The Great Balancing Act of Parenthood
When my children were younger, we spent much of our vacation time with our family friends. These friends were also the parents of daughters the same age as our own. Early on in this parenting thing, I learned it is easier done with ample support and like minded parents. We were lucky enough to find such a family in these dear friends. One evening, as we parents were making dinner and wrangling small children into shared baths, my friend’s husband asked her if she had showered that day. She had not.
My friend had gone on a run and been home in time to make Sat breakfast. She had later taken a child to a prolonged trip to Walmart and then taken four children to the neighborhood pool. This had been followed by late lunch and some house cleaning. Now, it was approaching dinner and she had not showered. When asked, she simply replied “I had a choice” meaning she could have taken something off her agenda and replaced it with a shower. She had chosen not to do this.
Parenting is about choices and balance. We parents keep our own health in balance by making time to exercise and get enough sleep. We often pack our own snacks or food when we know the day will be jammed with carpools and errands. We find the occasional time to have coffee or a meal with a friend or make a personal phone call to check in or regroup. We squeeze in the coveted date night with our partner, though we know this should have priority. The rest of our days are dedicated to growing human beings. We support, encourage, reprimand, organize, shuttle to and from, advocate for, bandage both physically and emotionally, challenge, fund, protect, and connect with our humans. All day. Every day.
I learned early on as a parent to follow the lead of my friend, Lori. When my children were young, I quickly learned that showers are overrated and that enjoying my coffee while reading the paper was second to getting in a run or some exercise. I learned to protect my personal time with the determination of a Marine on the frontlines. Each day this precious time held several options including showering, exercising, reading or working on a project. Most days, I chose exercise. This paid off dividends and I started competing in triathlons. When my children were young, I finished very few books and saved many dollars on shampoo and makeup. I woke in the predawn hours to use my personal time for training. On a few nights, I tucked in a baby and headed for the pool. “Are you wearing a swimsuit?” became a common question at tuck in. Yes. Me time.
Today my children have become teens and are straddling the line of home and the great big world. In 4 short years I will no longer have these humans living in my home. Because they have become so independent, I am finding the precious personal time to be greater (though not without limits). I am finding the time to both exercise and shower as well as finish a book. I do not have to guard my time so closely and I no longer wake before 5:30 am, though I do still get up early to train.
I am so thankful to have been connected to other moms when my children were young. From their examples, I learned how to prioritize and make time for myself. I like to think that the young mothers of today are better equipped than I was and are better able to juggle their daily choices. I see them at the grocery store and it is evident which chose to use their time on personal hygiene and who went on a run. My firsthand knowledge of the cost of that precious hour of personal time gives me respect for both.
Shelley Coleman M.A., L.P.C.-S.
Shelley Coleman is a Licensed Professional Counselor and Supervisor. She is in private practice in Lakeway where she provides play therapy, child and adolescent counseling, family therapy, group therapy, and parent education. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org