Being a Responsible Parent and Carving Out a Life For Yourself: It is Possible!
Imagine an old-fashioned counter-weight scale coming into balance. It will dip on each side, back and forth, until you rearrange things and allow the scale to settle.
Most of us feel that our family is probably the most important thing in our lives. It’s true. Because it’s true, we often put our family responsibilities first, ahead of ourselves. Our scales are not balanced.
Theoretically, we know why we need to bring a strong, complete self to parenthood, but let’s go over it again. We are models for our children, and models for the people and parents that our children will become. Want the best imitation of yourself? Ask your child. It will be uncanny. Showing your child all the different things you do, and how you strive for balance, will also help your child strive for balance.
Children hear (and repeat) what we say. If you find yourself saying, “I’ve never left the kids with a babysitter,” or “I spend so much time taking care of everyone else, I don’t have time to do anything for myself,” kids will get those messages. In order: “There is something wrong with babysitters/babysitting though I’m only a kid so I’m not quite sure what it is”; “You aren’t taking time for yourself even though you seem to know you need it, and I am one of the reasons why.”
A tired, stressed out mom is not a great mom. If you are super honest with yourself, you know you are a better mom (and partner, daughter, friend) when you are rested and feel like the things that can be under control, actually are.
So, now we are reminded why we need to balance the scale. What specifically can we do to retain and regain that balance?
This is a time to pull out some blank paper or a journal. Go through your day, then your week. What are the hardest times? The times you feel the most tired or stressed? What are the best times? What do you want to do more of? What do you want to do less of? Once you have some ideas, work slowly to figure out what you need to make sure it can happen.
Retain all the balance you have—do you take a yoga class you love? Or know you need to exercise at least twice a week? For a long time I took a weekly yoga class with women I really connected with; when that didn’t work with my schedule, I started going to the gym twice a week, and after that, I switched to biking. My goal? To make sure I had time to exercise in the week. Later, I realized I missed some of that connection I got at yoga, and looked for other ways to replace it.
Talk with your partner or a friend about the smallest move with the biggest payoff. Can you hire someone to do something that is draining your time or energy? Can you swap some household responsibilities with your partner? Are there things your kids could be doing that you haven’t thought of? Perhaps making breakfast is something your child could take on more easily than you’ve realized.
What is your time and inner peace worth? You may find 2 or 3 hours of babysitting, for you to do anything (class, rest, coffee with a friend, reading) is a small fix that reaps big rewards.
Are you rushing to after school classes… can you cut some? Or make a plan with another parent or caregiver who might be going to the same place? It’s hard for many mothers (me!) to let another mom bring your child to an after school activity when I know how much I value that after school connection, and therein lies the “everything in moderation”. It’s not every day after school, it might be once a week, or once every other week. And our children will have valuable life experiences those days. Reasonable versatility is a great skill to practice!
Do you use an online calendar that sends reminders to your phone? Do you share that calendar with your partner, or your ex, or your caregiver or any other adult that helps? This is one of the small moves that goes a long way. And there are youtube videos with step-by-step instructions, so even if it’s not your thing, you can do it.
How are you taking care of you? Schedule appointments, even with yourself! Knowing you are going to take a salt bath, or do a body scrub, or sit with a coffee, reminds you that you are worth the gift of time and relaxation. You need it.
Because, face it—we don’t really have any choice! This is our life, now. Every day you are going to get up and be your amazing self—so give yourself what you need to be that strong, vibrant mom! Build yourself a sustainable model. There is a big space between knowing something and actually doing it—things will shift when you make a shift.
We can think of family life like a boat—if there are holes and water is coming in, you can get a bucket and bail it out—you can keep bailing indefinitely—you’ll be tired, you’ll have to take turns sleeping, but the boat will not sink. Or, you could pull the boat back to shallow water, turn it over, let it dry, make some repairs, take the time to reinforce the weak parts, pack some extra patching material, maybe even a shiny glossy coat of paint, and then get back in the water.
Kira Wizner, M.S.T., is a mom of two and parent coach in New York City. A former teacher and staff developer in the NYC public school system, she began an intense study in parenting and child development when she became a mother. Her askyourfriendkira.com site features information on subjects from conception through parenting. Her new teleclass, Your Family Map, addresses the burning issues moms often face and explores ten areas of modern life, from Family Harmony to Self Care, to Food, the Arts, Travel, Technology and more. Participants will learn how to create a map of the family life they'd like to manifest, including a plan of action.
Learn more about the course here http://www.askyourfriendkira.com/your-family-map-i-friends-family, and Motherhood Later readers can use this page for enrollment for a special friends and family discount tuition.
Labels: balancing life and parenting, kira wizner, later motherhood, midlife parenting, raising a family