Have you ever watched a professional juggler? The juggler keeps a collection of objects in the air at one time, by alternately tossing and catching them. From the perspective of an onlooker it looks almost effortless, but anyone who has ever tried to juggle several items at once knows it is very challenging to keep all the balls moving in unison without dropping them. That is family life!
Raising kids is very fulfilling, but utterly exhausting, so finding opportunities to recharge the batteries is vital. Parenting is a unique role as absolute devotion is necessary, but at the same time you can’t live your life through your kids, even though your emotions are seemingly so intertwined with theirs. Finding a balance between looking after yourself and devotion to your kids is essential. You are no good to anyone if you are wrung out, exhausted and grumpy all the time.
A bottle of orange juice in our house lasts for about 24 hours, if we are lucky. I don’t generally buy another bottle till the next big shop, because if I did, it would be consumed just as quickly. Once the bottle is empty it is taken to the recycling. We don’t try and get more out of the bottle once it is finished, because it is finished. We can’t give what we don’t have! But many parents run on empty, they keep pouring into their kid’s lives, even when they have nothing left. This is compounded by the endless responsibilities of maintaining a house, job pressures, kids’ activities and maybe a surprise baby thrown into the mix. Understandably many parents are exhausted at end of the day. When you allow yourself time to recoup and regenerate you are actually a better parent; you enjoy your kids more and you are much more likely to respond in positive ways when things get a little tense.
Just before commercial planes take off, the flight attendants explain that when the oxygen drops from the ceiling of the plane it is imperative that you put your own oxygen mask on first, before attempting to help anyone else. As a parent, our natural impulse in a plane emergency would be to help our child, but the fact is you are no good to anyone if you are unconscious. Apparently, should the circumstance arise and the plane cabin loses pressure, you only have about 15 seconds to start breathing through the oxygen mask before you would be unconscious. Once you are stabilized you can actually put someone else’s oxygen mask on for them, even if they’re unconscious.
Likewise, as parents we need to take care of ourselves, so that we can help the people in our care. It is very easy to get consumed with the needs of your kids and not take care of yourself. Mums particularly can fall into the trap of feeling guilty for taking time out. You need to think in terms of a long-term commitment; it is a marathon, not a sprint. There is a great expression: “if mum ain’t happy, nobody is happy”. Take time to unwind and do things you enjoy, so that you can be the best possible parent! The juggle of family life becomes much easy when you are rested and refreshed.