My oldest son went on a week-long trip, leaving my younger son home with my husband and I. My oldest is a bit of a force in our house. He’s passionate about his interests, thoughts and ideas. He challenges others when he is in disagreement. He is curious, thoughtful, empathetic and self-aware (more so than I was at his age). He loves testing the waters with his father and I in what he can get away with (say, do, watch…you get the idea). He loves messing with his younger brother. He is a typical tween, nearing full-on teenager status.
My youngest is mild-mannered and fun-loving for the most part. He is passionate about his interests, thoughts and ideas and when needed, he will defend himself and stand up to his brother. He doesn’t proactively start a fight. He doesn’t like ‘drama.’ He is my Zen kid.
With my oldest being away, it has created a bit of a void in the house. You could say it is calmer and somewhat less chaotic (I haven’t had to yell at anyone about keeping their hands to themselves this week once — amazing!), but there is an energy that is missing. A crazy, hard-to-explain, even-though-it-makes-me-want-to-pull-my-hair-out-I-still-miss-it feeling created in his absence.
I think about how different my kids are. How much individually and together they bring to our family. How, when one of them is away, it changes who we are as a family in a significant way. My son is missed, in all his tween glory, and we can’t wait to have him back with us.
How does your family change when your child is away?
When you first had your child did you worry about when you could return to activities you enjoyed prior to becoming a parent?
When I first entered motherhood, I had two realizations: I love my son, and I loved my old life, how can I honor both? I was stumped. As a new parent, I thought sacrifice was paramount to being a ‘good parent’, and anything else was selfish. This kind of understanding and thinking was a rookie mistake on my part. What I learned was that while parenting requires sacrifice, it also requires taking care of yourself so that you can give your child the energy and attention they need from you.
When my son was young, my husband and I were lucky enough to be in a PEPS group (Program for Early Parenthood Support) and were surrounded by other families who were just starting out as parents like we were. We were encouraged to have a Moms Night Out (MNO) where the dads would watch the kids while the moms had dinner, and vice versa, so the dads had an opportunity to do the same. I lived for those MNO in the early days and looked forward to them. But as our kids got older, and required less of us physically, the need by all the moms for these MNO diminished. We probably haven’t had a MNO in years.
In those early days, I needed a reprieve from being a parent. I needed to be with others my age for adult conversation and interaction. I was very mindful of this need in the early days of being a parent. I’ve gotten a bit away from it as my children have grown and become independent. That is, until, a girlfriend of mine reached out to go to brunch. As a working parent, she realized with all the stresses from work and home life, she needed to connect with others and became proactive about doing so. Thankfully, I was one of the friends she reached out to. “Let’s do brunch,” she said. Oh, brunch sounded nice. I hadn’t done brunch without family members present in a long time. I mean a loooong time. I loved the idea, and eagerly accepted her invitation. I loved having brunch with my friend. She reminded me that it’s okay to start reclaiming your independence and take time for those activities that are important to you — like keeping up relationships and having a good meal that is kid-free.
What kid-free activity have you reconnected with since becoming a parent? Or what activity do you want to? What helped you or what’s holding you back?
Is there anyone else out there that is already exhausted? Anyone who needs a little holiday cheer to help boost their spirit and energy level?
This year has been one of the most busy and stressful years of my professional career. I feel like I’ve done pretty good getting through this year, but have to admit I am nearing full burn-out. I’m in need of an energy boost. I need rest. I need….a vacation.
The holidays could easily create additional stress for me, but not this year. I’m really looking forward to them. I look forward to seeing my children’s anticipation grow as they anxiously await the arrival of Christmas Day, I look forward to spending time with friends at holiday gatherings, and having that much needed time off just to rest and relax. Just thinking about it puts a smile on my face.
How are you preparing yourself for the holidays? What about the holidays puts a smile on your face?
How are you recharging your batteries during Spring Break?
I look forward to Spring each year. Not only do we exit the cold weather months, and have all the lovely Spring colors, but it’s the entry point for many of us into vacation time. After many months of working hard, we finally start to think about taking a break; doing something out of the ordinary; maybe even going someplace different or new. There’s something about planning a vacation that’s so much fun–having something to look forward to can do wonders when you are tired or in need of a change from the daily grind.
Camping trips, visits with family, fun with the kids are all on the horizon. I anxiously await when our next trip will be: whether it’s a long weekend or more time away.
How are you and your family breaking away from the ordinary to enjoy yourself?
Do you ever crave having alone time: when you don’t have any distractions and allow yourself some peace and quiet?
