Taking care of yourself while caring for a toddler
Some of you may know that I'm a parent of one 18 month old boy with a new one on the way. And of course when one is a new parent they become very observant of the behaviors of other parents. One of the things about parenthood that I think most parents (especially new parents) forget is that if we aren't taking good care of ourselves ican we possibly be taking the best care of our children? I have clients with young children and one of the reasons they've chosen to invest in training is because if they don't become responsible to someone else then they'll never make the time or spend their energy taking care of themselves. I advocate taking time for yourself when you know you can 1) ask for help, 2) commit to yourself to do something fun, energizing, or relaxing, and 3) shift your focus.
We received a visit from Jehovah's Witnesses this weekend and they delivered their reading material which just so happened to be about parenting. Before you roll your eyes you should know that there were some good, true sentiments in the material. One of the best is that for the first couple of years we train our children (first-borns at least) to believe that they are the center of the universe and that we are servants at their command. Then, we try to train that mentality right out of them just when they start to evince will and ego. So... we make them kings then force them to renounce their thrones just when they start to get a sense of self. What seems to happen so often though is that we don't necessarily put ourselves back on the throne. We just don't pay our taxes to the kingdom with the same fervor. It seems akin to becoming disenchanted with our presidents just when they get going.
I think we need to make ourselves the right hand to the kings/queens, controlling everything they do through influence, education, advisement. This means showing them that taking care of themselves on a regular basis is a good thing and something to be desired. Ask a friend or neighbor to watch them for an hour a week while you exercise. Have your partner take them to the park so you can take a nap. Engage friends and neighbors with kids for play dates so you aren't parenting alone. Make standing dates/appointments for dates with your partner and agree to do something fun together at least once a week. My friends and clients who follow this practice seem to find their anxiety diminishes, their energy levels increase, they start meeting goals they have had prior to the children, and they have a sense that everything will work out. If we put all of our energy into the kids, how can we possibly have enough to grow, ourselves?