There is one parenting struggle that gets me every single time.
My son wants me to do a spelling challenge (“the hardest names to spell in sports”), but I want to order the kids sandals online.
My daughter is whining for me to push her on the swing immediately after I finish the dinner dishes. I want to sit in my adirondack chair for 5 minutes and watch them play.
My other son is begging for more media, which would give me so much needed down time. Unfortunately, he lost this privilege when he unbuckled himself while I was driving so he could hit me in the head.
This Parenting struggle is real.
My parenting struggle is not patience, exhaustion, the whining or even the hitting (in and out of a moving vehicle). For me, the struggle that gets me every single time is trying to balance my wants and needs with my kids wants and needs.
Some days I conquer this challenge like a pro. Manipulating schedules to ensure I have some “me time” in between the onslaught of child related frenzy. I can do yoga during their media time, say no to reading Part Time Princess for the millionth time that morning because I want a cup of tea. I can even decide that there is a lesson for us all to be learned by me not holding up a media related consequence. Instead of cause and effect maybe my kids can learn flexibility and the importance of self-care. But…
Self care is more than pedicures and date nights
I reference the airplane metaphor of putting your own mask on first in many posts on this blog because I think self care is simply that crucial. It is true that you cannot pour from an empty cup. However, this isn’t a self care post in the way people tend to talk about it. Date nights, alone time, and yes, even yoga, are all excellent self-care practices, but that is not what I mean.
The self care I am referencing here is the a commitment to one’s own self worth.
It requires consent with the internal conversation that it is really ok to form a balance between maintaining your sense of self and developing small humans. This is not only saying no to judging yet another cannonball contest, but saying yes to the person you were when you could eat lunch sitting down. Because you are, and I am, still that very worthy person.
Self care in the big sense is an inner acceptance that I can say no to 3 of the most important people in my life, because I just don’t want to do it.
It feels selfish, but it is not. This is what fellow yoga practitioners will recognize as “taking it off the mat.” Bringing that practice of making time for yourself (be it yoga, crossfit, spa time or shopping) and melding that with the practice and belief that you can put yourself first in your parenting (work/family/friendship) arena, too. And that is fact it sometimes is crucial to do so.
It is ok to say (to yourself), “Right now I don’t want to push a swing/do a spelling challenge/hold up a consequence. Because I just can’t. Right now I honor myself.”
You may just want to sit down and eat your lunch. Perhaps you just do NOT want to do your kids want you to do at that exact moment. Sometimes, you have to grin and bear it. But sometimes, if you look closely, you will see an opportunity to choose you instead. Pushing through is not always an option. Honoring that is both a struggle and a necessity for me. Which, as always, means it is probably really important.
“The most precious gift you can give yourself is a bit of your own time”
A Parenting Self Care Strategy
Ok, so maybe you are ready to “do you” more often, but don’t know where to start. How do you bring this idea to life? I remember having slightly younger children when this felt impossible. But, I promise you, it is possible. My answer these days is “yes, but not right now.” For my own children, I often need to qualify this statement further. I will push you in 7 minutes. I will do the spelling challenge at 4:15. Yes, you lost media time for hitting me, but I need 24 minutes (the length of one Netflix show) to breathe.
Each day my children witness adults in their lives putting others first-that is simply their reality. These are certainly admirable acts, but they have tipped out of balance. What my children need to see more of are adults who also are confident enough to say yes to themselves.
I worry about not raising entitled children. A good way to avoid this may be to act like I am entitled to things I want and need, too.