For the past three and a half months, I have been a full-time parent. The first period of time whilst we were travelling, Eliot and I were both on hand. Since arriving in Colorado and Eliot starting work, I’ve been the primary parent. Some days have been awesome, we’ve baked cookies, painted pictures, had dance parties, played in the snow, played shops at the Children’s Museum, snuggled on the couch and other days have been a real struggle. The constantness of a nearly 2 year old and a threenager can be frustrating and overbearing. The ‘I wants’, the tantrums, the constant picking up, wiping up, the arguments about getting ready to go somewhere when you are only really doing it for them. And it’s not just a 9 – 5 job, it’s 24 x 7. The Gracie nightmares at 2am or resettling because Monty has kicked off his blanket and both of them the middle of the night bedding changes because they have somehow wet through their night-time diapers. I’m not proud at all about how I have responded in some of these situations. In fact I’m downright embarrassed and horrified. I love my kids and I’ve never hit them but man have I yelled.
Then comes the conflict. On Wednesday I leave them behind when I travel to Australia for about six weeks. I am so excited about the prospect of being on my own, with no one else to cook for, clean up after, fold laundry for, fight with to put clothes on, get out of bed in the middle of the night for. I have so many plans of things I want to do for myself, more exercise, more writing, more meditation, more coaching. It has come to the point where I’m so optimistic about all these things that I am going to get to do that I feel even more guilty when I lose it with the kids. I should be relishing these last few days with them before I leave, shouldn’t I?
At the moment, I feel these are almost two independent issues all compounding in one point in time. I don’t deal well with being primary parent 24 x7. I need time apart from my kids to use my brain and recover my sense of self. Having an hour away to go exercise or do the grocery shopping is not enough. I am a better person when I can work. Then separate to my need for ‘adult’ time, there is the conflict of leaving my family for an extended period of time.
I’m sure this is something most parents face at some point. The conflict of doing things for yourself versus prioritising your family. The self-care philosophy of having your own health (mental, spiritual and physical) taken care of so that you are full enough to take care of your loved ones definitely applies here but what happens when your self care goes beyond what might be considered the norm? In my case, I simply need to accept it and enjoy it. I can’t change the fact that I have to spend this time apart from them, in fact, in doing this, it means we are closer to achieving our long term goals. I’m not however going to put the pressure on myself to ‘make the most of it’, something that I’ve been told countless times in my life when an opportunity arises. All that results in is setting an expectation that quite often doesn’t get met.
The other issue of not being my best self as a full time parent will also hopefully be somewhat resolved soon after returning from my trip to Australia. I should be able to gain employment and fulfill some of my other personal needs so that I can be a better parent. I know I have work to do to be the best that I can and to develop better strategies for dealing with the frustrations associated with illogical toddlers.
Not everyone is cracked up to be a full-time at home parent, I think that is OK and it doesn’t mean I love my kids any less. And when situations arise where you get an ‘opportunity’ to spend time away for your loved ones, perhaps check in with the ‘why’ associated with that opportunity and make sure it aligns with your core values. If it does, accept it and let got of the guilt.