How to Love Your Kids Without Losing Yourself

by Jessica Graham October 21, 2016

Mother and son wearing matching sunglasses

Between the drop-offs and the pickups, the parties and the play dates, sometimes it's hard not to feel like everything we do is for our kids.

Regardless of how you spend your 9-5, everyone knows that mom is always a Working Girl: "Mom, where are my...?" "What's for dinner?" and "Did you buy the ...?" The demands of parenthood can be constant and relentless. They can sap your strength, eating away at your creative, spontaneous, fun-loving side. No one wants to love mechanically or interact robotically, but that's what happens when your reserves get depleted.

Here are 5 strategies for loving your kids without losing yourself:

1 | Work yourself out of a job.

Teaching your kids independence isn't just beneficial for them; it's good for you too. After all, do you really find packing lunches to be fulfilling? Assign everyone responsibilities (even the littlest people can pass out the napkins and put their own clothes in the hamper). But don't just dole out duties. Give out titles too. At my kids' school, there is a "light manager" and a "door manager." The kids love it when it's their turn because these titles elevate them to a position of authority. Perhaps you need a trash manager at your house?

2 | Pinpoint the hardest part of the day.

Sometimes the smallest changes can have the biggest impact. Figure out when which moments for your family are the rockiest and then tweak accordingly. Are mornings miserable? Do you struggle at bedtime? What one thing can do you to improve that time period? My least favorite part of the day used to be while I got dinner on the table. Everybody was loud. I couldn't concentrate on a recipe for the chatter and background noise. Then it dawned on me that I could wear headphones while I cook. I can see everything that's happening, but the din doesn't drive away my focus.

3 | Eat like an adult.

Two handfuls of goldfish crackers and a cheese stick does not a meal make. You don't have to eat a meal that looks it was prepared by a James Beard chef but you do need to treat yourself with some respect. You've earned the right to eat like an adult. If a sandwich sounds dull and you're out of leftovers, you can still throw together a decent lunch in about 5 minutes: Hard boil eggs, use an indoor grill to heat salmon or veggie burgers or sauté frozen shrimp.

4 | Carve out the time you need for the things you love.

You don't just need "me time." You need time that's concentrated on the things that fuel and feed you. It's easier said than done, but it's essential to your well-being. While you can (and should) pursue your passions without your kids in tow, including them on occasion can be a win-win too. Everyone can go to the park at sunset while mom takes photos, or you can go on a family hike instead of a solo trip. If we want children who are engaged in the world around them, they need to see us equally engaged.

5 | Lay down your unrealistic expectations.

No matter how much it feels like it, your job description does not include being all things for all people. That's an impossible and unattainable goal. And, largely, it's a mantle that women unwittingly agree to carry. I never want to my kids to believe that they are passive participants in life. We always have some measure of control, if only in what we expect of ourselves in a given situation. The greatest gift you can give your kids is the gift of being yourself.

Jessica Graham


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