It was a Wednesday, and for some reason parenting tends to feel pretty tiring when you realize you’re only smack-dab in the middle of the week.
My son was in the living room playing, and my daughter was in the kitchen drawing. It was peaceful for a second, so I went to reheat my coffee. You know that one coffee cup, mamas. The one you make in the morning when everyone is still sleepy and things are moving slow. The one you set down just for a second to check on someone, or to clean a dirty face, or wash a pile of grimy dishes. Then, the entire day goes by and you totally forget about it until you’re climbing into bed and spot it, still sitting there on the counter, stone cold.
As it was reheating, I heard a crash. My kids were each on their respective Hot Wheels, racing through the house. They’d hit the Christmas tree and my favorite childhood ornament, the one I placed high above their reach just to keep it safe, had somehow been shaken loose from its branch and was sitting in pieces on the floor.
Nevermind that it was my handprint from when I was a baby, or that there were now a million Fraser fir needles littering my rug. To add to the chaos, my son found his milk cup and started shaking it upside down all over the scene of the crime. My daughter found this hilarious and threw her entire bowl of Goldfish straight in the air, and before I could stop her, she was parading around on them, stomping them into smithereens.
I consider myself a relatively patient person. I don’t snap at the blink of an eye, and I try my very hardest every day not to raise my voice or get short-tempered with the kids. But that day, I’d had it. Though my first impulse was to explode, I had enough wits about me to stand up and go to my safe space.
Where is this location, you might ask? It’s my laundry room.
When we were designing our home, I purposefully didn’t put locks on the bedroom doors. I could only imagine my teenage kids locking me out and turning their music up super loud, and I wanted to be able to get to them immediately if I needed to.
So time-out rooms are hard to come by around here. I tell my daughter to go to her room and she’s down the steps after one minute. The one room that does lock, however? That blessed space that holds our detergent, our dirty clothes, and our stain remover. It also holds me, especially in some of my weakest moments.
I first realized I’d need a space like this when my kids were really little and both were in diapers. I’d lost an incredible amount of sleep worrying about them and stressing over every single thing. I found myself not eating, losing weight, and Googling things like “Why is my hair falling out?” at night once everyone was in bed. I was becoming a shell of myself – overworked, overcommitted and trying so hard to contain everything inside lest I burst.
So I started coming into the laundry room when I needed a second to myself. The kids were OK inside for two minutes while I caught my breath. I’d sit with my back against the cool, white dryer and look out at our back field. That backyard scene has seen me through some of my best and worst times. I’d let the hot tears fall when they needed to and I’d scream into a shirt from the hamper to release any anger and keep from yelling at anyone else.
On that day of the Christmas tree debacle, I first got up all the broken and sharp ornament pieces. Then, I left the entire mess where it was and told the kids I’d be right back. I went into the laundry room and sunk onto the floor. I breathed in deeply and let the scent of clean clothes fill my head. I prayed for peace and for calm, and I closed my eyes until the worst of the stress was over.
When I came back, everything was not A-OK. There was still a ton of debris to pick up, noses to wipe, and “I’m sorrys” to say. There were still toddlers pulling my hair and climbing all over me. But the mood had shifted, and something had changed. I was better equipped to take it all with a grain of salt, and from that point forward, the rest of the day went so much more smoothly.
Does an adult time-out room solve everything? Absolutely not. Does it help me recharge and refocus? A thousand times, yes. There’s this great Erma Bombeck quote that I love. It reads, “When my kids become wild and unruly, I use a nice, safe playpen. When they're finished, I climb out.”
My laundry room is my playpen, and my home is my haven. As I live and love every single day within these walls, may I continue to find peace and refuge here, no matter how or when I have to sneak it in.