Family & Social Child Developement
Taking time for yourself - Tips from a single parent
Parenting is a full-time job and if you're a single parent, then you clock in double the parenting duties. That can take a toll on your emotional and physical health. But does it mean that parents should get no days off for their personal rest and recreation? In fact, as parents, it is imperative that we take some time off from all the duties and come back recharged and refreshed.
Whether single or not, parents need to realise that bringing up children requires a lot of personal time, patience and effort. Since there are no short cuts to parenting and it cannot be offshored to anyone else, it becomes even more important that we look after ourselves.
You may feel a sense of achievement when you've managed to sort things out and just when you think of putting your feet up to enjoy a much-deserved cup of coffee, there's a new challenge to be dealt with. But that's the beauty of it all. Just as life comes with its own share of challenges which when overcome, give us a sense of achievement and confidence, parenting works on similar principles too.
Heres a simple checklist that you could do well to review from time to time, to ensure you don't go overboard and stress yourself out unnecessarily.
1. It's okay to put yourself first
I often quote this example to fellow mums and dads. During an in-flight journey, as a safety measure, we're told to put on the oxygen mask first for ourselves and then attend to the children. Why is that? Have you ever thought about it? At the risk of sounding selfish, you need to stay alive to be able to tend to the ones you love. The same principle applies to your everyday life, especially in parenting. You can't breathe life into the ones you love, if you're not breathing life into your own.
Personal tip: I have realised the importance of "me time". Simple habits such as relishing my morning cup of tea at my favourite spot by the window or listening to music breathe oxygen into my life. It is after being a parent did I realise how important it is to put myself first to be able to share the self-love with my daughter as well.
2. Don't take your role as a parent too seriously
As parenting requires a lot of personal time and energy, please do realise that it can at times alienate you from yourself, your spouse and even from the ones you love including your children. Yes, if you take the role way too seriously, chances are you'll be one crabby mom or restless dad and believe me; you wouldn't want your kids to see that side of you. Sometimes it's a good idea to just let go. Just the way you have cheat days from your diet, have cheat days from parenting set aside one day over a weekend where you'll just let yourself and the kids be. It'll be fun, try it.
Personal tip: I have set aside weekends as our official fun days when we break away from the routine, sleep late, watch TV and laze around. Now it's both my daughter's and my favourite day of the week!
3. How much is enough?
As parents, we tend to sacrifice a whole lot of things for the sake of our children. When we sacrifice too much and too often, chances are that we put ourselves at the risk of being taken of granted and that is not good for our kids to pick up as a life skill. It's really okay to draw the line somewhere that apart from being parents, we are individuals that need time and space too. Our children learn by observing us and if we come across as a sacrificial lamb they'll either imbibe it or hate it. So make sure you set the right examples.
Personal tip: While I spend considerable time with my daughter, when I need to step out to meet my friends at the coffee shop, I do that without the guilt.
4. There's life beyond
Understand you had a life before your children came along and that you're going to continue leading it even when they grow up and leave the nest. Skipping a date night with your spouse/ partner, postponing the spa appointment or not going out for coffee with your friends is not going to add any extra value to your parent-child relationship. In fact, it's just going make you more resentful and that is something you don't want.
Personal tip: I am a stay at home, working single mum, yet I take my spa appointments and solo shopping sprees very seriously, and I'm totally unapologetic about it. But I schedule my time in such a way that it doesn't come in the way of my daughter's routine.
5. Don't try to overcompensate
In my early days of being a single mum, I was driving myself insane in trying to overcompensate the role of a double parent, until I realised that I was more than enough of what my daughter needed. Initially, I would feel bad that she only had me, but then gradually, I realised that it proved to be a blessing for the both of us. I didn't have to try too hard to be a good mother. I just remained true to myself and that did the trick. The same rule applies to any parent don't let the guilt of being too busy at work let you overcompensate in your parenting duties. It is not the number of hours but the quality of time that you spend with your child that actually matters. So, spend it wisely.
Personal tip: No matter how busy I am, I usually sign off my day with a bedtime story and some personal chit chat sessions with my daughter. We hug and kiss each other and enjoy a good night's sleep. Isn't it comforting? Well, that's all that a child needs.
Our children will be the adults of tomorrow and how we deal with ourselves is going to set the foundation of how they will treat themselves and others when they are grownups. But it all starts with us. Hence, being kind to ourselves as parents and individuals today, will sow the seeds of a good future for them.
Tanya is a graduate in Sociology from Sophia College, Mumbai and a post-graduate in Communications and Media from SNDT Women's University in Mumbai. She started her career 16 years ago by writing childrens books, e-learning, content management for international websites and magazines and writing lifestyle and feature articles. She's the founder of The Lifestyle Portal an e-publishing platform that focuses primarily on entrepreneur profiling, entrepreneur directory listing, workshop reviews, feature stories and more. She's also a Certified Parent-Child Play Practitioner and a Certified Story Teller.
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