I debuted my newspaper column-writing with a subject from which many would rather flee than face, and I knew I might put off a reader or two in doing this. But I also knew my article would be the first in the rotation; it would begin the rounds of The Forum’s new Parenting Perspectives column on January 1, 2008, that magical date of new beginnings. As such, I wanted the topic to be relevant. What might I share with readers that could truly make a difference in their lives? What could I offer other parents who are determined to do better this year, to start their year off right? The answer was obvious. It was a lesson I’d recently learned, and one I wish I’d have awakened to long ago; that being, if we don’t maintain a balanced life the quality of our lives will suffer. Parents, and mothers in particular, are at risk because the nature of our job is to sacrifice ourselves for the good of our children. But we travel a dangerous road by throwing ourselves so passionately into our parenting that we forget about ourselves. The hard part is facing that we may have gone too far, that we might have overlooked our own needs for too long. The good news is that learning a new way of doing things, to better care for ourselves, can be a joy-filled process. I named a few ways in the article of how I was able to combat low-grade depression: renewing my membership in a local health club, scheduling lunches with friends, splurging on a drop-off childcare center so I could enjoy those lunches. I realized that although I am a stay-at-home mother, I do not have to be a stay-at-home martyr. I am an extrovert; a social being. I need frequent time with friends, not just play-date gatherings but real time away. I need it as much as mothers working in offices outside the home need a break from their surroundings. And most of all, I need to not feel guilty about filling this need.
And that was the turning point: realizing that I am not only entitled to a balanced life, but I would be shortchanging my family by not pursuing it. What I’ve noticed is that my youngest two children missed their time in our health club’s playroom last year as much as I missed my tri-weekly workouts, and that they enjoy running around the childcare play area for a few hours while I’m off having lunch or coffee with a friend. While I’m out filling up my reserves, so are they. Yes, they benefit from a little time-out from me as much as I do from them.
I’m telling you, it’s so simple, but so hard for many women in particular to do. But do it we must. Whenever there is imbalance of any kind in our lives, we eventually will feel the strain, and we and others around us will suffer. If your imbalanced life is beginning to catch up with you, make some changes to turn things around. The result is anything but depressing. Finding a more energizing way of living is one of the more pleasurable changes I’ve ever undergone. The key is making the switch in your mind: yes, you not only deserve this, your family does too. And then go for it. Trust me, you’ll have a blast.
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