How do YOU get a break from your kids?Alamy

There are no unpaid full time jobs that demand you must be on duty 24/7 – apart from being a parent. But if you don't want to start writing 'REDRUM' on the mirror with lipstick and be admitted to the local psychiatric unit with two Crayolas wedged up your nose, you need to schedule regular breaks.

A sneaky break is essential to any parent's emotional wellbeing. However much we enjoy being with our children, we all need a breather from the darling angels, even if it's only 10 minutes in the shed inhaling creosote.

Our parents did it too. My friend has a lifelong hatred of Sesame Street because she was plonked in front of it at 1pm every day while her Mum went out for a ciggie and a long primal scream in the garden.

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So what do you do to stop yourself going bonkers when you're charge of the kids? And do you remember getting subtly offloaded with the TV/Gran/the tramp up the road when you were a child?

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I asked a selection of weary parents what their strategies were to get a few minutes away from the children...

"Any excuse to go to the supermarket will do..." says mother of two Claire. "But my fave escape is to lock myself in my bedroom with a book. Sometimes I can hear them saying 'Where's Mummy?' but I just hide. My mum's escape was to go to work!"

"I give them Angry Birds and read the Mail Online in my bed while eating Super Noodles and Maoams," admits single parent Jennifer. "One of my earliest memories is feeling massive rage when my mum wouldn't come and do colouring in with me because she was huddling in the utility room, eating Danish pastries and reading the Express. It comes to us all."

"My mum also used to hide in the utility room," adds Gordon. "But she stopped after I, aged four, opened the front door looking for her. A stranger found me a mile away - having crossed two busy roads - jumping on and off the pavement in my slippers, and took me to the local cop shop. These days I lock myself in the toilet. I'm sure my wife thinks I've got a bowel problem."

The smallest room is certainly a popular spot to get that much needed oasis of calm.
"I go to the bog," says Lesley. "And I take the paper and lock the door whether I need to or not. You'll also find me in there when it's time to empty the dishwasher, find a missing item, or cook."

And it seems these tried and tested avoidance strategies have been going on since time immemorial.

"My mother used to go and have a LONG bath as soon as we got home from school," recalls Lucy.

"My dad used to just put the newspaper over his head and go to sleep. I haven't tried that one yet," Cath recalls wistfully.
Wait a minute, though. How did our dads ever have time to watch the news without the TV being commandeered by us? Why wasn't I putting my sticky fingers all over their stuff?

"Things were less child centred," says Jane. "That's something that's changed. I don't think we expected complete access to our parent's spaces and things did we? There's definitely less of a generation gap now. But adult life seemed sacrosanct and mysterious back then. Today's parents seem to feel they've failed if their children are ever bored or miserable - you just need to keep them alive!"

The whole concept of childcare has certainly changed since I was a kid. Now parents of young children need a separate diary to keep track of all the play dates and sleepovers and classes, not to mention the long hours spent in soft plays and at birthday parties. But maybe our efforts are a change for the better – for the kids at least.

"Like most kids, we were left in the car in the pub car park," says my friend Lauren. "With a proper glass bottle of Coke (complete with blue and white striped paper straws that turned to mush at the end) and a packet of Salt 'n' Shake crisps. Then Dad would drive us all home after a few pints. Ah the good old days."

Now parents are working harder than ever to spend quality time with their kids, though, we need a break more than ever.

Lauren, like her dad, is also a master of the art of getting a breather. "'I was delighted when our washing machine broke - it meant I could go to the laundrette, chuck a load in and take Heat magazine to the pub for half an hour (shhh, don't tell anyone). Those laundrette machines take ages, especially at bedtime, funnily enough. I am also guilty of being super helpful by relieving my son of his 'cleaning out the rabbit hutch' duties - just so I can nip out and have a sneaky fag."

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So if you ever need to take a break, go for it, guilt free. You work hard, so you've earned the right to swot up on celeb gossip, tweet, work, eat, breathe and stay sane.

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And if you want to step things up a gear, take a tip from journalist, author and mother of two, Caitlin Moran.
Her strategy?
"I tell them I'm dead and move to another country."
Ahh, so THAT'S how she does it...

More on Parentdish: Why time off from motherhood is good for me - and my children