BY LISA JORDAN, FAMILY CHILD CARE PROVIDER, WRITER, WARREN PA
Most of the parents I know work full-time inside or outside the home, care for their families, have church and/or social responsibilities, act as the family chauffeur, battle dust bunnies from overtaking their homes, and try to squeeze in a decent night’s sleep. From the moment their alarm interrupts their sleeping bliss to the minute they crawl back in bed at the end of a very long day, most parents are constantly on the go. With all of those responsibilities, making time for themselves is a challenge.
Before taking off in an airplane, passengers are instructed how to use their seats as flotation devices in the event of a crash. They are also instructed to put on their oxygen masks first in order to be able to assist other passengers.
The same goes for parenthood. Many parents may think they don’t have enough hours in the day to make time for themselves, but every parent needs to make time to relax and unwind.
Finding that time may be difficult, but it’s not impossible. With a few changes in your schedule and having a willingness to delegate, you may find you have more free time than originally expected. Consider the following suggestions as you go through your daily routine:
Create a family cleaning schedule. Young children LIKE to help out. They will build their self-worth and develop those skills needed for independence. Just don’t expect them to do their jobs perfectly or as well as you might do them. Release the pressure of your personal perfectionism to appreciate the blessing from extra hands that enable you to free up time to do something more enjoyable.
Enlist your family to give menu suggestions and to help out with kitchen duty. After working all day, the last thing I want to do is fix dinner. My hubby is a great cook and is willing to cook a few times a week. In order to help them build life skills, my teenagers are required to cook one night a week. I don’t care if it’s PB & J and chicken noodle soup. Their time in the kitchen allows me time to read that next chapter or finish a few rows on my current knitting project.
Ask your spouse or teenagers with driver’s licenses to run errands or act as the family chauffer. If that isn’t possible, coordinate schedules with a friend whose child participates in the same activity and take turns doing the running. If you have to chauffeur to sports practice, dance, martial arts, band, etc. take a good book or a portable craft project like knitting and find a quiet spot to relax while your child is doing his or her activity. Use that hour to walk around your favorite local store without distractions.
Commit to at least one night a week for family time—the family eats together, spends the evening doing an activity together. This will create that essential bonding between parents and children and keep the lines of communication open.
Lace up your sneakers and find a walking buddy or plan to walk with your family at a nearby park. The exercise is great for your health, and it releases endorphins that help your moods. Exercise gives you more energy, too.
Schedule a girls/guys night out at least once or twice a month. Ask your spouse or teenagers to care for younger children so you can have one evening free.
Schedule a weekly date night to connect with your spouse. With your focus on the kids for the majority of the week, you need to set aside time to ensure you’re focusing on each other for a healthy marriage.
If getting out the house is not an option, set your kitchen timer for thirty minutes and take a bubble bath. Listen to music or read a good book, but instruct your family they are not allowed to interrupt unless it’s an emergency. Be sure to let them now what constitutes an emergency. Your definition may be different than theirs.
If you don’t have a spouse, consider doing a play date swap with a friend or neighbor. Ask a friend to keep your kids for a couple of hours a week and you’ll return the favor.
Consider asking a college student to entertain your kids for an hour or so. College students are always looking for ways to earn extra cash.
Take advantage of programs offered by your public library such as children’s story hour, summer craft classes, or free movie nights. While your kids are busy, find a cozy corner and read for an hour or plan to grab coffee with a friend near the library.
If you’re not completely worn out from your day, spend an hour after the kids are in bed to focus on something you enjoy doing or spend quality time with your spouse.
With today’s parents juggling many responsibilities, taking advantage of stolen moments allows them to carve out essential personal time. When you’re tired, frustrated, and overworked, quality time for yourself may allow you to renew your energy and have a deeper appreciation for your family.
Lisa Jordan is a family child care provider in Warren. She received her early childhood education degree from Clarion University in May 2009.