Parenthood can be all-consuming. Caring for a child is no easy feat: it takes a great deal of time, thought and energy. Because we prioritize our children, we give them the first and the best of whatever we have to offer, leaving the leftovers for ourselves. But when our leftover time, attention and energy isn’t enough, we become one dimensional. Many of us begin to limit our identities to being parents and nothing else. We often think this transformation is necessary in order to be devoted caretakers. In reality, this transformation robs us of our ability to be happy and whole. To be the best parent you must first be the best you. However, you can’t achieve that if you no longer know who you are outside of your parental role. If you find yourself in this predicament, try these four tips to maintain your identity separate from parenthood.
Stay in Touch with Friends
Friendship is important. The act of connecting with like-minded individuals who know all the details of your life (past and present) provides a mental outlet that is undeniably necessary in adulthood. Friends give us the chance to reminisce, vent and let loose. They can be a shoulder to cry on, timely comedic relief or simply a hand to hold. But because parenthood keeps us busy our former friendships sometimes get pushed to the back burner or lost altogether. Instead of severing your friendships, make it a point to stay in touch. While your adult companions can serve as reminders of who you were before children, they can also help keep you connected to your individualism, even with children.
It’s no secret that parenthood requires the biggest time commitment you’ll ever make. From the moment your first child is born, you assume a twenty-four hour, seven day a week responsibility. Because our children rely on us for everything from their physical needs to their mental and moral development, it’s common for many parents to lose track of time in the process. Before we know it the kids are successful young adults in college while we struggle to find our rhythm as empty nesters. Failing to make time to feed your own mind, body and soul can wreak havoc on various parts of your life. Some people end up resenting their choice to selflessly sacrifice so much of their time. Others wind up smothering their kids because they no longer know how to function outside of their parental role. Stay-at-home parents may also harbor hidden animosity toward their children or spouse because of the amount of daily time devoted without a break. The best remedy is to work with your support system to schedule time away. Whether that be a date night, independent time or a tropical getaway, regular time to yourself will help clear your mind and leave you refreshed and ready to be the best parent you can be.
Lastly, balanced parents need independent interests. We put our children in chess club, soccer and gymnastics to expose them to various people, opportunities to problem solve and life experiences. Why don’t we do the same for ourselves? For the same reason your children need hobbies, parents can also benefit from having interests that are uniquely theirs. Set aside time for yourself to do what makes you happiest. Consider old passions you’ve forgotten. Look into trying something new. You deserve the chance to release some stress, invest in your personal growth or relax and unwind. Parenthood shouldn’t cancel out your ability to make those joys a part of your weekly routine.
Being a parent is a privilege and an honor. The joy of parenthood far exceeds the struggles we may face along the way. Still, it’s important that you don’t lose yourself in the process. Children benefit most when they have happy, balanced adults in their lives. Be honest with yourself and your spouse about what you need in order to restore a feeling of self, and use these three tips as your guide.