Parenting is hard work. All the love, attention, and multi-tasking that goes into caring for another human life can be simultaneously exhausting and rewarding. Knowing that they are continuing to learn and grow, experiencing their own dreams and fears, and seeing that they are absorbing the world around them every day are some of the joys we experience from the job. Knowing that you are responsible for another human life (or lives), keeping cool under pressure, and keeping up with all the demands of family life can also feel so challenging!
As a mother to three young children, I know that parenting can often be both highly demanding and challenging. Especially when trying to keep it all in balance. And with all the juggling of time, attention, chores and responsibilities, it can seem practically impossible to keep it under control.
Parents are doing so many tasks these days, and since the quarantine, are experiencing even more demands and pressure on them than they ever have before! Setting up work on your computer in the living room while our kids are off bouncing around the room has become our new daily routine. As I sit writing this post, my middle son is sitting on my lap. And of course, I enjoy my kids and attending to them, but it can be hard to constantly feel pulled in so many directions.
So, how do we gain that sense of balance? To have the time and energy to give our children the attention they deserve, while attending to all the responsibilities and realities of adulthood? Can we listen to our child’s whines and demands for attention, and meet them with warmth and compassion, while holding firm to the limits we have set for the family? Or, if you have older children or teens, can you support their desire for more independence and autonomy while drawing the line at risky or harmful behaviors?
Let’s examine some options to create more of that sense of balance for ourselves and our families.
1. Attend to your own self-care. I put this one at the top of the list intentionally. It is true that it is important to attend to your own needs first, before you can attend to someone else’s. If you don’t take time to re-charge, and refill the bucket, you will soon find it empty. Some ideas include: taking a daily walk, getting out of the house on your own, take a warm bath, do a creative hobby, take a self-improvement course.
2. Set aside time to connect with individual family members. Remember that super clingy kid, the needy one that demands all your time and attention? This means they need more undivided, uninterrupted time with you. I notice that when my daughter cries and whines, I feel irritated. When I take time to sit down with her face to face, and connect and play, the antics stop.
3. Take advantage of opportunities to connect your partner. If you are lucky enough to have a partner in parenting, make sure your partner knows you appreciate their support. Even if you are going it solo, take time to call a friend, to connect with outside family members. Remember, the saying “it takes a village”? We are not meant to raise a family in total isolation.
4. Prioritize responsibilities and family time. This is the hard one to balance. Sometimes responsibilities overwhelm family time. Sometimes family time interferes with getting other things done. Write yourself a list, or find another way to organize your duties and responsibilities in a way that includes family time in addition to all the other outside tasks.
5. Lead by example. As a parent, you are a leader for your children and for your family unit. This does not mean you have to do everything perfectly. It does mean that your children are watching, and they look up to you. Yes, even those sassy teens look up to you, as well. Remember, you are a role model for responsibilities and also for fun! If you show your kids you can let off steam and manage your stress effectively, while having some fun, your kids will learn it is ok to balance fun with their responsibilities.
Keep in mind that creating your own personal family/life balance will be unique for you. Everyone’s balance will look a bit different, as well all need different amounts of time and energy to stay refreshed. Work with your family to establish the balance you desire and need.