Monday, December 3, 2012

In parenting, sometimes you have to help yourself first

It's pretty much a parenting secret, that even if you know it, you (read I) will still find hard to put into practice.

Help yourself first. Then help your kids.

It's just like on the airplanes where the seat back instructions tell you to put on your own mask before assisting your child.

The same principle holds true in almost everything. Dirty diapers are coming to mind as a "help them first" example:)

Today, I had gotten about half of what I wanted to accomplish done, when magically, I had a free hour to myself. Immediately I thought of my list. The list I actually write down of things to do. The emails with stars that I needed to respond to, the dinner I could start preparing without kids to help/hinder me, the phone calls I should make...

Instead, I sat down on a couch in my living room and read a book. And it wasn't even a good-for-my-mind piece of literature (you can see more about my summer reading selections here to realize that I read a wide variety of things . Nope, I decided to read a good old fashioned bodice-ripper. Just so I could totally lose myself in the fashions and balls of 1831 Regency England. Ahhhh.

Then the screaming started.

It wasn't the baby.

Or the 3 year old who was blatantly not napping in his room (I could hear him talking to himself).

It was my 5 year old. With some trauma possibly related to glue, or a strawberry basket art project from school, I'm not really sure.

(I asked her to look angry, I do not pick up a camera in real life upset kid situations!)

Having just filled my own cup with calm and honestly, total fantasy, I could look at her in a better light. So I carried her (carrying 5 year olds is why I go to the gym!) to the couch in the living room, held her on my lap, and helped her take deep breaths, in and out, in and out.

It was very hippy-skippy of me, but I decided to use a technique that is super effective, but so hard on the parent, it's a "time in". Instead of a time out, where when your child is upset you send them away to their room, when they are upset, you hold them, and are with them. It's ridiculously hard to just sit there and "be", holding a screaming/crying kid, but in situations like this one, it's far more effective than distraction, or yelling (see how I work on not yelling at my kids here), or a time out. You can read more about the concept at Hand in Hand Parenting. They aren't sponsoring this post or anything, I just heard one mom talk about it, and I love some of the ideas.

Five big in and outs later, and she was fine. I still have no idea what the original issue was, nor do I care, but I know the only reason I could keep calm and be present (do you like how I sound all therapy-good right now?) was because I had helped myself first.

In fact, I had helped myself before I even knew that I would need to help her.

That's the extra tricky part, it's not an in-the-moment kind of thing like in the airplane, it's an ongoing decision to make time for yourself. And I will not, will not, feel guilty for it. I know what I need to be the best version of me possible, and that included being able to cook dinner every night (that's just me), and reading a bit everyday.

Finding the time is hard. When we had only 1 baby, my husband would put her on the floor of the bathroom while he showered, so I could read for 15 minutes every morning before I got out of bed. With 3 kids, that is not at all happening, so I find other snippets of time. Like today on the couch. Or in the car before preschool pickup. I leave a little bit early, so I can have 5 minutes (today it was 15!) to myself. I roll down the windows, breathe in the fresh air, and read a bit before picking up my son.

How do you carve out time for yourself during the day (or night)?


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Holly @ Life as a Thrifter said...

I wish I could say wine...but in my current state (of pregnancy) that's simply not an option. Instead, deep breaths and short prayers to the Lord have kept me sane.
I'll have to try your technique! Thanks for the tip! I'm always looking for more, that's for sure!

Laura @ duke manor farm said...

i never in my wildest dreams would think that the car pool line would be such a treat some days! I love this post.

Carrie said...

That's why I run during my lunch hour. I need the me(ntal health) break.

I've been discovering lately that when my son starts talking back or rolling his eyes and won't stop the first or 2nd request, it's time to walk into another room with him and just spend a little time with him. Our kids give us clues what they need. It's easy to yell. It's a lot more of a challenge to tune in... or like you said "time in". Love it.

Unknown said...

This post was so encouraging for me, thanks! My husband and I have been struggling with our head strong four year old lately and this is just what I needed to hear :)
Blogging has actually been a huge "me" time thing - such a good outlet!
Have a great thanksgiving, adorable pictures by the way! Kelly

Tiffany @ {Living Savvy} said...

Oh this is so true! I can't remember the last time I read a good book... as reference to my post a few days ago, i don't read all that much anyway! But you are so right!

Unknown said...

To treat your kids patients is more require because your kids want to everything to do, which you unlike our love and patience can make changes in them.

Sneaky fox

Karah @ thespacebetweenblog said...

I love this. You have to fill yourself up so you have something to give. Sounds like the book was good!!

Jessica Sliman said...

I read whenever I can too. In the morning, in the evening. Recently my husband and I started waking up early (which is REALLY hard for us to do with two toddlers) just to have coffee and read the paper before the girls wake up. We don't manage every day...but when we do, we're much happier.

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