I never realized how much I craved, actually needed, alone time until I had my kids. We’re conditioned to have noise around us. I know I used to like having the TV or radio on in the background when I was single and lived in an apartment. It made me feel less alone. Now, there are people around me that require my attention all hours of the day: co-workers, spouse and kids. And while I crave alone time, true peace and quiet, it is uncomfortable for me when I have no sound around. When things are silent, instead of relaxing and recharging, I let my head fill up with all the “to-dos” I still need to get done. I may not turn the TV or radio on, but I’m letting noise in.
My husband and I were able to have a weekend getaway with the help of my parents. It was a great time for us both to work on find alone time together–just being with each other in silence and enjoying it. And it was great for the kids…they loved having an adventure with their grandparents. It worked wonders for us all, and reminds me that I need to make space for ‘peace and quiet’ (even if they are brief) everyday.
Where do you experience peace and quiet? How have you (and your family) benefitted from alone time?
When my boys were young, I longed for when they would have playdates…at their friends homes. I have to admit I liked the idea of them developing friendships outside of daycare and school, but wasn’t so sure if I wanted to host these occasions. Cleaning the house, making sure we had the right food (and understood any allergies and parental preferences), and having some activities in my back pocket in case we needed to keep the kids entertained (e.g. deter them from destroying the house) created a lot of anxiety, and made me tired just thinking about it.
As I reflected on this recently, I thought about playdates we have as we mature, though we don’t refer to them as that. By junior high it’s called “hanging out” and changes into “date night” or “grabbing dinner or a drink with your friends” as we become adults. Adult playdates seemed must easier to do before my kids arrived. Much like coordinating a kid playdate, coordinating an adult one can be just as stressful: who can we get to babysit, can we squeeze in a “relaxing” event with our busy schedules, and juggling doing something “fun” that may take away from my sleep.
But, I love my friends, and my husband, and know while stressful, scheduling activities with them are necessary. It’s what keep me connected and gives me energy back (though it does take energy to plan). Similarly, my kids need to have playdates to develop friendship skills and practice their manners.
Presently I’ve probably hosted as many playdates as my boys have attended. It’s fun to see them play with their friends and good to meet their friend’s parents. It does take some work, but the ultimate payoff is their smiling faces.
How often does your child have playdates? Do you prefer to host or have your child hosted? Do you live for playdates or dread them?
I’ve blogged before about the need we have to recharge ourselves and give ourselves back energy. We risk burning out, may experience negative feels (anger, resentment, frustration) more easily, and make it tough to bring our full self to anyone (child, spouse, etc.) or thing (work, friendships, etc.) if we don’t do it.
I was fortunate enough to be able to give myself a big energy boost recently. I met up with some of my girlfriends and spent four fabulous days with them. During our time, we had deep connected discussions, I slept peacefully (with no interruptions or small people jumping on me unexpectedly!), I was able to relax and let all (or at least most) of my stresses go. It was only for a few days, but it felt great. I missed my children and my husband, but knew they were having fun and everyone was fine during my absence. It was hard to get away when my kids were younger, I felt tremendous guilt when I had to leave them even for a day. I felt guilty for putting all the responsibility of taking care of our boys on my husband. It was misplaced guilt. My husband enjoyed and still enjoys taking care of the boys by himself, it gives them a chance to be together and have their own special time, just like I’m having mine.
It can be difficult to find ways to give yourself that needed rest or energy boost you need, especially without feeling guilty, but it’s so needed, and can be an excellent opportunity for new connections and a recharge for all.
How do you relax? If you experienced any guilt, how did you work through it?
The New Year has gotten off to what seems like a slower start than usual for me. In years past, I’ve embraced the New Year with a vigor of starting fresh. This year it feels like I’m walking in deep sand and having a hard time getting back to running on all cylinders.
This sluggishness has forced me to rethink my energy levels. Upon reflection, it became clear that I had been going through a long(er) period than normal of giving my energy away and have not done a great job of getting my energy back. It’s easy to get caught in the give-give-give mode. I’m realizing if I don’t start taking back more and soon, there won’t be much more to give. This realization helped me refocus on what I need to boost my levels of energy. I realized I need to put time and energy into my connections, because that’s what really fuels my soul. I made lunch and coffee dates with some friends, and have made time to visit a loved one who is recovering from an accident. I’m looking forward to connecting with my audience during public speaking engagements and through my writing.
These efforts are starting to pay dividends. I’m starting to feel like I’m catching up to the fast(er) pace and am keenly aware I need to continue to include sources of energy to keep myself going without burning out.
How are your energy levels? How are you staying on all the things you have going in the New Year?