Working parents – it’s all a matter of balance. And quite honestly, I think that all parents are working parents, even if they don’t have “real jobs.” If you have something in your life other than kids – volunteering, full-time job, or just piecemeal activities that make money, you’re working. The temptation is to stress yourself out about your activities; if you’re working you feel guilty for not interacting with your kids, but if you are playing you feel like you’re neglecting other things. It’s all part of the kids-first attitude – which is hood, but can be taken to unhealthy extremes.
A family is only as healthy as the primary caregivers. If you’re running yourself ragged trying to be everything for your kids, you’re doing them a disservice. Obviously kids need their immediate needs, like food and clothes, mey. They also need love and support. However, kids also need to learn to amuse themselves, and respect the fact that their parents are people too, with their own interests and some needs for “me” time. So here are some tips on how you can achieve a balance between your own needs and that of your family.
1) Immediate needs come first. No one wants to neglect any child of theirs, nor should any parent neglect their own physical needs.
2) Teach your children to play alone. This can be started from infancy. You shouldn’t neglect your babies or toddlers, but you should provide them with opportunities to amuse themselves. If your children resist, start by playing with them and gradually spending a little bit more time “taking a break” from playing with them (such as to get a drink). Catch your children playing well without you – and don’t only play with them when they ask or whine for you. Then they’ll learn they need to whine to get attention. If there are things your kids particularly like to do, that’s a great way to start with alone time (such as reading, coloring, Legos, etc)
3) Be age-appropriate. Older kids can be told directly that parents need some “me” time as well, and that they need to play quietly or read for twenty minutes alone.
4) Consider using a timer. If you have kids that are really needy, the visual of a timer countdown may help them have a little more patience when they’re waiting for some attention.
5) Find a support group (or person). You will go crazy if you immerse yourself in a kids’ world 24/7. Find a moms’ group at church, through Meetup, by going to story time at your local library, or wherever. Your kids will benefit from seeing other kids, and you’ll get some sane conversation.
6) Don’t be afraid to ask for or accept help. If you really feel yourself going bonkers, talk to your husband, your family, your friends – anyone. If you get over-stressed, you won’t be able to be as nurturing as your kids need you to be.
7) Get your “me” time in small chunks. Even if you can’t get away for hours at a time, you can do things that only take a few minutes to boost your mood. Write a daily gratitude list of five things, take a minute to do deep breathing, stretch for two minutes in the morning – all of these are great examples of short activities that can provide you with a little re-energizing boost.
Remember, taking care of yourself is not selfish. It will make you a better parent for your children.