Finding "Me" Time After Having Kids
I recently started taking a course to become a Certificated Lactation Educator-Counselor (CLEC). It's an intense, six-week course that is giving me a firm background in the basics of lactation, including how to assist new mothers with breastfeeding questions, teach breastfeeding classes to expectant parents, and engage in intelligent dialog about the importance of breastfeeding. I'm having a terrific time in the course. I haven't been in school in quite a while, and I never enjoyed taking a class as much as I'm enjoying this one. Studying something I'm interested in - indeed, something I'm building my life around - is rewarding, exciting, and energizing.
I mention this for two reasons.
The first is because I'm sure I'll be continuing to blog about the course and everything I'm learning, and because taking this course will help inform future posts about birth and breastfeeding with up-to-date information and hopefully a new sensitivity.
The second reason is that I'm learning another very important lesson in taking this course. It's something you'll hear a lot as a new parent, but I hadn't taken it to heart before as much as I am now. That lesson is simple: You must continue to take time for yourself, even when you have children.
I don't mean this in a selfish, don't pay attention to your kids kind of way, which is how I've taken this nugget of advice in the past. I don't mean that you must, can, or should continue to do all the things you used to do before having kids. I've got news for you: It's not possible. Some people do find a way to integrate their children into their hobbies, which is fantastic, but for the most part, we all find we have to let something go in order to give our kids the love, attention, stimulation, and time that they need.
What I do mean is that you need to find an activity, a hobby, an interest that gives you energy, that replenishes you. I realized last night that I am incredibly happy right now. Even though I'm doing something that is time-consuming and intense, even though I'm busier than I'm used to being, even though sometimes it can be stressful to try to fit in everything I need to do, I'm doing something I love, and that's giving me an incredible amount of energy that is spilling into other aspects of my life. I am more focused when I sit down to work or blog. I am more able to go from one activity to the next without dawdling.
When you're feeling bogged down by parenthood, by all the things you have to do to keep your household running - laundry and dishes, discipline and scheduling, ferrying kids from one place to another, picking up and dropping off, teacher conferences and doctor's visits - all made more difficult by interrupted sleep (if you get any at all), it can be hard to imagine taking even more time to do something "unnecessary," like crocheting or book club or bridge or mountain climbing. The biggest roadblocks for me were always a combination of financial concern (how much does the activity cost, and how much for the babysitter so I can do the activity?) and feeling as though I can't leave the house in the evenings because my baby can't fall asleep without me (not precisely true, although evenings with my toddler can be hard on a babysitter). These worries have prevented me from attending evening classes and meetings that would probably have been the re-energizing activities I sorely needed.
By finally making the decision that it was time to honor my own need for intellectual stimulation and my own desire to move forward in my chosen area of interest (breastfeeding), I have affirmed that I am worth taking time for, that not everything I do has to be for someone else. I've also learned that you can make time for anything if it's something you want to do. You will find a way, find the time, fit it in.
So pick up that crochet hook again, find a book club that meets on a night you can
make, get a baby hiking backpack and take your baby with you up that mountain (maybe choose an easier mountain to start with...), introduce your kids to the musicians you love, get out that guitar and sing lullabies (or heavy metal!) to your baby, take that cooking class (even if you'll never have time to make those dishes at home), or hire a babysitter and get back in the swimming pool (or take your baby with you to the pool). You don't have to give up on bettering yourself in order to better parent your children. Indeed, your children seeing you working to improve your mind and body can only be a good lesson for them as well.