My husband and I were talking yesterday and remembering a quote from the movie “Parenthood.” Steve Martin, father of three, tells his wife, “My whole life is have to!” I said I feel that way sometimes, and my husband does, too–like everything we do is something we have to do. Not a good feeling.
So in the grand tradition of those who can’t do, write blogs–here are my thoughts:
1) Acknowledge the problem.
That’s what I was trying to do in that talk with my husband. I’m sure other parents out there relate to this, how sometimes it’s just survival mode and it’s only when you get a moment to yourself, when you come up for air, that you recognize how rarely that happens. And you spend your newfound “me time” lamenting your lack of “me time.” (I’m not a big fan of that expression but can’t think of another shorthand so “me time” it is.)
Think of that old haircolor ad: Because you’re worth it.
2) Consider what activities are the most grounding for you.
What makes you feel the most like yourself? Perhaps it involves connecting more with friends. Maybe it’s learning something new. Or practicing an instrument, or writing a short story. Or reading a novel.
3) If you just snorted and said, “Like I have time for that”, then think about how much time it actually requires.
For example, you don’t need to finish a short story; you can write a few paragraphs or a page. You can take an online course where you go at your own pace. Read five pages of a novel. Break it down into small, manageable chunks rather than just assuming the need is unfulfillable.
What the snorting probably meant is, “I already have so little time to myself, I can’t try something so lofty as any of that.” Or maybe, “I’m too tired at the end of the day.” But it’s a form of resistance to effort. Many of us take the path of least resistance because we find our lives exhausting, and that path often means sacking out in front of the TV.
4) I’m not anti-TV; I’m pro lots of other things, the kinds of things that impart more energy.
Because when you’re finding fulfillment through some form of self-expression, even if it’s only for 15 minutes, you’ll feel more energetic. TV might not make you more tired (or it might), but it tends not to give energy. And that’s what time for yourself should do. It should invigorate.
5) Partner up.
Once you’ve done a self-inventory like I’m suggesting, talk to your partner so he/she can support your goals. Brainstorm together about where things can fit into your schedule. Then try it out, and see how it goes. Think of it as a collaborative work in progress.
If you don’t have a romantic partner, you probably have other kinds of partners in your life: family, friends, a community. Figure out how to enlist their help.
You might be tired just thinking about making changes, but you read this far, right? That indicates a certain level of commitment to greater balance and happiness. Hold on to that, and take it one step at a time.
Violinist image available from Shutterstock.