January 31, 2014
Parenting is one of the most challenging jobs in the world. It makes demands of us, often without immediate reward, and does not have a quitting time. As a parent, you are on call 24/7.
It is easy to get caught up in the days and weeks forgetting to give ourselves credit for all that we are doing. Even when things are running smoothly and without incident, pausing to appreciate and care for our self is essential to optimal job performance.
Over the years of my parenting career, I’ve often found myself out of balance from having consistently placed myself at the bottom of the ‘to do’ list. Everyone and everything else always seemed more important. In my mind, I told myself that I would feel better once ‘x, y, and z’ were done. Of course, as a parent, you are never ‘done’. You might as well be waiting for pigs to fly.
Self-care sustains us and invigorates us to be able to give and do for others. If we’ve not taken the time to fill our own teapot, how can we possibly pour anything into anyone’s cup? While I can share a list with you of good things to do, such as take a walk, maintain a hobby, read a book, have an interrupted chat with a dear friend, etc. What really makes a difference is when you listen to your own heart and hear what it is you really need. What is revealed may surprise you.
When this was first suggested to me, I was stunned to realize that it was very difficult for me to ‘hear’ what I wanted or needed. I had absolutely no idea. That inner voice had been ignored for so long, that she had quit talking. This was a muscle that needed to be re-energized.
To re-establish this connection within myself, I just kept asking and listening…no matter how long it took to hear the answer. Sometimes I would propose specific ideas trying to coax a response. Do you want to do this? Would this be fun/relaxing? The suggestions started to pave the way to knowing what I did want by figuring out what I did not want. The things I did learn that I wanted and needed were not the typical things I expected.
One thing I discovered that was very important to me was having my own ‘space’; an area of my home that was off limits to children. For me, this was my bedroom. This is not to say my daughters never went in there; they needed to have permission. They also knew that if I were in my bedroom with the door closed, they needed to knock. The feeling of sovereignty this gave me was deeply satisfying. Something in the world was designated as mine that I could choose to share or not.
Another revelation was how important my evenings were to me. After having given my all for the day, a consistent bedtime was really important. I loved our routine of bathing, reading, and snuggling and when all was done, I was done. Knowing this about myself helped me to be clear and adamant about them going to bed and staying there. My tone was kind and firm. There would be no negotiating. And I was even heard to say sometimes… “It’s bedtime and I am done parenting for the day. I love you. It’s time to sleep.” (Makes me think of that hilarious book “Go the F*** to Sleep”…check it out for a laugh)
With all the times the children’s needs had to come first, it was honoring and uplifting to place myself first when I could with things that I had discovered were very important to me. Of course there were other, simpler things I discovered that filled my teapot. Afternoon matinees by myself, having one night a month out all on my own or with friends, reading or napping when they napped, and many others.
I am deeply grateful for the parenting coach who first suggested I make a priority of my wants and needs. Not only did I come into balance and be a better parent, I got in touch with a source of inner guidance that helped me in many ways. Listening to that inner voice and knowing how to bring myself into balance sustains me to this very day.