Taking care of yourself so that you’re better able to refuel your kids is a balancing act.
At one extreme is the parent who gives endlessly and selflessly to the point of burnout. At the other extreme is the parent who is so over-invested in self-care that his child is neglected. Neither is healthy. No one can tell you how to strike the balance in between. The answer will vary day to day depending on your child’s needs, your needs, and the stresses that impact each of you.
One of the additional advantages to making parenting into a team sport is the honest feedback you and your parenting partner can provide one another. The parent who is exhausted but still there on the front line may need to hear, “Take a break. Let me take over for a while.” The parent who is consumed with self may need to hear, “Our kids need you. Let’s make some changes.”
With or without the benefit of this feedback, here are some clues that might help you find your own balance:
1. When was the last time you laughed with your kids? If you can’t remember, something’s wrong. It’s time to change how often you’re together or the circumstances when you’re together or simply how you’re parenting.
2. Can you name your child’s teacher(s)? Do you know what he is studying in school? If not, time to check in. Don’t intrude, but do wonder aloud. Make an appointment to meet with the teacher. Join the PTA.
3. Can you name your child’s best friend? Her favorite band? When was the last time you watched a TV show or movie or YouTube video together? These facts don’t require a lot of sleuthing. Even your door-slamming teenager leaves clues everywhere he goes. The page is still up on the computer. The group is featured on his T-shirt.
4. The guys at the gym or the bar or at work (or wherever you go to refuel yourself) don’t even know that you have children.