by Alissa Klugh, MS, LPC
When you become a parent, it changes you. This is not something that is said, or taken, lightly. You life truly does change, typically for the better, but there are definitely days where it seems like the opposite. With infants, your child’s very existence depends on you, and as your children grow, they count on you differently; however, you are still expected to guide, lead by example, and take action – all while trying not to make any detrimental mistakes, in the process. How do parents do it? The list doesn’t end with child rearing… How do you keep sight of being a good parent, friend, mate, coworker, boss, etc.?
I wish there was a simple answer to this, but there is not. The fact remains, as in all relationships, the further you drift away from yourself, as an individual person, the more you begin to feel like someone else. I like to look at parenting and being a part of a family as a piece to a whole: If you are not functioning as an individual whole, you can only contribute part of what your family needs. The same goes with couples, and unlike Mathematics, several small parts do not always equal a whole. The point I am trying to make here is this: You must take care of yourself if you want to be a functioning and effective member of any group, but especially a family.
It is easy to get lost in the shuffle of parenting. The appointments, the tummy time, the carpooling, the sports and extracurricular activities, the being a good partner, the discipline, spending time with your family, and maintaining a full-time job (for many). How in the world can you have any time for you? Let’s take a look at some tips on how to feel like an individual in your family.
- Make time for you. I don’t say this lightly. You may literally have to mark off time in your schedule for this. Get out there and do something you enjoy. This might be going to the gym, taking an art class, taking a hot bath, or reading. It doesn’t matter. Find some time to do it. It may only be 30 minutes each week, but you know what? It could be 30 glorious minutes to yourself.
- Ask for help. Please stop trying to do everything on your own. We, as human beings, were not originally made to handle the amount that we have on our plates, these days. Let’s think back to a simpler time, when your day consisted of being a hunter or a gatherer. Umm – that doesn’t sound like today, now does it? See what is available to you. Join a group of local mothers/fathers who trade off on caring for each other’s children, when needed. You watch my kid this Friday, I’ll watch yours next Saturday – for no cost. This exists. You just have to look for it. Ask for your child’s daycare to watch your child for another two hours while you take care of what you need to do. Many childcare programs have days where you can add hours to your “normal” schedule. Ask and see what exists. You are not meant to do everything – you need help, and that is OKAY.
- Go on a date. That’s a novel idea, isn’t it? But who will watch your children, if you go out? See my suggestion, above. If you and your partner stop the courting process, you are going to lose sight of what originally built your family: you and your significant other. Finding time for yourself is important, and finding time, as a couple, is equally as needed. Give yourselves time to remember why you started this wild adventure, in the first place. And here is a bonus: when you go on your date, I challenge you not to talk about your children! That can lead to wonderful things. Not sure what to talk about without the kid-talk? Look up “getting to know you” questions, online. Go back out there and learn (or re-learn) about your significant other.
There are many ways in which you can learn to care for yourself, as a parent, and I’ve only named a few ideas, here. I encourage you to try something new and different before you begin to feel like you have lost yourself, completely. It’s not a bad thing to think that you no longer feel like an individual, as a parent. It happens. What is not good is when it gets to the point where you become resentful and bitter about the lost-you, and we both know that these individuals do not make for good parents or family members.
Go out there – take care of yourself, and find the lovely balance that will make you a better person, parent, lover, and family member. Your family will thank you for it.
Stay tuned for more ideas on how to become your genuine self amongst a family.
If you are interested in scheduling an appointment with Alissa, click here, or call us at 412-367-0575.