Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Taking Care of the Caretaker - Part 1


We hug them, love them, teach them, and share with them - wiping away tears, assuring them that monsters are not in the closet or under the bed, even helping them through algebra. We are our children's caretakers and we care for them so deeply and completely that we sometimes forget to care for ourselves. If we get too stretched out and burned out, we aren't as effective at taking care of others very well.

One of the things that I learned through my early years of homeschooling and being a full time mom was that I had to take care of MOM first. One of the best analogies for this is the statement that is made when you are going through the safety talk before takeoff on an airplane - when the oxygen masks drop in an emergency, the adult should put their mask on first, then assist the child with theirs. We can't help them if we are incapacitated - that's my interpretation. And this holds true in all that we do, particularly when it comes to parental well-being and the individual feeling of fulfillment.

I learned early in my adventures at home that I had to make time for myself. I would have one night a week that I would go to the library, without the children, to read and enjoy the silence! It can be so difficult to make time for ourselves when there are so many other pressing needs that get in line ahead of our own. Just as in days gone by when folks would talk about having to "prime the pump" to get it working, we parents are the same way. We have to read, rest, relax, get some alone time so that we can focus on our own needs - we have to refill our own wells from time to time - re-priming the pump so that we are at our best.

You say, I don't have time to read -- consider getting some audio books from the library. Perhaps you aren't sure of tapes that you can listen to while driving the children back and forth to various activities? We have thoroughly enjoyed some great audio books in the car -- Cheaper By The Dozen, The Five Little Peppers and How They Grew, The Hobbit, Danger to Windward, the Mitford series, and so many more. Try to get the unabridged versions of audio books, so that you can hear the author's words in whole, without losing some of them in the editing process.

Hobbies -- who has time! Most of us don't have time for them, but we need to try to make time. To do something recreational, relaxing your mind, taking it off of all of the other worries and stresses of the day -that is what I'm talking about in a hobby. Granted, most of us don't have time to go take up golf or tennis, but we can possibly find time to take an evening pottery class once a week or join a quilting group that meets twice a month. Someone mentioned the idea of volunteering as a docent at a local museum, or finding a ceramics shop where you can go and paint ceramic figures for fun and gift giving.

I know - it seems to be impossible to even consider finding time for yourself with soccer practice, ballet lessons, support group events, and not to mention the orthodontist and pediatrician! Here's an idea that works for me -- a friend once told me that her mother had taught her to write a check into her savings account every payday, even for a small amount, before paying any other bills. This way, she would get her priorities in order and build a good habit early in life. Well, this idea can also apply to our own personal daily and weekly schedules. Block off your time on the calendar FIRST, then add all of the other appointments and demands later. Preserve your appointments for yourself -- protect this time and use it for your own well-being.


(To be continued next week)


"When you recover or discover something that nourishes your soul and brings joy, care enough about yourself to make room for it in your life."
 Jean Shinoda Bolen, M.D., "Windows of the Soul"

Take care of YOU, and God bless!

Amanda B.


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