We all want to be the kind of parent that has it all. We want to have time out, we want to have time for our hobbies, we want to be interesting and we want people to be interested in us (and not just our children). We want to have a beautiful house, we want time to read, we want time to exercise and we want parenting to work for us instead of feeling like parenting has become the new work that we didn’t necessarily sign up for.
We want to live in the light. We want parenting to be a window of opportunity that we grow out through into new and exciting directions. (We don’t want the window to be closed for eighteen years while we ‘just’ tend to our children…)
These wants are perfectly reasonable.
The desire for being ‘more than just a mum/dad’ or ‘better than just a housewife/househusband’ is natural. We are all afraid of getting stuck a parenting rut where the word ‘just’ haunts every daily task and keeps us firmly under thumb.
But we have children now and our children need us with a capital N. The type of parent we thought we could be and the type of life we thought was achievable feels out of reach because their Needs sap us dry. Their Needs make it hard to summons the time to do anything worthwhile any more. There is just no time for anything else.
All of our wants are eclipsed by the drudgery of Need – and not only that of children. The everyday needs of family, of household, of wife/husband/partner and of pets make it feel like the window of opportunity we had hoped for when we became parents has been slammed shut in our face.
We meet the needs of others all damn day long and can’t find any time in the day to tend to even just one of our own.
Welcome to the parenting rut.
It’s easy to get stuck here and to not see the window. It’s easy to wallow in complaints about dishes and laundry, to feel busy all the time and to feel that the kids are sucking us dry. It’s easy to wear the same clothes for days in a row and to feel filthy through dealing with our squealing little bundles in the dark.
The path that brought you here was an easy one to find.
You got here because you have let your own interests slip while you address the needs of your children.
You got here because you don’t have time to exercise because you are too tired from getting up several times in the night tending to your baby.
You got here because it is hard to leave the house.
You got here because 45 minutes isn’t enough time to get creative so you have a ‘why bother’ mentality.
You got here because you, rightfully, put the needs of others before your own.
But the real reason you are in the parenting rut is because you haven’t yet seen the hidden windows in your day – and these windows shine with light that the kids can’t have.
Children are energy-suckers – but you were once a child too. So suck some energy back and get out of the dark.
I used to do the house work when the babies were napping and I grew resentful at the fact that I was always doing something for someone else. When I changed my routine to include my babies in my cleaning routine so that their nap time was ME time, I was one step closer to my window.
I used to get angry at the lack of time that I had to do creative projects so I had a ‘why bother’ mentality. Now I keep a notebook and plan my time ahead of schedule so that I can get straight into it and use my time (even in tiny tiny windows) to at least begin to tackle things I am excited about.
I used to think 45 minutes was not long enough to do anything worthwhile but then I remembered that when I was a teacher I could fit a lot of learning into one lesson. Each lesson was an hour long and there were settling periods at either end – so 45 minutes was practically a WHOLE LESSON just for me. When I changed my perspective to see time like this, I felt like I had ‘a whole 45 minutes’.
I used to get annoyed at the time it took to run errands and how it felt like it wasted my day spending at least 90 minutes in the car on my way somewhere. Now I use my driving time as valuable thinking time/creative time. I keep notes on my phone to make it easy and sometimes I even pull over so that I can quickly jot everything down to deal with later.
I used to try to finish a project in one go and would get frustrated when my babies called me away from it. Now I understand that every task can be broken up into smaller tasks and even ‘just one thing’ is one step closer to a finished product.
I used to think that a good mother dedicates all of her time to her children but now I have learned that holding some back for me actually means that I end up having more energy over all.
I used to think that having goals for me were kind of selfish (and unachievable). Now I know that finding time in my day to target my own goals actually means that the window is not shut.
I used to think that five minutes stolen here and there wouldn’t really be enough to do anything significant. But those moments definitely add up.
There is more light.
The window is within reach.
The parenting rut is obliterated.
If you think you have no time to yourself, at first glance it might be true but try to look for hidden moments in your day that you can dedicate to you and your own needs/hobbies.
Tips and Tricks:
Set your child/ren up with an activity that you can supervise from a distance, make yourself a cuppa and indulge in something you like to do.
Use travel time as goal setting time or creative thinking time.
Write your goals down (or better yet, share them with a friend)
Write lists to help you stay focussed
Practise something you want to get better at while you take the kids for a walk
Encourage your children to do what you like doing too
Ban chores from nap time
Double up on boring tasks so that you have more free time later (i.e. I sometimes clean the bathroom while my son is having a supervised shower).
Encourage quiet time if your child has dropped their naps
Prepare activities beforehand so that you can do them quickly in a stolen moment
Set your alarm for before your children get up (blissfully quiet and rewarding!)
You might notice that there is no magic birth of more time in this post – just a different way of looking at the time you already have that you might have missed. The next time you feel yourself thinking, ‘I never get any time…’ think how you might use that thinking time more productively.
Is this too optimistic a task?
P.S. I don’t have a beautifully tidy house but I do seem to get a lot of fun stuff done (for me) with two babies, two dogs, a little business and no babysitters for miles.
I want my babies to grow in the light.
“Nothing has happened in the past; it happened in the Now. Nothing will ever happen in the future; it will happen in the Now.”