Bad news for parents of toddlers...

By Melissa Mills
February 23, 2021
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A year into the pandemic, parents are burned out. Fatigue hit months ago—now we're all just flailing and running on autopilot. Without the usual outlets to turn to, self-care may look like sneaking a chocolate bar into a locked bathroom, getting in a quick workout during naptime, or going for a solo drive for 30 minutes. But it's not enough. That's why moms and dads on Reddit are wondering: When can we get our weekends back again? When will a "day off" actually feel like one?

"We have a three year old and are both working full time," u/ueschatta posted in the Parents subreddit. "Whenever there's a holiday, daycare is closed. So it never actually feels like having a day off. He's a wonderful kid, but demands attention constantly. It actually is sometimes more relaxing on a workday to be honest, lol."

An image of a woman taking a bath.
Credit: Getty Images.

As a mom of a 2-and-a-half-year-old (I mention that "half" because, boy, have things changed in the past few months as he's talking more and becoming more and more independent) in daycare who's trying to make working from home with my husband actually work, I feel this on a personal level. With Presidents' Day and snow days last week alone, my kid was home more than he was at daycare—leaving my husband and I to juggle child care, work, and shoveling snow all at the same time. And forget about weekends. Those days of sleeping in, lazily having breakfast when it was really closer to lunchtime, and lounging around the house all day in pajamas are a distant memory.

The Redditor continued: "How old were your kids when you felt a day without work was an actual time to recharge again? (I think I need something to look forward to, even if it's many years from now.)"

Other parents quickly chimed in. "I wonder this a lot too, lol," u/BronwynOli commented. "Weekends are not at all relaxing and my work days feel like a vacation! We also have a three year old."

The general consensus seemed to be that toddlers aged 3 and younger did mean less down time, but some parents said that splitting responsibilities if you can—with each parent handling a chunk of the day or choosing one weekend day each to slot in "me time"—helped.

"If you and your partner are both off on weekends, how about one of you takes lead parenting duty on Saturday, and the other takes Sunday," one user wrote. "We split our parenting time as close to evenly as possible and it works well for us, even with a high energy 3-year-old." Though this only works if there's more than one caretaker to help, and leaving the house seems to be the best way to actually tune out a bit.

Other parents say the key to getting a break is taking a mental health day while the kiddo is at daycare or school. "We deliberately took time off together whilst the kids were at school so we could also go pick them up together and got a break, so they would have been 7, I guess," wrote u/nungurner.

But at what age can parents expect some real, regular R&R? "Around 5 it started to get easier," says u/ann102. "They are 6 now and it is waaaay easier. They get themselves up most days. Even for school, they get up, get dressed, and put their shoes on for school."

Redditors also agree that siblings seem to help if one of the kids is still in the toddler zone: "I have a 3.5 year old," one user commented. "Absolutely zero breaks are had until she goes down for a nap or bed. My brother has a 6 and 3 year old. He gets breaks quite often because the kids play together."

And though many parents point to 7, 8, and the tween years as when a break might actually feel like a break, one Redditor doesn't see relaxation in their future anytime soon: "Breaks? What are those? Days off? What are those? Mine are 14, 8, and 3. I anticipate there being a quality break in about 17 years, when the youngest is 20. I'll be 60 when that happens, but better late than never."

Oh boy, for their sake—and for all parents out there—let's hope things start looking up sooner rather than later.