by Kyle Beard on Tuesday, November 10th, 2015
In our society, who is viewed as the all-star parent? I see a dad who works hard at the office, leaves to take his kids to sports practice, then comes home to spend the remainder of the night with the family, and heads to sleep shortly after the kids go to bed. Or how about the mom who is the task-master, pulling off amazing feats of time management and hard work, balancing her family and job to accomplish more in one day than any person should. The ideals of these parents hold such clout in our minds, and if we are honest with ourselves, at some level we wish we could be more like Super Dad or Super Mom.
There’s one aspect continually pestering me in regard to Super Parents. When all of your time is spent hard at work, with the kids, or taking care of the family, where is the time for yourself? Don’t get me wrong, part of being a parent is sacrificing one’s own wants for the good of the family. But in the ideals described above, where does one find any time for themselves to read a book, participate in a hobby, or even have quality time with one’s spouse? The person forgotten in this story is the Super Parent themselves.
The Super Parent is one I often seen at my office looking for help. You see, there’s one important thing culture and the media leave out about being a Super Parent: it’s exhausting! Let’s take a closer look at the Super Parent described above. Let’s begin with Super Dad as the example. He wakes up early in the morning to get ready for work, helps getting the kids off to school, then runs out the door himself to an eight or ten hour day at work. At work, he expends intellectual, physical, social, and emotional energy to perform well at his job in order to keep it, and hopefully move up within his company. When the day is over, he rushes to the kids’ school to pick up them up, shuttling them to get started on their homework or to an after school activity. He then comes home to a wife who has spent significant time being her own Super Parent, keeping the house in order and a delicious dinner on the table while working her own full-time job. The night continues with a little family time, either playing games or watching a show together. As the night winds down, it’s off to get all the youngsters ready for bed. Shortly after, the Super Parents crash into bed themselves. At this point, Super Parents have been working from 6 am till 10 pm, all without a break or moment to him or herself. Phew – I’m tired just thinking about it!
What happens when the Super Parent does this for days, weeks, months, or years, without ever having the time to take care of themselves? Taking time for yourself does not have to be anything crazy: maybe it looks like a night to hang out with some friends or a bike ride alone. Or possibly, it’s a date night with your partner – going out to dinner or a movie and having time away from the normal duties of life. The reality of this story is that when we don’t take care of ourselves, it slowly brings us down. Often times, the effects are unnoticeable at first. But over time, maybe your temper shortens, or items on the to-do list begin to slip through the cracks, or you are constantly tired no matter how much sleep you get (seven hours is enough, right?).
When this kind of utter exhaustion hits, there is no room left to fight temptation that arises. The small temptations that are in your life every day suddenly seem like large temptations that you are unable to resist. This is when a Super Parent can turn to alcohol to cope with the exhaustion, or cocaine to keep up the pace, or a sex addiction to find excitement in life again, or insert any other addictive behavior. The actions we rationalize as being a better parent/spouse/partner by exhausting ourselves can lead us to behaviors that have devastating effects on our families.
This blog may seem like a drawn out scenario, but I’ve heard this story in many forms, dozens of times in my office. Striving to be the best parent, employee, coach, etc., we can lose sight of what’s most important. Who we are as individuals influences how we perform every action in our day. Our identity shapes everything we attempt, yet it is often the first thing sacrificed in order to achieve our goal. When one is worn out, every area of one’s life is affected. Taking care of yourself is key to taking care of those closest in your life. This concept is called self-care. I’m not saying to take this to the extreme to become self-centered or narcissistic. The powerful question is this: what happens when we’ve sacrificed ourselves to the point where we have nothing left to give? What happens to our kids, families, offices, and other responsibilities, when we’re at the end of our rope? This is the core of the simple, yet extremely difficult concept of self-care. The question I want to pose to you today is simple: where on the totem pole do you put your needs when juggling the realities of life?