I’ve had a number of friends over the past three years comment to me about how they could NEVER stay home. They don’t understand how I can possibly stay sane while being surrounded by tiny human dictators completely incapable of controlling their emotions.
I’m going to spill the secret today.
I place a high level of importance on pursuing my own activities and hobbies throughout the day or throughout the week. That’s how I do it.
I have a number of creative endeavors I pursue, such as writing, knitting, and crocheting. I intentionally spend time away from the kids, yes when they’re awake, so they learn to play by themselves and I do something for me, whether it’s just going to the bathroom alone or writing up a blog post (such as now). I also pursue my hobbies in front of them. I crochet while they watch. I read while they watch. I write while they watch.
Sometimes, I feel like I’m screwing up like when my three-year-old makes sure she has a phone and laptop with her. I get really self-conscious about that sometimes. When I think about it, though, I’m not perfect. Some days, I spend WAY too much time on my technology because I feel like I need to escape. Other days, I spend a good portion of the day interacting and playing with them. I write on my laptop. I edit my youtube videos on my laptop. I do my social media stuff on my laptop. I do have a number of ventures that require technology and so her imitating that is inevitable.
What I don’t understand is how parents stay home and stay sane WITHOUT pursuing some kind of activity for themselves. I cannot overemphasize how important it is to find something you like and engage with it, especially when the kids are watching. They need to know that mom is a person outside of mom. Mom has interests. Mom has things she likes to do too. When they are really little, they don’t understand that fully, but as they get older, they will understand it.
Having my own hobbies and interests sets a good example for the kids, too. At 1 and 3, they are already learning the importance of self-care even if they don’t know what that is yet. They are watching someone else pursue hobbies.
It teaches them to entertain themselves, as well, which I believe is a key factor in being successful. If they find themselves bored, they need to figure out a solution. Sometimes that means they get into my vacuum cleaner and make a huge mess. Sometimes that means they go up to my daughter’s room and play for 20 or 30 minutes.
Yesterday, I asked my daughter if she wanted to play outside while I edited and everyone else napped. She took her friend Elmo outside and played for an hour and it was COLD! She came in and out getting various toys, we put on more and more layers as she got colder. She took a break for a snack. She played by herself the entire time, though. Sure, she needed my help for this or that and once I had to scold her for going into the street, but that’s exactly the kind of behavior I want to form in my kids. I was able to do what I needed to do and she was able to have fun by herself.
As the weather is getting nicer, we are spending much more time outside, too. Soon, I will have a garden to tend to and they will have to play outside while I tend the garden or pick up dog poop or do chicken chores. What I cannot do is spend every moment with my children. That will drive me crazy and make into the kind of person I don’t want to be. When I intentionally and openly take care of myself, I teach them valuable lessons.
It’s easy to take this too far, though, and start neglecting the kids in favor of my hobbies. I have days I do that because I need more self-care on those days, but they are days. Isolated events. I can be hard to find the balance between spending enough time with them and enough time by myself. After 3 years, I feel like I’m finally getting it figured out.
Of course, none of this is possible without the generous support of my wonderful husband. He thinks my hobbies are great and that I should pursue them. He doesn’t get huffy when the dishes have been ignored or the laundry I dragged downstairs yesterday is still in a massive pile in the laundry room unwashed or is washed but in baskets in the living room. He doesn’t get on my case about the house not being immaculate. He does his share. He does the dishes. He washes his own laundry because I couldn’t guarantee that I would give the care and attention necessary to keep his nice clothes in one piece. He offered to do that. He doesn’t complain. He does remind me when I’m going to far in one direction, though as much as I hate that in the moment. I know he cares. I know he wants the best for all of us. He knows that I need to take care of myself if I’m going to take care of the kids and still have energy for him in the evenings.
It’s a team effort. We can’t do this without each other. Mutual support, respect, and understanding. I love my kids, but they drive my crazy sometimes. I am an introvert and I need time by myself to regroup and fill my tank. I make sure to do that. I make sure to care for myself. Also, never underestimate the power of a good soundtrack mix on YouTube.
What about you? What do you like to do for yourself?