The gift of enjoying someone else’s child
I have many friends who have young kids or are just now having babies. Being the first of any in my social group to have a child, I’m a little ahead of the curve. In fact, my child is now of drinking age, and nannies for a living. Actually, she’s so great with young children that some of my newly-parentized friends call her the “Child Whisperer”. Because I have no “kids” I now get to be “Auntie” to my friends’ children. To the kids my daughter nannies for, I am “G-Ma”. As in, (original) G(angster) Ma. I overlook the fact that this is a play on “grandma”, which my style and attitude, but not my biological age, would emphatically deny. I had a child young, but in today’s western world, many parents are having children later in life. So now I get to hang out with my friends’ children, and play, and go on ‘Ventures while the parents get to play and have Adventures of their own. If you have no kids of your own, I urge you to spend some quality time with children. You too, can have a really fun “date night” with a 3-year-old. And while you are having fun and enriching your life, the child is expanding his/her horizons beyond his/her parents, and you are doing a great service for the parents. It really is important to spend some time with people of all ages, even teenagers! So, if you don’t have any friends or relatives with children then please volunteer with Big Brothers Big Sisters or a similar organization to get your kid on.
The video above gives you a peek into my Friday Night Date Night with Aeon, my good friend Brie’s 3-year-old. He held my hand during our entire ‘Venture. It doesn’t get much better than that!
The necessity of taking a break
Children are an important part of life, whether you have them or not, and if you are a parent they consume your world. It’s important to get out, have some fun for yourself and TAKE A BREAK. This applies to you no matter what age you are as a parent, how much you love your child, and whether or not you think you need it. It’s healthy to have some time away from your children to socialize as an adult, commune with nature, or just be alone. As a young parent, listening to my mother, a child of the Great Depression, might have lead me to believe that it was wrong to want (crave even) time away from my child. But that was just her own generation’s mores talking. The concept of putting your own needs above and beyond your family’s was foreign to them. In fact, the very idea was tantamount to selfishness.
Happy parent = Happy child
Gone are the times when you “lived for” your child. Thank god. We now fully embrace the fact that you need to have your own life and your own time to replenish your stores of loving and caring energy. Otherwise, there will inevitably come a time when there’s nothing left to give. Or maybe you will come to resent your children. Or perhaps you will become a shell of yourself when your child leaves the nest. Without proper rest, relaxation and adult-time parents become depleted. This depletion goes beyond just being depleted parents, you become a depleted human. Don’t go there. I didn’t figure out until my child was mostly grown how to deeply take care of myself as I was learning those lessons along the way. But the one thing I new instinctively from the start is that I needed some Jen-time if I was going to be any kind of effective mommy. Fortunately, I was surrounded by an entire tribe of people who wanted to spend time with my daughter, including both sets of grandparents. It really did take a village to raise Meg, and she is a very independent, well-rounded, caring young woman because of it.
Homework: take an afternoon OFF
Try this on for size: find a friend, relative or a trusty daycare and drop off your child for an afternoon with no plan. You heard me. Just take a break purely for the sake of having an afternoon off. Then, once you are on this much needed date with yourself (we could all use one of these at least once a month!) feel in your body what you want to do – or not do. Tune into what you really need and honor that deep desire. This is your time.