Okay, unless you’ve been on another planet, you’ve heard other parents, talking heads on TV, parenting experts and inept parenting experts say again and again that as parents we have to take care of ourselves so that we can take care of our children. Yeah, yeah, yeah… we’ve all heard it, may even believe it so why don’t more of us do it or at least do it well?
I think the struggle comes with finding a balance between parenting and self. Too much parenting and it’s easy to become stressed-out, burned-out and frazzled. Too much self and it’s easy to become excuse-making, therapist-hopping and child-blaming.
The second struggle, particularly with children who waited, is that separation from mom or dad often causes stress and fear which leads to difficult behaviors that can quickly zap all the rejuvenation gained from a break!
So… what to do????
I think the key is to take care of ourselves as a part of normal, daily life. Taking care of ourselves shouldn’t be an event. It should just be a part of our routine. I think there are a few key elements:
1. Make it child inclusive. This isn’t to say that we don’t ever leave our children for some time away, but if that’s the only way you refuel then it’s either going to happen too infrequently or it starts becoming an escape rather than a positive re-energizing time. Making it child inclusive also helps avoid having all your newfound energy zapped when you come home to extra needy kids!
2. Make it do-able. It doesn’t have to involve money, an agenda or planning. Keep it simple!
3. Make it frequent. When I say frequent, I mean a part of your every day life.
Here are some examples of things that I do to take care of myself that I think incorporate the three key elements:
I often put my 5 year old’s favorite show on TV (currently, it’s Billy the Exterminator!) and while she’s entertained, I read a book for half an hour before starting dinner.
I have started gardening. At first just in pots, but it’s now expanded into a few beds and a small butterfly garden. This gives me something to do that is fun and interesting to me while still being engaged with the kids while they play outside.
I take time to swing by our local thrift store or garage sales. Maybe it’s only once in awhile, but I’ve gotten into looking for a bargain or something cool to restore or re-purpose.
I was tired of not knowing what was going on in the “outside world” so I got a little TV for the kitchen so that I can watch the news while cooking dinner.
For both my kids, I bought cheap scrapbooks for them. While I scrapbook I give them unwanted pictures and extra stickers, scrap paper and let them use my markers and scissors, etc… My 15 year old son has no interest in working along with me now, but he loved it when he was little and I love what he made 10 years ago!
Those are just a few of the things that incorporate what I like to do. Yours might be totally different. Again, the idea is small, short and frequent.
What are some things that work for you?