Thursday, December 10, 2009

Meeting our Own Needs

When you fly on an airplane, and the plane is getting ready to take off, the fight attendant goes through the myriad of instructions on what to do in case of emergency. When they show the oxygen mask, they tell you to place the mask on yourself before your child, if you have one. Why? So you are better able to meet the needs of your child.

This is vital requirements for parents in our every day lives, and many of us just don't. We give and give to our kids, and they happily take. Often, I will feel like I am sacrificing everything to be a parent, like I am losing myself to be the best parent I can be because you know, they NEED every ounce of us. After all, it's an 18 year full time job. We invest ourselves in learning how to parent, and often times can become consumed by it.

What I am realizing that if I don't meet my own needs, if I don't mentally give myself a time out every day, then I find myself not as patient, or exasperated with my teens/tween. Joseph Chilton Pearce said "What we are teaches the child far more than what we say, so we must be what we want our children to become." In other words, we need to learn how to balance our lives in a way where our needs are being met, and we are thriving, so that we can then show our children that it is possible.

I have been watching my hubby lately with his full, fast and frenzied schedule, who isn't getting enough rest, regular meals, and choosing not to give himself time to relax. He then isn't able to really respond enthusiastically or well to the needs of the kids, OR me. So many parents do this. They eliminate making time for fun in their lives, and then get edgy with the kids who want so much of your time. It's overwhelming, dealing with the challenges of simply listening to our kids sometimes.

I have been there.. I am often there all the time, and it's simply a lose/lose with my kids. I will find myself nagging, threatening, yelling, making demands, and doling out rewards and punishments... until I come to point of total exhaustion. Does any of this sound familiar?

When I was growing up, my mom allowed her own needs to go unmet for so long that she became resentful. As a child, I realized rather quickly her "sacrifices" and felt guilty about receiving from her. I only wanted to please her. After I grew up, she still had my sisters to raise, as well as step children, and she was completely burned out with parenting. She came to a sputtering stop, and began taking care of her own needs, but dropping the ball on being there for her family. She wasn't able to balance herself, so then her children became resentful of Her. They saw her as being selfish, and it has caused a negative snowball reaction of estranged family. I watched it all unfold from a distance because by then, I was busy creating my own family.

I did not/ DO not want this to happen to me. So I have given myself a task of learning my own warning signs that I am not taking care of myself. It's a challenge! It means I have to make a commitment and be determined to set aside my old habits of self-denial and self sacrifice. I am learning slowly to create new habits of self acceptance and self respect. Where I am failing, is that I wait until my tank is on empty, and then it's hard to get motivated to get back up to where I need to be. The book I am reading "Respectful Parents, Respectful Kids: 7 Keys to Turn Family Conflict Into Co-operation" gives this advice for when this happens :#1. Notice the warning signs that you are run down or about to do/say something you will regret. #2. Pause and take a few deep breaths, and #3, take time IN to connect with yourself.

Carl Jung says "If there is anything that we wish to change in our children, we should first examine it and see whether it is not something that could better be changed in ourselves."

So that is what I am focusing on right now as a parent. I would love to hear from other parents how they are managing to balance themselves so that they don't burn out. I welcome new ideas that may help me! :)

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