A mama writes: “What do you do when you are feeling touched out? My little ones need my hugs and connection but I just want some space!”

Touched out= Your toddler wants to climb into your lap, your baby wants to nurse again, your partner wants to hug you. Your skin crawls and you want to scream and run away. You’ve already lost so much freedom and now you’re feeling like you’ve lost your personal space.

You are not alone! Most mamas- especially introverts- feel this way at least some of the time. Not only does feeling touched out make us want to scream, it can make us feel really guilty. You know your toddler only wants to be close to you. You know your baby gets immense comfort from breastfeeding. You know your partner misses being affectionate with you. You feel bad for wanting them to just leave you alone!

Be careful- If you don’t listen to this feeling and take some steps to address it things can get worse. Babies and children who aren’t getting their connection needs met get difficult and even clingier. They are evolutionarily hard-wired for survival. If they don’t feel their caregivers are paying attention to them, they will do whatever it takes to be noticed- even if they have to act like beasts. Partners who are used to- and need- affection and intimacy from us (and I’m not talking about sex) feel shut out of our love. Marriage with little kids is challenging enough- feeling disconnected from your partner makes it even worse.

Feeling touched out? What do you do when you just want everyone to leave you alone?

Pay attention! Your feelings are a strong sign that you need to make space for some self-care. I know- it sounds impossible. What can you do? 

  • Get some time alone. Even a few minutes every day can help. When your partner comes home, go for a walk for 15 minutes. Take a shower or a bath. Sit in the car and listen to music or a podcast. If you are a single parent or your partner works too much: accept those offers you’ve shrugged off.  A friend, neighbour or family member could spell you for a short time. If no one has offered- ask. Most people would be glad to help out- they just haven’t thought of it.
  • Use nap time to do something just for you. The dishes can wait. Do something physical that connects you with your body- like stretching. Make something. Get out a hobby you used to do but haven’t had time for. Read.
  • Start a mindfulness practice. 5 minutes of mindfulness a day doesn’t sound like much but it has made a big difference for me. If you can do it away from the kids- great. If not- here’s a great example of a 5 minute practice you could do while they play around you.
  • Be kind to yourself. Even if you’re with the kids, give yourself a break. Make a cup of tea. Paint your toenails. Put on some music you like.
  • Get more support from your partner. Tell him how you’re feeling a non-blaming way by speaking about your experience. Because your partner is not a mind-reader, she won’t know what you’re feeling. Ask for help.
  • Connect in non-touch ways. Put on some music and have a dance party with your kids. Play a game of hide-and-seek. Go for a walk and collect leaves, rocks or flowers. Have your child put on a show for you and let him drink up your undivided attention. Make a special effort to catch up with your partner over a glass of wine.
  • Put yourself first. It’s not selfish. If you’re not taking care of yourself you can’t take care of anyone else. Prioritize your need for sleep, healthy food, and exercise.
  • Don’t feel guilty. Most of us experience this and it’s totally normal. Recognize the touched out feeling for what it is- a message to you to amp up the self-care.

The days are long but the years are short. Do whatever you can to feel better but know that this too shall pass. Before you know it, you’ll have teenagers who karate block you when you go in for a hug.

PS- If you feel touched out in conjunction with feeling anxious, depressed or angry, or you feel things aren’t right, you should talk to your healthcare provider about getting screened for postpartum mood disorder.

  1. Luke Nauen says:

    Do you have any material for the “rejected, vulnerable “ husband please? Thanks

    • I’m sorry 🙁
      Check out the book And Baby Makes 3 by John Gottman.
      This is a very hard time! Sending you love.

  2. Chelsea says:

    Great tips for such an important topic! It is so key that we don’t sit in guilt when we have these feelings, but we get to take time to explore them and understand the needs our body is experessing.

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