Working and living with children can seem to consume all your time and energies.
Yes, for many years, at least the first five to six, our children need our almost constant attention and we are sleep deprived, etc. It is important, though, that we learn to let them grow in their own time and way, without our constant hovering. Helicopter parenting doesn’t send the message to our children that we have faith in them to do the right thing.
What our children need from us is for us to get a life.
We need to model what it means to be an interesting, healthy, well-rested adult. We need to be the adult we are trying to help our children become.
My husband and I recently celebrated forty years of our partnership. A little reminiscing over dinner occurred, and we felt that the time we made for each other when our children were young made a huge difference in our relationship. Today, with the constant demands of daily living with our 24/7 electronic devices, it is hard to turn off the text messages, the e-mails, the phone calls, etc. But we must carve out time to re-new and re-create ourselves and our relationships. Our children will be grown and on their own soon enough and if we’ve neglected our own lives, well…it can be a rude awakening.
The question becomes, how do we find and make the time for ourselves?
All of us have the same 24 hours in the day. Sleep experts tell us that we need 8 hours a day to maintain optimum fitness. Without enough sleep our immune systems flag and we are prone to more colds, flus, headaches—those minor aches and pains of living. Years of sleep deprivation and we have chronic disease. Sleep experts tell us that trying to go on less than 8 hours only gives us the illusion of being more productive. With 8 hours of sleep we are able to do more with the 16 hours of wakefulness than with the 18 hours following a six-hour snooze. Sleep first. Overall well-being will follow.
Make a list of what you really need to do with your time.
Perhaps television, or surfing the net is taking up more time than you realize. Not planning out your week can gobble up hours of having to run errands that might have been done on the same trip. Perhaps meeting for breakfast is the way to connect with friends that you might have had dinner with before children. Instead of going out with your spouse on a Saturday evening, when babysitters are in high demand, perhaps have your date for lunch and a movie. Teenage babysitters love to make money in the afternoon, and still be able to go out with their friends in the evening. Another bonus, you’ll be more alert than in the evening.
Have a personal hobby.
Cooking, reading, hiking, sewing, skiing. Cultivate weekly and annual activities that you enjoy doing as a family. Hikes, family game night, museum visits, ballgames—whatever you find that you enjoy doing together as a family. This was one of the best pieces of advice we received from an older family friend. As we left the hospital with our first born, Ray told us to find something that we could do with our children when they were adults. “Start now,” he said, “before it’s too late.”
He was right. Get a life before it’s too late. Be an interesting, well-rested, and healthy adult. It’s a smart way to parent.