As a stay-at-home mom, I often have the need to become invisible, and so I put myself in time-out. The longer, the better. Sometimes it’s because the kids are too rowdy, too cranky, too whiney, talk too much, say “Mommmmmmy” too many times, or if I just need a momentary break. It’s an effective way for me to calm down and it teaches them that instead of succumbing to stress, it’s okay to walk away for a minute or two to unwind. This truly is the goal of the “Naughty Step”; it’s not as much a punishment as it is an opportunity to lessen tension, to regain composure. 

My own personal time-out choices are a few: sometimes I announce that I will be going to the bathroom and nobody can follow me or talk to me. This usually means that everyone will stop what they are doing, and follow me and talk to me. I try to stay in there for as long as possible, but without fail, there is always someone banging on the door, begging for a turn, and that child simply cannot make it up the stairs to find a different bathroom, without peeing in his or her pants.

Sometimes I just sit outside. This only works during the warmer season, and after gulping some fresh air, I do feel calmed, but it doesn’t last. When a minute has passed, the front door usually bursts open and all of the kids troop outside and throw a ball at me, ready to play. I cannot escape.

The best option is hiding in the pantry. They do not realize that someone would voluntarily stay in this small, enclosed space. And although it is a walk-in and I could comfortably fit a dining-room chair in there so that I don’t need to sit on the shelf, I have yet to bring actual furniture with me, lest I make my escape too obvious. It’s like playing hide-and-seek, and you only have 20 seconds to effectively hide. There is no time to go and grab a zero-gravity lounger and a Snuggie to bring to your hiding spot. You just run. And that’s what I do.

There is a definite advantage, a secondary lure, that always leads me back to the pantry. The added bonus of hoarding junk food while the kids aren’t looking. A vacation, and a treat! “What’s for snack?” the kids ask when they arrive home from school. I have prepared baby carrots in a small bowl of peanut butter, cubed mango, and some multigrain crackers. I try to encourage them to have healthy eating habits, especially before a meal, and then after I have imparted that lesson, I sneak into the closet and hypocritically gorge on some chocolates. The sugar gives me an added energy boost during the afternoon chaos of homework, dinner, and I-need-so-much-attention meltdowns.

“Mommmmmy, where are you?” they cry, almost instantaneously. We spend two years not letting our babies/toddlers out of our sight, and then they spend the next ten years not letting us out of theirs. I think by then, both parent and child come to an agreement to not have to see each other anymore, but I can’t say for sure because we are not there yet. Our oldest is only eight, and still likes us too much.

I have probably been in the pantry for thirty seconds, when the door swings open and I am discovered. Maybe next time I won’t turn on the light so the shadowy darkness will further conceal my scavenging figure. “What are you doing in here?” they ask, hopefully oblivious to the growing pile of colorful foil wrappers I have amassed in the corner of the shelf, from all the little Bliss bites I have ingested.

Always tell the truth! Another tenet I am always trying to push. And yet, here I am in a bind. I don’t want to model the hiding, stealing, eating junk food, and lying woman that I clearly seem to be. I should be what I want them to become. I opt for the truth. “This was my snack for the day,” I tell them. They seem satisfied with this answer, nodding their heads in approval and knowing that they are entitled to snacks too, at set times. All things in moderation. They return to their carrots. I eat one too, for good measure.

The only thing not really in moderation is the actual volume of chocolate I have consumed. But until they count the number of wrappers I have left behind, I think I am safe. The mid-afternoon chocolate binge has made me feel generous, and I share my stash with everyone after dinner. One each. Not thirty-seven, like unhealthy me.