Parents of grown children admit the days we miss the most are when our children are newborn until Kindergarten because that is the time we feel most needed, but this is also the time that is most time consuming and exhausting as a parent. You work from sun-up to sundown, and sometimes in between. It’s not that children don’t need us after Kindergarten, but those memories seem to burn brighter than all the rest. With all the joy parenthood brings, at times it is challenging, especially when one or more is sick and it’s up to you do the laundry, prepare and shop for meals, help with homework, and spend quality time. It’s nice when the dads can help, but in many instances work demands time away from the home, and in some cases the mom spends more time away. I once heard a flight attendant say, “If oxygen masks are deployed in an emergency, moms use them first, THEN assist your children.” At first I rejected the idea, thinking my kids should come first, but it made sense, after all. If the mother or father were impaired who would take care of the children? In order to be a considerate parent “taking care of yourself, first” should involve three basic areas of your life - exercise, nutrition, and rest.
EXERCISE A great way to feel good, while your children enjoy activities and make friends, is to join a fitness club. The YMCA offers programs beginning at 5 a.m. When the fitness centers include children’s activities, this is like getting “two for one,” and everybody benefits.
If you don’t like leaving the house for exercise such as a health club, (or it’s winter and you aren’t a family of skiers, ice-skaters, or sled riders), treadmills and other in-home exercise equipment, even exercise videos are an alternative. These activities can be easily done while the tots are sleeping, or awake, depending on the safety of the equipment.
NUTRITION Eat something from each food group at each meal, making meals smaller in order to eat six times per day. Avoid high salt, high fat, and high sugar foods, as they will rob your instincts for the good stuff. Eat the good stuff first, and then the not so good after. Everything is in moderation. Smaller meals throughout the day sustain and balance blood sugar and energy levels. And be sure to drink eight glasses of water a day. If you relax with a can of pop per day, you may want to check your niacin levels (with your doctor) as pop robs your system of this important nutrient.
SLEEP Sleep is important, but sometimes over-rated. Our last president only slept five hours per night and ran a country! Sleep varies for each person and you shouldn’t compromise your rest. Be sure to get enough sleep. Catnap when the kids do if necessary. Those 15-minute power naps can work wonders. And moms remember, your hormones are still active for months, sometimes years, after having a baby, while dads often run themselves down without noticing how exhausted they really are. Sleep helps to reduce stress and the calmer and more rested one remains, the better for everyone’s well being.
List of Positive Strategies 1. Get enough sleep. Some need eight hours, others only six. 2. Pack lunches the night before. 3. Grocery shop after a meal. Let your kids help but stay within your budget. 4. Keep running lists of things to shop for, and take the list with you. 5. Don’t sweat the small stuff. 6. Make play dates for your children to socialize and for you to make friends. 7. Stick to routines. Children depend on them. But, be spontaneous and flexible when the need arises. 8. Make rules and stick to them, however, rules evolve and will be tested in the years to come. (Especially when friends have different rules. It’s okay to change rules if it’s within reason.) 9. Find a reliable babysitter and plan date-nights with your spouse. Be creative with this and find things that fit in your budget and things you both enjoy doing. 10. Plan family time and family visiting days. 11. Visit a spa, or take a bubble bath and pamper your self once a week. Also, read poetry, scripture, and other inspirational books on a daily basis. 12. Play “Peek-a-Boo” often, and find things you and your children enjoy. Car rides can be enjoyable and for some, sleep inducers.
Take lots of photos, even when things are at their worst. A parent of a high school student finds himself or herself counting the number of years or months left before college, realizing these fleeting moments become a thing of the past way too soon. Relax, have fun, and make lots of memories.
Martha is a non-traditional student at Edinboro University working toward her degree in Education with a minor in Creative Writing. She worked part-time for the Buffalo & Pittsburgh Railroad and is a writing consultant for EU’s Writing Center. She has been accepted to two writing conferences as a presenter and had an article published in a 2007 issue of ‘Mother Earth News.’ She has been married for nineteen years and has two daughters, age eighteen and sixteen. She is a member of St. Joseph Catholic Church where she has been teaching kindergarten CCD for over ten years.