I have written in this blog on several occasions that in order to fill our childrens’ cups, we have to keep our own cups full. In other words, we can only take proper care of them if we’re taking proper care of ourselves.
Parenting is hard. I don’t think any of you are going to argue otherwise (although, if you do, I would love to find out how you make that work. Really). It is hard on us. It costs money. We lose sleep, we lose solitude, we lose at least some of the ways we used to live our lives as single people. For women who are pregnant, it literally takes nutrients out of our bodies. That is because parenting is the most important job.
And that is why it is especially important that we are getting what it is we need. Sleep? We have to weigh the importance of having that time after kids go to bed (and there should be time, because they have regular bedtimes) against getting enough rest.
Solitude? Sometimes it means getting to use the bathroom by ourselves. Or giving our partner a break. We have instituted “rest time,” in which the kids are occupied with an audiobook or a movie or a BBC historical show (as you do), and the parents are thus free to take a breather.
Sometimes it means taking specific steps. I understand that babysitting is a popular choice. For whatever reason, we rarely take advantage of this, though we do have family that can take the girls for an afternoon or even, recently and gloriously, overnight.
Spending quality time with your spouse, partner or coparent of choice is crucial. Having small children makes adult relationships a challenge. Having older ones makes adult relationships…well, challenging. We have taken up reading aloud to each other, and recently my wife has taught me to play gin. Sitting on the porch with a cup of tea seems to be working nicely, though it is hard to let go of the parent mind (“What was that noise? Was it a cat or a child?” “It was the house settling.” “Was it an earthquake?” Etc).
Sometimes it means getting a counselor. Sometimes it means going together.
We don’t stop being people when we have children. Parenting changes us, and that makes it all the more important to keep pace with the changes.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to settle in with a book. As soon as I investigate that noise.