Putting yourself first as a parent has always had a selfish stigma attached to it. Could it be time to re-examine our longest-held habitual beliefs?
Considering the plethora of information scattered from one end of the self-help section to the other, you’ll find authors preaching the same advice. If you don’t treat yourself as a priority and look after your own state of mind, you’ll sink faster than the Titanic in Iceland – and as a consequence, be of help to no one.
Making a decision to be a parent is no small feat. Before bubs are born comes the plethora of current parents who have no hesitation in telling you ‘things are going to change’.
For me, the largest difference between being childless can be summed up in the time it takes to leave the house. From “we’re leaving” to actually starting the car stretches out to the better half of 1hr. A very close second is the frustration (usually from dad) from not remembering to take the water bottle that doesn’t leak.
Once in the car, most parents are reverse-engineering sleeping patterns. This is a task usually undertaken with military precision. If we’re heading to a play-ground, chances are sleep will be taken in the car on the way home. If it’s to the local shops for a Pink Donut and a coffee, expect tornados and cyclones of toddler energy for the immediate future followed by a sudden drop in energy within two-three hours.
Planning, I tell you, we’ve learned it’s all in the planning.
So did things change?
Did they ever. In the best way.
As any parent will tell you, perfectly timed bowel movements with toddlers now rival NYE celebrations and don’t touch seeing a good movie with friends who love DNM’s.
Things certainly did change, but deep inside I felt there was an area no one was talking about.
What was overlooked by our friends and family was how critical self-care was. It was all about the baby. Self-care almost felt like a secondary almost quiet and selfish conversation had away from judging eyes.
I believe this area needs an extensive overhaul as mental health takes center stage in family units and larger stages all over the world.
Here are 4 ‘downtime’ strategies to consider when/if you feel you’re drowning in a sea of responsibility while wanting to push yourself professionally;
- Plan to Recharge: Flat batteries are of no use to no toy. Plan your escapes, plan your 1-1 times with your partner or close friends. Do this well in advance and re-discover your adult conversations. As interesting as bowel movements are, there are other things happening around you. Get interested, your brain needs it. Recharge also means you’re more present with your kiddies rather than half-listening because of fatigue.
- Plan to Rejuvenate: For parents with young children, pin-point your life-saving babysitters early. Some parents have 3 failsafe lifelines. Start with family, close friends before you find people you would consider hiring. For ladies, plan some R&R time for yourself to feel human again. For Men, find the people who love what you’re interested in. Get excited about the privilege of living this life and being a role model and guardian to a trusting soul.
- Plan to Realign: Prioritise self-time as importantly as parent time. On the surface, this sounds selfish but hear me out. How long can you continue to run on empty? When will stress take its toll? Eventually, things get missed, you feel drained and kids know you aren’t present. What we’re saying here is, if you can plan downtimes more efficiently (date nights, weekend escapes, lunch with friends) you can be more present when you’re needed to step it up. Plan approx. 4 weeks ahead if you can.
- Plan to Reunite – Once you’ve planned out your 4 weeks, calmness enters the chaos. Come together knowing you’ve got downtime planned. This is almost like looking forward to a holiday that you know is coming up and grounds you back into sanity when things turn crazy.
So many parents are struggling to find time for themselves in a society that often requires dual incomes to keep up to the demands of everyday living. This can stress out the family unit which is why planning future downtime plays a key role in relieving the chaotic nature of to-do lists and the unreasonable nature 2-year-olds.
In my coaching business, I help parents >40 unlock their personal and professional calling. I do this because, from my research, this is the exact age where both Men and Women have sincere questions surrounding purpose and passion aside from parental duties.
From my work I’ve discovered that our children will only know limits, we’ve believed in ourselves. Limits based on fear of the past (or technology-obsessed parents that have no time to look up from their phones) can have an unintended negative effect on the next generation, often without our knowledge. Children will often do what you do.
This is why I hold firm on my mantra of chasing down life dreams and goals – it isn’t optional, it’s obligatory if you want your kids to follow suit. Kids will almost always learn where their limits are based on what you reach for.
Downtime allows a gap in time, in that gap, you can inject rest, relaxation but most of all perspective on what’s important and how you want to improve your game plan moving forward.
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