Author: Julie Kailus
Taking dedicated “me” time when you have a family, work, home — and life — to maintain may seem like a selfish act. But guilt may be our greatest inhibitor to creating a more balanced, calm and happy existence for ourselves and our families.
In general, American society praises work ethic. Sheer determination. Getting it done at all costs. Plugging away. Pulling an all-nighter. We tend to bring this seemingly positive quality to our work as parents, too, says Dr. Jeffrey Dolgan, senior psychologist in Behavioral Health at The Children’s Hospital of Denver. We feel guilty when we are not “working” toward something, whether that is supporting a family in the home or providing for our family with income from work outside the home.
Unfortunately, with guilt and work ethic often as primary parenting motivators, there’s typically little time or energy left over for ourselves, as individuals. We expend so much of our energy helping others that helping ourselves gets lost. Or delayed. Or excused. And that can lead to psychological issues that manifest in ways that are not only detrimental to ourselves, but to our significant others, children and friends.
When we are overtaxed and exhausted, parenting challenges multiply. “Parents ‘activate’ kids just like kids activate parents,” says Dolgan. When parents take a break, “we see marvelous changes in the kids,” says Dolgan, who runs family therapy programs. “Parents come back more refreshed, calmer and with a different mindset.”
Imagine your IQ is 100. When you are tired and go into a super-aroused state, your IQ immediately drops about 30 points, explains Dolgan. You can’t negotiate or talk to your children in that kind of state.
One key to being a better parent is becoming a better individual — and that means finding time to uncover your personal passions, take a break and in turn have more of “you” to give. A rested, relaxed, empowered parent will be better able to remain focused and calm when kids push buttons. And it sets a good example for your children, demonstrating that energy- and mood-boosting personal time rewards more than just the person “indulging” in it.
“Enjoying life comes from participating in and doing things you are passionate about. I love taking time occasionally to be completely self-indulgent,” says Sherri Kruger, who blogs about mindful parenting at Serene Journey and Zen Family Habits. “From heading out to the shops for an afternoon or lounging in the backyard with a great book, it doesn’t have to be long, but it’s time for me to recharge and explore other things that interest me, besides parenting. And it’s completely guilt-free.”
Here are a few ways to approach taking more guilt-free time for yourself — and ultimately for your family.