Take care of yourself!
This note is to every parent of small children... I'm going to tell you something that you may inherently know, but have not explicitly said... yet.
Here it is...
Your children are not going to take care of you!
As a matter of fact, your children will constantly take from you!
They will take your money, time, energy, patience, and even your virtue :-) (don't tell me you haven't said a "bad word" in your head while dealing with your children, or something related to them!).
Before you get all crazy on me... I DO LOVE my kids, but, let's be honest... there is not an equal exchange between parent and child. The parent will always give more, and that's how it should be.
So here's what I want to tell you... if you don't care for yourself... NO ONE WILL!
And here's why this matters... you cannot give what you do not have!
Kids need love, require patience, call for attention, and constantly ask for money, time, and physical interaction, but if you have exhausted your supply... they get NOTHING, because you have nothing!
Dad and mom, please listen! Take time to care for yourself so that you can be the great parent you want to be, and that your kids need you to be!
Here are some practices that will help you care for yourself:
Your children MUST have an assigned bed time that is early enough to allow you to catch a breath before falling into bed! Your kids need the rest, and you need the rest from them!
Get a babysitter regularly, so you can "date" your spouse, or significant other. If you are a single parent, you still need to get dressed up and go out... even if it's to Starbucks with a book. If you don't have the extra money (which I'll bet I could find if I looked at your budget), swap babysitting duties with another couple, or friend.
Take time regularly to review your finances! Listen, if you're stressed about your money, that will leak onto the kids! Stressed parents = stressed kids! Create space on your calendar to manage your money. (Check out this post for some ideas on how to get this done.)
Do the same thing for your calendar! Take time regularly to sit down with your calendar and plan your life! Plan time for your dates, shopping, school events, etc. An unplanned life is a stressful life, and stressed parents produce stressed kids = NOT GOOD! (Check out this post which will help you with this).
Minimize! Get rid of extra stuff such as toys that are not played with, clothes that are not worn, etc. You can also apply this idea to your calendar! Start saying "NO" to things that don't energize you so you can say "YES" to life-giving commitments! The more "stuff" you have... the more energy and time you must commit to keeping it clean, organized, and unbroken! Save your self some time and energy, and take a trip (or a bunch of them) to Goodwill!
Exercise! Even if it's 10 minutes a day... it is worth every minute! Out of shape parents are not able to keep up with the demands of parenting, and often end up "parenting from the couch" (i.e. yelling at the kids from the living room). Get up! Move around! If you're not sure what to do, start with some yoga, or a walk every day. Do something, and see what happens to your heart, head, and parenting patterns!
Pray/worship! This is important! As parents we are constantly drawing on the "unseens" (e.g. love, patience, kindness, wisdom, courage). The "unseens" are given and strengthened by the "Unseen." Regularly scheduled time in His presence will only serve to calm you, focus you, empower you, and give you what you need for the rest of the "first half parenting" journey!
So there's seven practices that are critical for well-being. If you noticed, none of these can be done by your kids for you. Nope! It's up to you... and I promise you, it's worth every effort, dollar, and hour you commit to it!
You can do this! Lots of us have, and are doing it!
So how about you? What practices would you recommend to parents of young children?