By Phoebe Lee
There is a reason you are told on an airplane to put your oxygen mask on before you put your child’s mask on. How could you save his or her life as you struggle to breathe yourself? It is common sense, really. But doesn’t this sound contradictory to how you parent, sometimes? I mean, aren’t you supposed to put family first? To love is to sacrifice, so doesn’t your kids’ safety, needs, and desires come first? They need to know that you’d risk your life to save them, right? Of course you would, but first you must be able to do so!
If you are run down you will not be able to attend to your kids in an appropriate manner. If you are tired and irritable, you might be short with them. If you are overly busy, you may feel you do not have time to take care of their needs. (Sometimes you may even feel guilty when you do take care of their needs.) But, if you’re not up to snuff, your children will notice, and you will feel out of control. It’s important to make time for yourself. You’re not doing it just for your own benefit; do it for the sake of your children. Then you will feel fresher, and be better able to be a good parent.
If you do not have balance in your life, how can you expect to teach your children the lesson of balance? As a parent, you are required to juggle many things, and wear different hats. You have to be able to quickly switch gears. When a parent flows through the day seemingly flawlessly, we all admire them, and for good reason. This is a skill! “How does she have the energy?” you might think to yourself. Energy begets energy. If you take the time to exercise, you might get that second wind. If you eat right and make time for yourself, you’ll feel more energized.
It’s very easy to get overwhelmed with parenting and life, but if you are not capable of participating in life fully because you’re too exhausted and run down, your kids will suffer for it as much as you will. Show your children that you can cope with a busy schedule and the demands of family life, because you can! All it takes is a break from time to time. Stop by the gym prior to dropping your kids off at their soccer games. Go out for coffee with a friend while they’re at the birthday party. They won’t know it, but they’ll be grateful you took the time out for yourself.
Author Phoebe Lee writes about ADHD, children’s sleep issues, and parenting from a Buddhist perspective. She is the author of the new children’s picture book, “Monkey Mind: A Captivating Bedtime Story for Children” and the accompanying children’s audio, “Monkey, Fish, Dragon.”