Whether you’re a brand-new parent or have three teenagers at home, children change lives forever. Parents’ lives are forever planned around their children’s needs, from nutrition to education, physical activities to mental well-being.
Rewarding and fulfilling, yet quite exhausting, parenting can be more demanding than a typical 9-5 job in many aspects. Not to mention, parents often lower the bar when it comes to self-care due to lack of bandwidth and time. However, when parents are happy and healthy, they are better caregivers in turn. So, it is important to remember to take time for self-care too.
Here are some thoughts surrounding finding balance between meeting children’s needs while leaving some space for self-care.
Accept the change and own your choice.
Women, in particular, often find themselves torn between career and kids, and ultimately, end up feeling forced to choose between the two. So, if the decision is made to step back from an aggressive career path to devote more time to the kids, instead of mourning what might have been, focus on making happy memories and tackling the new set of challenges that comes with parenting.
Alternatively, if you choose to continue pursuing a career, do so without regret or remorse. Be proud of your decision, enjoy the adventure and reward your choice brings. Champions always march steadfastly and whole-heartedly, shining bright regardless of the path they are on.
Figure out where there can be a compromise (and where there can’t!).
Perhaps you were on a career track toward a high-status, but time-intensive position when you became a parent. You can, and many parents do, try to make both work.
- Find external resources: Plan and reserve sufficient resources to outsource (pay for) tasks you are comfortable with. For example, daycare, housework and meal preparation. Outsourcing tasks like this leaves more time and energy to spend time on the more relational aspects of parenting, such as story time and spending quality time with the child.
- Pivot: Adjust your lens and develop realistic career goals with the child in mind, until a new equilibrium is found. Can you cut back hours at work? Can you shift to a less demanding career? Can you take a job closer to home that eliminates a long commute? Kids change priorities, so instead of trying to wedge children into your existing life, consider adjusting life to accommodate them.
Give your kids some space.
Helicopter parenting may be a buzzword, but it doesn’t mean it’s a good idea for most of us. Kids need guidance, especially when they’re younger, but they also need room to develop problem-solving skills and figure things out on their own. So, instead of feeling like they need to be watched like a hawk at every waking moment, step back and allow them to explore (safety being paramount of course.) Self-directed play helps them learn and develop critical thinking skills, and it gives us a few moments to ourselves, to do what we need to do.
Take time when we needed.
If sneaking a few chapters of a book while the kids are doing their homework isn’t cutting it in the way of self-care anymore, then you might need to consider demanding more. Again, a burned-out parent isn’t good for kids either. That might mean short-term fixes like sending the kids off to the grandparents’ for the weekend to make time for a staycation or longer-term adjustments like a partner changing their work hours so they can pick up the kids while you head to a figure drawing class. The point is, when parents are feeling unbalanced, the rest of the family will feel it too, so dig deep to look for real solutions and make that “me” time actually happen when needed, instead of shrugging it off. It’s more important than it might seem.
Parenting transforms us. When crawling out of bed at 5 a.m. to get one child ready for ice skating practice before coming home to make lunches for the others and getting everyone off to school (all before heading out to a paying job), we become more selfless and kind, less self-conscious, more tolerant and forgiving. Every deed and seemly tough task is accomplished from parents’ internal will and drive. Through helping children, we grow to be better human beings, find our true selves and become role models for them.
Every parent, and family finds balance in different ways. The key is not to fight against the change or try to revert to the old ‘child-free’ ways, but to embrace it and optimize it. When children enter the picture, reality will be irretrievably changed, but as Mamapod’s PodSquad star Jessica Whobrey says, “Balance isn’t about finding the right path to follow, but following the path as it’s shaped.”