PARENTING …. THE BALANCING ACT
It’s every parent’s first job, to strike a balance between home, work, children, personal time and recreation. It is not only important, but striking a balance is the most self-less thing a parent can do. Well rounded parents who are actively involved in more than doing for others (yeah….all you mother-martyrs, I’m talking to you!) are just better.
Parents who find time to play, to rest, to be with other adults are better at being parents when they are parenting. Adults who make the time to go and spend time with other adults, those that they actually like (not at a PTA board meeting) are going to be better parents. So have I made my point? Parents, whether married or single, must find time to rest, play, be a grown up, continue growing themselves and also parent their children. This is the balance that will make parents the best that they can be.
Sometimes parenting and managing a household, whether there is outside employment or not can be overwhelming. The following article will give some simple ways to trick yourself into starting new habits and breaking old ones.
Get a kitchen timer.
While you are at home, allow one hour for the chores that are likely to consume you like housecleaning, bill paying that can consume you. Set the timer and make yourself stop and change to another activity. This will help reduce your stress level and ensure you aren’t spending unnecessary time dawdling or getting lost in the details of a task.
Get a book.
Turn off the t.v. and read. It is important that your mind has the opportunity to upgrade, and rest at the same time. Find some enjoyable reading material, a novel or personal growth reading…..(hear this as NOT a work related topic). The wonderful side benefit of this is that you are modeling great habits for your children, toddlers to teens will benefit from the TV or computer going mute and watching a parent read, in quiet.
Whether you work and parent…or are a stay at home parent, you must make time to move your body, preferably in the fresh air. Stretch, dance, walk, stroll, bicycle….take the children, push the stroller, walk the dog or fly a kite. Dance to 3 songs on the radio, rake leaves, play basketball, play hopscotch, go on a nature walk and pick up leaves, rocks, pine cones or pick up trash. Find a way to move and do it regularly. If you find yourself being resistant here is an idea: write a list of ideas of simple movement like the ones above. Ask your child or a friend for their ideas if you can not think of any others. Write all of them on a piece of paper and cut each one into small strips (or use a small note paper for each). Fold them and drop into a jar or can. Set your timer for the one hour (or half hour to begin with, start with; 15 minutes. Just start.) Draw one of the movement ideas out of the jar and DO IT! Make a game with yourself and your children. Of course, never leave young children alone. If you can include them, even better, Be aware that some parents may find this a great time to be alone. If you have the support of another adult, take this time to be away from the kids if you know it will do you good.
Mom was right. You are what you eat. But mom’s food may be the ones that you need to avoid. Make small changes to your diet and you children’s menu plan. Cut out fast foods, eliminate sodas and sugary drinks. Replace with water. Splash in lemon slices, mint sprigs and so forth. Go to the farmer’s market in your neighborhood. Get fresh fruits and vegetables. If you just start with these changes, it will significantly change your health and your children’s nutritional intake.
Where you live makes you feel a particular way. If it is cluttered and dirty, it feels cramped and stifling. If it is cozy and lived-in, it feels good and well, like home. A parent can be overly focused on housecleaning to the point of stressing out the children in an effort to be perfect at all times. On the opposite end of the spectrum, a house that is not fresh, smells of smoke or other household odors is not healthy. Every home can be aired out, wiped down and swept. Homes do not need to be new or sparkling to feel good.
One of the most important things parents can do with their children is laugh, play and actually enjoy themselves. Two things to know: it is never too late and….start now. Having fun does not mean spending money. Set up the environment for easy, silly times that will become your family memories. Play board games, get out the deck of cards, watch a silly movie and eat popcorn, play twister, Yahtzee, bingo, pin the tail on the donkey, charades, write poems, have a jingle contest, bake and decorate, go fishing, ride bikes, take a nature walk……the list goes on.
Whether it is for five minutes or one hour, every parent must seek solace, peace and quiet regularly. If it is possible to run a bath and light a few candles once the kids are in bed, I highly recommend it. Unplug the phone, step away from the TV and computer and close your eyes…..breath. If you have access to a yoga class, sign up and learn techniques for relaxation. Pick up a quiet CD with no words, just relaxation music. Use this to help young children settle down before bedtime, and again you can model relaxation as a practice for your kids. Remember, all the chores will be there when you are done.
Balance is the way to remember who you are and to know that you will keep growing and maturing, yourself. It isn’t just your children that will grow. Adults need time to grow and stretch themselves. The better adults we are, the better we are in balance…the better we can parent our children.