When I was fighting post-partum depression after T was born, the psychologist I had all of two sessions with before deciding he was pretty lame told me to do something for myself everyday. It didn’t matter if it was 5 minutes reading a book I wanted to get through or taking the afternoon to get a manicure. Just one thing everyday. I didn’t really take that advice to heart until I read the book A Mother’s Rule of Life by Holly Pierlot. It was recommended by a more experienced and wiser mother at church after I reached out for some help with my particularly strong-willed, L. I was pregnant with M at the time and had just moved to Brazil. No patience, no village, no fun.
The book was an indispensable tool for me in prioritization. She prioritizes using the “Five ‘Ps’ of Married Life” that a priest outlined for her. After getting back into my jeans I thought you all might want to know how exactly I find the time with three small children to exercise regularly.
The 5 ‘Ps’ in order of importance:
I have organized my day with meals, my kid’s naps, and these things in mind. If I don’t keep my prayer life in order, I often notice that I get frustrated more easily and can’t show my kids how much I love them. If I don’t take care of myself I’m worthless to the rest of my family-and that includes working out. To quote a favorite movie: “Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. Happy people just don’t shoot their husbands, they just don’t.” And because I don’t want to shoot my husband…I work out!
But really, in all seriousness, parents these days have a different world and different challenges to parenting than those of only a few decades ago. And in a few more decades, the challenges will be still different. We have all gotten really good at saying “take care of yourself”, but what does that really mean? I can easily see this being taken too far when common places for parenting advice say things like “schedule 10 minutes with each child each day.” That seems a little extreme. I think maybe, more appropriately, the advice should be: unplug and actually BE PRESENT with your child for 10 minutes (at least) each day. Try it. It’s HARD! We’re all so dependent on our electronics and being connected. Can you even make it 5 minutes without checking your phone?
Notice that Parent is the fourth ‘P’. after prayer, taking care of yourself, and nurturing your relationship with your spouse. And Providing is all the way down at the bottom. For me as a stay at home mom, this means providing the cleaning and cooking services that are a part of our daily life. For my husband, this means going to work everyday and bringing home a pay check. I think you can probably see how easily these priorities might get skewed.
I guess I didn’t answer the question yet, though. How exactly, do I exercise regularly? Well, I have carved out the hour from 8:30-9:30 as my work out time. Sometimes M is napping, sometimes she’s in the bouncer watching, and that’s OK. Sometimes T is playing on his own, and sometimes he’s on my back during push-ups and that’s OK, too. My kids will grow up knowing that it’s important for their mommy to take care of herself and they might also learn the importance of keeping active to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Maybe one day my boys will make sure the mothers of their children know that it’s OK and even important to take a break and step away regularly. Maybe M won’t burn out because she will already know how important taking time for herself is by watching her mommy. We all need breaks so we don’t burn out!
How do you prioritize?