By Connie Masullo
Like many other parents, I have very little time to myself. I work multiple jobs, take care of the kids and home, volunteer, help out at my kid’s school and the list goes on and on. I’ll never forget the day I had dropped my girls off to my mother and went to work. I work by appointments and I had several booked back to back as usual. I had a cancellation in between and immediately thought of the errands I can run without the kids. We all know it takes 10 times as long with them in tow! And for the first time I did not need to run to pick something up for the kids either for a project, afterschool activity or their favorite yogurt. I didn’t have any returns and was literally left alone with nothing to do. So I decided since my feet looked like they could belong to a wildlife creature to go get a pedicure. Simple, right? It actually wasn’t. I couldn’t relax! I felt guilty because my daughter usually liked coming with me and I imagined having to tip toe by her without her recognizing the shiny new polish. I thought of all the work I could be doing and couldn’t stop my racing thoughts. I actually felt guilty with this half an hour indulgence. It was then that I realized something was seriously wrong. Who ever said that our kids ALWAYS had to come first? I would love to meet the woman or group of ladies who signed us up for this garbage!! Now mind you I’m not advocating for neglect here but where did this message come from that “I’m not a good mother unless my kid’s every need is met while I ignore my own?” Or that “my child has to attend Harvard, play three musical instruments, be a professional athlete AND speak three languages or I failed to do my job.” Have you attended a little league game lately? Have you seen the rules that have to be put up to curtail the PARENTS behavior? Have we all gone completely nuts? And to make matters worse, this strategy is not even working! Latest research says college students now are the most unhappy, dependent and neurotic! Neurotic!!! We have 12 year olds with anxiety attacks, something is wrong here. And not to mention the parents, my guess would be this is one of the main reasons divorce rates are so high. Parents now have to work very demanding jobs and then come home to make sure you are micromanaging every detail in your kids’ lives, where does that leave your spouse? I say it needs to stop right here! Again, I am not advocating ignoring your kids. I’m not proposing to leave them hanging from a balcony. But what I am saying is we need to stop catering to their every whim for the sake of ourselves. Every parent deserves some time and if you are ready to stop the madness, read on for the first steps to start making your happiness a priority.
1. GIVE YOURSELF PERMISSION
With that pedicure, the first step that I missed was allowing myself the time to go. We need to drop that guilt and know its ok to take care of ourselves.
2. TALK IT OUT
Tell your family, spouse, friend, or co-workers about your feelings. Express your need for a break and you’d be amazed at how much support you get back! Maybe your friends or sister in-law can take turns watching each other’s kids to allow for some “me” time.
Determine where in your schedule you can make time for yourself. Common times that can be leveraged include early mornings, lunch breaks, times of waiting and evenings. Determine where you can capture these hours for yourself and stick with it!
4. DO IT
Now comes the hard part. Actually DOING the thing. Getting up early to have some quiet time to read and pray. Journaling while you wait for a meeting to begin. Saying no to an evening work meeting because you made plans to work out. Whatever you choose to do for you, the doing it can be the hardest part – especially if you are usually riddled with guilt for choosing yourself.
However, once we start feeling the benefits of self-care they will be hard to skip. When we realize that making ourselves a priority is critical to living a full life and in the end makes us a BETTER parent, we will begin to welcome it!
5. PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT
The guilt monster will still rear its ugly head. This will not be an easy journey; there will be times where you slip back to old habits. And I am pretty sure I can predict some judgmental people along the way. They will still hold thewith the idea that we are fully responsible for our children’s happiness no matter how unhappy it makes us. Ignore them and keep going. Practice makes perfect and enjoy the peace and quiet, even if only for a short while!