How can anyone continously nurture a young life, or take care of anyone else, if they don’t take care of themselves? Everyone needs downtime from any ongoing responsibility. No one can effectively provide for others 24/7, 365 days of the year without taking time for themselves, or perform responsibilities continually, without breaks. Even God took a break from creating the world, on the seventh day, for heaven’s sakes! This isn’t to say that having fun and relaxing with your children doesn’t relax and rejuvenate you, it does! However, you’re still in the responsible, caregiving mode. You need time outside of that role to have a full break.
In many jobs, a supervisor tells employees when to take their breaks, and it isn’t merely a suggestion. Rest periods are built into the labor force’s regulations for a reason. Protracted time engaged in any labor without remitting, will cause a person to begin making mistakes, be injured, or even physically collapse.
With parenting, only you can determine when you need a time-out. Your mate should encourage you to rest and take time for yourself, when he/she sees you getting irritable or stressed out, and cover for you with the kids. Then you do the same for your spouse. Even if you don’t view yourself as someone who can get stressed enough to be abusive to your children, the longer you provide care for anyone without R&R (rest and relaxation, the bigger that very risk becomes.
Having time for Mommy and Daddy to be just Joe and Debbie, and separate individuals is critical in many other ways too. Without making time for your relationship, when big stressors hit, the stress can tear your union apart if it isn’t strengthened by bonding activities. Providing yourself sufficient opportunities to be an individual, makes your world bigger and more intriguing, adds to your self-esteem account, and helps prevent the symptoms I listed above.
Taking breaks to do things for you, models for your kids an important sense of balance between work and play, and helps them develop their own interests and become more well-rounded young individuals. Alone time is also perfect for reinventing yourself, deciding on goals for your present and future life.
What are some things you can do as a couple, to build some rest and relaxation into your lives, as well as enriching you as an individual?
- Go to the gym together and work out. Exercise spawns those feel-good endorphins, helping stressors not get to you as much, plus you’re doing it together!
- A dinner/movie date. See something that isn’t animated!
- Take a class together—first a class in something one of you is interested in, and the next, what the other partner wants. Sample each other’s inner life!
- Go for a hike and have a romantic picnic.
- Take a drive in the country at dusk, watch the sunset and then sit under the stars, and make a grown-up wish!
- Can’t get away? Have a night-in, romanticize your bedroom a bit (candles, incense, music, a little Chardonnay) and celebrate the two of you!
- Do something you used to do when you were dating, and rekindle that magic.
What you do doesn’t matter as much as the frequency, as well as having alone time for each of you. Have hobbies? Then, when you come back after a time-out to take care of your children, you’re more centered, happy, and feel fulfilled, rested and rejuvenated. It is hard to get angry at a child’s behaviors when you feel that good! Besides, once your children are grown and out of the nest, it is just going to be the two of you. What you do now to keep your relationship alive and growing, will very likely be your saving grace when that time comes!
(at left, my release—creating art!)