Grounded Parents, as the name implies, is a parenting blog. Most of us usually take this to mean that it focuses on tips and experiences raising children and so is child focused, and this is certainly true. What is often overlooked is that parenting has another side to it and that is the parents.
Very often, parents tend to lose themselves in the act of being parents. We put our kids first and foremost to the exclusion of everything else, including ourselves. This ends up affecting how we, as parents, deal with the emotions and stresses of parenting, and more importantly, how we see ourselves as individuals.
Image by keeping it real
As parents (or at least as good parents) we tend to put our children’s welfare before our own. This is understandable, but short sited and can actually be a detriment to our children. To be the best parents we can be we also have to be the best we, ourselves, can be. That means that we need to take time to focus on taking care of our physical and mental heath. We need to find time to do things for ourselves, things that make us happy that have nothing to do with our kids.
As a parent whose youngest child is now 17, I’m looking at a time only a few years in the future where there won’t be children in the house anymore. Until just recently I thought I still had some time to plan how I would spend the extra time that I used to spend with my daughter, but something has happened to change all that.
I’ve written here before about the poor health of my daughter’s mother. She had a leg amputated below the knee several months ago due to complications related to diabetes and was going to start learning to walk with a prosthetic. A week or so ago she ended up in the hospital with an infection. She is now in rehab, but when she returns home she will need a lot of help. My daughter was planning on going to her home after school every day to help her. Since we live only a 15 minute walk away, this has been easy for my daughter to do.
Where the big change comes from is that we are moving to the other side of town in May so my daughter has decided that she wants to move in with her mother to be able to help her as much as possible. We have discussed this possibility before, but with the idea that she wouldn’t need to move until after she graduated high school next year. Sadly, it has just come to light that her step-father has been neglecting her mother as well as emotionally abusing her. Because of this, she is planning to move in with her mother as soon as her mom is able to move into her own place, which will likely be sometime this summer.
So now I am faced with the prospect of having both my children moved out of the home. We won’t have a completely empty nest since my step-son still lives with us, but he spends most of his summer with his father, so it will certainly start to feel like it.
With more time on my hands, and lacking most of the the day to day duties of being a parent (I do play backup parent for my step-son) I am faced with what to do with that time. Besides spending more time with my wife and being able to write more, I have been rediscovering interests that long lay dormant. I’ve started to take my guitar playing more seriously. This brings me great joy and relieves a lot of stress.
Image by ljguitar
Still, it feels strange to have time to myself, to have my own interests, because I’ve sacrificed so much of my time and myself to my children over the years, too much actually. Until just the past few years I had no life at all outside of my family and work. Through therapy I learned to balance my own needs as a person with those of my family. I was able to start playing guitar again and got back into photography as well. Most importantly, I returned to my first real outlet for self expression, writing.
I’m lucky that I’ve had these past few years to learn to be Jay again. I’d forgotten who I was because Jay the husband, parent, and provider took over and subsumed Jay the person. The transition from full time parent to part-time parent will be smoother, I think, that it might otherwise be because I’ve been working on balancing my responsibilities as a parent and husband with my need to be an individual.
The important thing I’m taking away from all this is how important it is, as a parent, to know who you are as a person and to make time for you to be that person as much as you can. You will be happier, your partner will be happier, and your kids will be happier too.
Feature image by deeplifequotes