Wednesday, August 03, 2005

You time, like Oprah said

Getting time for yourself is very difficult when you're a parent. This I know! However, it is vitally important that you give to yourself if you want to give of yourself to others. Imagine a glass, to make the simplest analogy. When the glass is full to brimming, you're energetic, feeling good and happy and generous. The glass gets emptier not as you give, but as you have needs for yourself that aren't met. Maybe you lose sleep, don't get enough food, don't exercise, don't get enough social time, miss out on contact with a confidant, miss spending time with your partner, don't get enough alone time... whatever "fills up your glass".

As your glass empties, you feel tired, get headaches, are snappy and impatient with things that if your glass were full, you'd be fine with. I understand that when you become a parent your priorities shift drastically. Sleeping in is a thing of the past, lazy saturdays with your partner just don't exist anymore. Your time is consumed by caring for your kids.

Consider though, that in order for you to best care for your children, you need to care for yourself too! To be the best parent you can be, you must must must take care of yourself.

My girlfriend Mariah was a stay at home mom to her two wonderful children, who were two and three years old. She was having a very hard time, feeling lonely, isolated, and unsupported by her husband. I asked her about what she did for herself. "Nothing" she replied. We talked for a while about her circumstances, with very low family income she was unable to hire help, and had few friends that lived close enough to pitch in. When she'd try to do anything while the kids seemed occupied, they'd seem to suddenly know her attention wasn't on them, and they'd seek her out.

"Time to read, just for 5 minutes. Time to clip my toenails. Time to shower". These things she wanted seemed more like necessities than luxuries to me! Poor gal. Hearing her sadness and desperation, I encouraged her to get the kids on the same nap schedule, which was making it so she always had one child awake at a time during the day. Then, while they were napping, she was more easily able to do chores, and relax a bit as well. While they were awake, she taught them that mommy sometimes needs a "time out" and would make sure they were fine and happy with toys or a video, then take a 5 minute breather, catching a second (or tenth) wind. She also started having bedtime be a half hour earlier, which the kids thrived on, and gave her a little more rest time as well.

Three tiny changes changed her life. She became the mom she really wanted to be. Energetic, patient, fun and loving. Her glass is full.

So whether you have the means to hire someone, have a friend you can swap childcare with, or get creative to find time for you, you just have to do it. Your family will be blessed because you did.


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