After fighting traffic, an exhausted dad arrives at home ready to put his feet up. Waiting for him at the door is an exhausted mom holding a crying toddler, who is ready to hand over the kids and have her body back for a little while. They both need a break. They have both spent the day meeting the needs of others.
Modern life is fast-paced and heavily scheduled. There are jobs to report to, meals to prepare, soccer carpools to drive, groceries to buy, bills to pay, gardens to care for, and lawns to mow. There are diapers to wash and toilets to scrub, crayon on the wall and 14 dirty baby outfits to launder each day.
It’s stressful. It takes a lot of mental energy to cope with all of the demands of our jobs and families, let alone our friends and relatives. But we have to take time for ourselves because when we get stressed, we can’t fully nurture our loved ones or connect with them on a deeper level.
The flight attendant on an airplane teaches us that in an emergency, we should first put our own oxygen mask on before assisting our children; we can’t take care of others if we aren’t first taking care of ourselves. The classic parental burnout is someone who takes care of everyone else’s needs first, trying to be everything to everybody, putting himself last and then being stressed out both physically and emotionally because of it.
But if we can add one more thing to our daily schedule, we can come to our relationships and obligations with a fresh attitude and a renewed sense of purpose. Exactly what that one thing is, only you know. It’s different for everybody.
We are not just parents and partners.
We are artists and writers, cyclists, and runners, quilters, and woodcarvers. We have passions and interests that extend beyond the family, but we may be out of touch with that side of ourselves if we’ve spent all of our time meeting the needs of others and putting ourselves last.
Think about the activities and interests that you enjoyed as a kid. Do any of these still appeal to you? Why not start again? It really does all come back to you.
If you’re stumped, jump start the process by just being physically active every day. Get that bike out of the garage and go for a ride. Pick up a jump rope and start spinning. Go to the pool and do some laps. I always find that when I get my heart pumping, my brain gets quiet. This lets me listen a little deeper to what’s going on inside me. I can clearly see which things in my life I need to change, and when I’m “back to the world” I can use those intuitions to guide me in my daily life.
Some days, the easiest way to get my personal time is by riding my bike to work and then taking a longish detour on the way home. I ride until all of my job-related stress melts away, and by the time that I get home I’m ready to take over the kid department while my wife gets a workout in, a sewing project finished or goes for a bike ride for herself.
We’re both taken care of: I’ve got my ya-yas out, my partner gets to focus on herself for awhile and the kids (and our marriage) benefit.
Take some personal time every day, even if it’s only 15 minutes. Set aside work, family and social obligations to follow your heart. Sit and meditate. Work on your yoga practice. Do a puzzle. Go for a run. Start a blog. Nurturing yourself plays a huge part in finding and maintaining a healthy balance in your life.
Take time for you. Your spouse and kids will appreciate it.