Young woman relaxing in bath tub full of foam bubbles. Self care and mental health concept. Top view...
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Take A Bath

Lock the door. 30 minutes. You deserve it.

When my kids were little, people used to ask me all the time how I did it — the “it” was being a mom of four kids. But their “oh my God I don’t know how you do it” was not in that charming way people use when they are so impressed by you. It was more like something they in no way wanted to do or try for themselves but couldn’t quite look away from.

Here’s how I did it: I lived in Canada, where low-income families get a healthy supplement from the government every month, which made life a lot easier. Plus my kids were just sort of better than anyone else's; I was sure of that at the time. (I was that kind of mom.) Mostly, though, it was my bathtub that saved us all.

It wasn’t even that good of a bathtub — not one of those sleek Scandinavian stand-alone models that are all architectural and curved. Or even one of those ‘90s whirlpool tubs with the little jets that I secretly (openly) think are far superior. My tub was average depth, a clawfoot shoved into the corner of my too-small bathroom, which some renter before me painted deep periwinkle blue.

I took a 30-minute bath most days. The whole time they were kids, even when they were little. The door was locked. Even when my toddler son would press his face against the bottom of the door and say, “I can smell your bath bubbles Mommy. Just tell me when you have time to say hello OK?” One time I heard his older brother drag him away by the heels as he screamed like it was a horror movie and yes, I got out of the bathtub to check on them but as usual they’d moved on to playing Pokemon cards like nothing had happened.

I needed those 30 minutes alone in the bathtub almost every day. Usually in that twilight after dinner and before bed when our night felt like a comma in a sentence I didn’t know how to end. Homework, dishes, bottomless backpacks that forever smelled of rotten apples, permission slips, laundry. I would walk away from it all from say 7 to 7:30 while they played a game or watched Spongebob Squarepants. And sometimes, yes, while they were playing in the yard. I actually loved that best. I could hear them out there in the late spring evening, talking to each other while I laid back in the tub with a facecloth over my eyes so I couldn’t see my stupid boobs floating around on top.

That bathroom was not great. The sink clogged up all the time, I think from when my son puked in it during a bout of the stomach flu. It was our only bathroom in my all-time favorite rental, a little 700-square-foot cottage on a dead-end street. I liked my bedroom on the main floor, I liked that my kids could toboggan down the hill in our side yard. It was a safe, cozy place for us. Safe enough for me to send my sons outside to pee in the yard if I was having my allotted 30 minutes of absolute solitude in the bathroom. Because that was our deal, you see: No knocking on that door for 30 minutes unless someone has broken a bone. That was the general rule but probably they could have knocked if someone was bleeding or injured in some other way. We never found out.

But trust me, that locked door changes everything. That bath changes everything.

I liked listening to them when they were without me. I would soak, I would read, I would actually take my time drying off and climbing into my pajamas or sweats. And just ask my kids how much nicer I was after. Sometimes, if I had made dessert, they would even do the dishes while I was in the tub in preparation for how much we were all about to like each other after my soak.

I had friends who could not believe my kids let me bathe alone. Especially when we all had toddlers. “I can’t lock my door, she would go nuts,” one friend told me and I knew it was the truth. No kid likes a parent behind a closed door, even if all they are doing is pooping.

But trust me, that locked door changes everything. That bath changes everything. You go in all wound up like a jack-in-the-box ready to be sprung free and then you spring free and really, trust me, you’re just so nice now. You probably didn’t even know you were mean before and even if it was for all the right reasons, totally called for, you don’t want to be mean. None of us do.

So just find a way to lock the door. Hide for 30 minutes and submerge yourself all the way in hot water that leaves your skin just the littlest bit raw. If you have good bath stuff great, but if you don’t who cares. A bath is good even if it’s just your plain old self floating around in there.

I’m going to say to you now the true thing that all moms hear all the time but we don’t know what to do with: You deserve it. You really do just deserve a 30-minute bath whenever you want. Who doesn’t?