I Go See Movies After My Kids Are Asleep, and It Saves My Sanity

The idea came to me in a moment of desperation. It had been a particularly brutal winter. I was still adjusting to my life as a working mom of two kids. My job was crazier than usual. And every member of our family had been struck down with an illness—a nasty virus, strep throat, pink eye. You name it, we had medication for it.

The residual effect of all that stress? Arguments my husband and I couldn’t seem to stop from escalating, even when we both spotted the signs of a brewing spat, like a snowball rolling downhill.

One night, after I tucked the kids into bed and packed our bags for the next day, I snapped, “I have to get out of here.” And in a proverbial moment of blinding clarity, I realized, why couldn’t I?

So I pulled out my phone, bought a ticket to a movie I wanted to see, put on some comfy sweats and announced to my husband that I was heading out.

Those two hours were revelatory. I sat in a cool, dark, quiet room, munching on junk food, thinking of nothing but the story unfolding on the screen. Now I understand my mom friends who rave about float tanks—about how the black silence soothes their mind. But instead of depriving my senses, I was indulging them, giving them a singular focus that’s almost impossible to achieve as a working mom.

I was hooked. So I started going most Tuesdays, when my local theater offers discounts on tickets.

Sure, I could save some money and watch a movie at home, but it’s not the escape I need. Whenever my husband and I snuggle on the sofa to catch up on our favorite shows or films, I inevitably end up folding laundry or peppering him with random questions that pop to mind. Did you write the check for daycare? Did we order your mom’s birthday present? Should we put more money into our Roth IRA?

Yes, seeing a movie at 9 p.m. means you’ll be out late, but if you’re like me, you probably wind up unintentionally scrolling through Twitter and Instagram until midnight most nights anyway—and feeling awful for spending your free time so fruitlessly.

Instead, I walk out of the theater every week feeling uplifted. And I can finally contribute to adult conversations about film (“Little Women was robbed at the Oscars!”), rather than ruefully chuckling that I’m only familiar with Frozen 2.

Maybe one day my husband and I will splurge on a sitter, and enjoy the experience together. Or maybe I’ll invite some girlfriends to join me. But right now, solo viewing is the easy, breezy, low-key mental break I need. No group texts navigating complicated logistics. No debates about what movie to see. No worrying about my kids, because they’re snoozing. No calendar conflicts, because 9 p.m. on a Tuesday is (generally) guaranteed to be free of kid’s birthday parties, PTA meetings and work calls.

It’s my secret to maintaining my sanity, and I highly recommend it to moms everywhere. If movies aren’t your thing, maybe it’s grabbing a cocktail at a nearby watering hole, or browsing Barnes & Noble, or hitting the gym. Regardless of the activity, remember this: You’re not chained to your home, your partner (or a trusted friend or neighbor) is perfectly capable of taking care of your kids, Raisinets are delicious and you deserve to clear your mind.