Successful parenting means finding balance
May 21, 2012 | 11:52 am
(Updated: February 22, 2013 | 4:07 pm)
“If mama ain’t happy then ain’t nobody happy!”
Birthday parties. Cleaning up owies. Going to parent-teacher conferences. The giggles and laugher. The tears and hurt feelings. Fixing the bike and throwing the ball. Oh, the joys and the stresses of parenthood.
As I sat on the hospital bed in the emergency room, memories of love and quality time I spent with my children replayed themselves in my head. Wires coming from every direction wound towards somewhere on my body. The doctor came into my room, looking pale in the face, said to me, “I don’t know how you are still alive.”
I think my expression encouraged him to elaborate on such a scary statement. He stated that I had suffered a pulmonary embolism: blood clots in the lungs that kill one-in-three people who get them. With five days of a hospital stay ahead of me, I decided to settle in with me and my thoughts.
As a single parent of five young children, I began to lose myself in caring for them. I started to experience emotional distress and physical ailments that doctors could not explain because my symptoms were more related to older people. My nights were filled with crying; I just didn’t understand why I didn’t feel well and why doctors couldn’t figure it out. Determined to get better, I asked the most important question of my entire life, which set this journey on its path.
Who am I?
Those three words were the biggest breakthrough I had in years, but also the most painful.
Why? Because I didn’t have the answer. I had been so focused on being a good mother that I didn’t even know who I was anymore. I didn’t know if my favorite color had changed or what my hobbies were.
I had lost myself and began to live my life vicariously through my children. I signed them up for sports that I would have loved to have played and put them in activities and events that I would have loved to participate in or attend. All to my dismay, they didn’t like everything that I liked. Often wondering was it me or was it them, I had a heart-to-heart family meeting. I asked them what was wrong with them, why didn’t they want to do a lot of the things that I took the time to spend money on and sign them up for. Each one responded in their own words, but it boiled down to, they didn’t want to do it in the first place and that I made them do it.
WOW! What a revelation. I was living the life that I always wanted to live through my children.
It was time to turn all of that around and start living for me, so that they could live for themselves.
Putting ME FIRST is the best love my children could ever have
With more than 250 doctor’s appointments in one year, I decided to acquire a new attitude. “If mama ain’t happy then ain’t nobody happy!”
This was not only adopted for the best interest of my children, but for the best interest of me. I count too! This new attitude would allow me to take some time for myself away from my children so that I could be “present” with them in their walk of life and so that I could be happier and healthier in my walk of life.
The fact that I love my children is not enough to guarantee that I would be around for them. So I had to take some action. As we all know, love is an action word and I now understand that I must love myself enough first and in turn I will be able to love my children enough.
My plan of action
I began by taking 15-30 min out of each day to lock myself in my room and just rest. Whether it was listening to music, lying on the bed to close my eyes for a few or taking a nice hot bath. I needed daily me time.
During our daily family meetings, I would praise the kids for their hard work of going to school, listen to their stories and their concerns, then I would share my day with them and tell them what I needed for them to do to help mommy.
Now, once a week, I go out and do things I like. Sometimes I’m with friends and sometimes alone, but I make sure that it is something that I like and want to do.
We have family night/pizza night once a week. This helps create a balance between me time and family time.
I finally found myself and don’t ever want to lose myself again.
Now that mama is happy, everyone is happy.
Jasmine Peters is the founder of Parenting Wellness Center, a certified Life Coach, an ordained non-denominational pastor, author and single parent of five. Reach her at jas email@example.com. Online at http://parentingwellnesscenter.com.