spouse or friends, refresh and reflect on your divine purpose and goals.

Each person will have different methods for achieving respite. These don’t have to be expensive, but it is also o.k. to give yourself permission to splurge on a treat for yourself once in a while. We sacrifice for our children to meet their needs and it is o.k. to take a turn to meet ours, too.

There is no magic number of days, weeks or hours for the perfect amount of respite. Each parent has to discover the right amount needed. Here are some symptoms to watch for that indicate if respite is needed more urgently:

  • Irritability
  • Difficulty concentrating / forgetting things
  • Feelings of futility
  • Sleep disturbance
  • Feelings of depression or sadness that linger
  • Losing interest in things that used to be meaningful
  • Desire to escape
  • Fatigue
  • Frequent headaches

If you are feeling some or all of these symptoms, please reach out to your support network to schedule respite right away. Taking care of yourself is the most caring thing that parents can do for their children.


Teresa Pina

Recruiter/Trainer – Louisville

Foster Parent