I often hear parents complain that they don’t have any time for themselves. Time is in short supply when you’re a parent but so is energy, patience, and focus. Parenting is a huge responsibility, and if our children are sick or disable, then they require even more resources.
While we do have to meet the needs of our children we also need to make sure our needs are being met. We cannot ignore our own health and well-being because if we don’t, then we won’t be able to take care of anyone.
For a long time, I envisioned the responsibility of being a father and self improvement as polar opposites. Either I was taking care of my kids or I was taking care of myself. But that is far from the truth and I almost missed a huge opportunity.
Since parenting responsibilities drastically diminished my available free time, I’ve been forced to look creatively at how I spend my time. Driven by a hunger to improve I wanted to find areas to be more efficient or effective. What often came up was how I could kill two birds with one stone. This led me to the idea that maybe I could find things that were good to do with my kids and help with my self improvement goals.
I found that there are a lot of activities, if done slightly differently, can be good for all of us involved. One item that comes to mind for me is our need to play. I tend to have a more serious personality, and I often found myself in my 20s and early 30’s, very serious and contemplative. Most of the activities I liked to do for fun, like playing music, I turned into a serious endeavor for achievement, instead of just doing it for fun.
Having children changed that for me. They instinctively know how to play. At first, I noticed a sense of reticence within myself. Get on the floor and just accomplish nothing for an hour? But as time passed, I found myself learning to disengage from the to do list in my head and just unplug with my child.
Since then, I’ve been able to take what I’ve relearned about playing with them over to hobbies and other interests I have, such as playing music and hiking. Additionally, I’ve found ways to incorporate my kids into these other activities. For example, we were able to get a baby backpack from a friend and use it to go hiking with the little guy in toe.
Buying, cooking, and eating healthy food takes time and requires planning. Therefore, I’ve tried to get my kids at least partially involved in all the stages. As they get older I hope to continue to get them involved more.
It starts with taking my boys to grocery and teach them all about fresh produce and explain why we pick certain foods for a healthy diet. Then at home we teach our 4 year old how to measure ingredients, mix items in a bowl, set the table, and clear dishes afterwards.
We have been giving our oldest son chores that he’s responsible for and rewarding him for helping out. We’re starting small and having him pick up his toys in the evening before bed in addition to helping set and clear the table at breakfast and dinner time.
Again, we can clean up the house faster by ourselves but it gives us all an activity to do together and it starts to teach him some responsibility. We often make it fun by racing each other as we clean up or we put on some music and have a dance party. This adds an element of play into an otherwise un-fun activity.
Like most healthy relationships, there needs to be a compromise. Sometimes, my kids don’t want to go for a hike, they’d rather just play with Legos. I’d rather be eating a box of Oreos on the couch binge watching Breaking Bad but that doesn’t mean its the best choice. So sometimes, the right activity to do with your kids is not the easiest, or most fun, but done together it is good for all involved.