“The adult is the most important part of a child’s environment,” my Montessori professor told us. “We need to make sure we remain healthy, well-rested and interesting people. Only then can we be of true service to the child.”
“Remember this,” she continued, “when you’re tempted to stay up late to do a project for the classroom, when you start to make excuses for not exercising or eating right because you are too busy and when you don’t make time for any interests outside of your work with the children.”
Prevention was what my professor was advocating. When I’ve forgotten this advice, I’ve dealt with that fire-breathing monster called burnout.
As parents we need to learn that it’s critical to take care of ourselves and take time to renew, refresh and recreate ourselves.
In The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey recommends that we stop often and sharpen our saws. Abraham Lincoln was reported to say, “If I had eight hours to cut down a tree, I’d spend six hours sharpening my ax.”
In our 24/7 world of cell phones, email, all-night stores, work, children’s activities, business travel and more, it is challenging to set up parameters to have personal time in order to be healthy, well-rested and interesting.
There are many needs to be met, leaving us little, if any, time to sharpen our saws and self-renew.
It is essential for us to make time for our personal “re-creation.” One priority should be to schedule time every week for you and your spouse. Happy marriages produce happy children.
When our daughters were in preschool, we alternated between two neighborhood teenagers to baby-sit on Saturday afternoons from one to five o’clock. My husband and I would go to a movie, have lunch or take a walk. We had time to visit without the children’s demands on us. We also knew we had this time each week, so tensions didn’t build up. Our sitters were thrilled to stay in the afternoon, having time and money to do things with their friends in the evening. These Saturday afternoons helped keep our relationship healthy and interesting.
Sharpening the saw can be challenging for single parents.
If money for a babysitter is an obstacle for finding time for yourself, be creative and start a babysitting co-op. The key to a successful babysitting co-op is to have explicit expectations and consequences spelled out for the members. In the three years I was involved with a co-op, no one abused the privilege or the responsibility. Two members sponsored prospective members. There were twelve in our group, though groups with only four members have been successful.
To begin, we each had ten hours of credit. If a member’s balance reached zero, he or she had to “deposit” ten hours of babysitting before using the co-op again. Members called the bookkeeper, who arranged the babysitting. We each took turns being the bookkeeper for a month once a year.
Keeping ourselves in balance keeps our worlds in balance.
Remember, “Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me.”
Creativity is needed to find the time to remain “healthy, interesting and well-rested.” We are worth it. Our families are worth it. Our children are worth it.
Sharpen your saw, regularly. Your kids will love you for it. Best of all, you’ll love you, too.
P.S. You might enjoy the 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People Series on the For School Leaders Blog.