Many jobs come with at least a few personal benefits . . . like vacation or sick days; perhaps a maternity or personal leave option and if you’re lucky, even some personal development opportunities like access to mentors or conferences to help you grow. I’ve always thought it strangely odd that when it comes to the job of being a mom or a dad, the support benefits can be somewhat lean. Ok let’s be honest, it doesn’t come with any.
As former CEO of an organization that supports moms of young children, I had the opportunity to talk to thousands of moms about the importance of caring for themselves in the midst of endless wiping (tears, noses, and bottoms). Every mom I talked to loved her children fiercely and delighted in being a mom (most of the time) but also acknowledged that there were moments when she felt drained, weary, like she was running on her last ounce of energy. It makes sense. Somewhere between the poop, tantrums, and green bean mush being flung across the room, you can feel an urge to run for the hills.
But here’s what doesn’t make sense: to feel this urge and not address it. Of course you’re going to have moments when you’ll want to be anywhere but standing in the middle of said green bean mush. It doesn’t make you a bad parent. It makes you a human being in need of some soul care. This goes for dads as well as moms. It’s time to make parenting personal and make YOU a priority.
Here are a few practical and easy ways to do this:
1. Go solo
Time alone without someone tapping the flabby part of your underarm because they need a popsicle RIGHT NOW, or spending a few hours away from the exasperated sighs of your thirteen-year-old is a very good thing. It gives you new perspective, allows you to remember why you really do love those noisy short people who share your house and gives your flustered soul the space to settle. I spoke with many moms (and dads) who did this by leaning into a nearby relative or trading babysitting time with a close friend. Sometimes they went for a run, or grabbed dinner by themselves (woohoo, eating adult food without cutting somebody else’s meat), or they went on a date night to Starbucks. Some parents told me they found a park bench and just sat—where they didn’t have to listen to anyone yammering or have to talk back (sheer heaven). The point is that they gave themselves time away from their precious kids and returned with a renewed and refreshed mind. You need it and so do your kids.
2. Enlist a cheerleader
No, not the high school kind, but another parent or friend who can rally your spirit by reminding you of the things you are doing right. In the midst of the sighs and whines you’ll encounter from those precious short people (or that high school senior who is taller than you), this is crucial. Sure you make mistakes. We all do. Grab coffee with another adult who encourages your soul and spend some time together.
3. Give yourself a belly-ache
Forego the Twizzlers (I can eat a pound in one sitting), and instead, find something that makes you laugh. When is the last time you laughed out loud until your stomach hurt? For you maybe it’s a favorite movie or book, or even sitting with a friend who tells you the story of how he accidentally set his toilet on fire (true story). Whatever makes you laugh, studies tell us it’s good for us. Even just a few minutes of laughter can lower our blood pressure, give us energy and help us come up with fresh solutions to perplexing problems. But many of us will go days without even a snicker. It’s great for your kids to see you laugh until diet coke shoots out your nose. Not only is it good for you, but it shows your kids that you’re a real person who knows how to have fun.
4. Spend time with the one who made you
Sometimes it’s easy to forget this, but if you are a parent, God created you to be one. He made you. He gave you the kids you have. On purpose. Even when you blow it, God’s love for you doesn’t end. His word tells us he delights in each of us (Zeph 3:17) and when we spend time with him, he listens, he whispers, he smiles. He reminds us that we are his son and his daughter and that we are precious. On days when no one else in my house is a big fan of me, this settles my soul. It reminds me that I’m created for a bigger purpose. It can for you too.
Here’s the reality. You’re the only person who can gage what’s going on inside of you. You know how you are feeling. Listen to what your heart (and body) is telling you, and do something about it. You’re busy, so your first step might be to choose something to let go of so you have room to make room for what you need. You are the most important resource your kids have. Take care of it.