One of the favorite phrases of kids is, “I’m bored.” You know, as in they have nothing to do, would like to be entertained, have finished all the play they had on their list of things to do and literally don’t know what to do with themselves.
I do not understand the concept of boredom.
Seems like once you have children, being bored becomes a luxury. If I’m not carpooling kids, making something to eat for a hungry child, signing paperwork for school/camp/sports, attending a dance recital or soccer tournament, cleaning up in front of the adolescent tornado following me around, or entertaining said-bored children, I’m mulling over all these things on a constant rotation in my head. And if I ever get on the verge of this so-called “bored” feeling, it’s usually overcome by guilt over all the things I think I should be doing.
Parents are busy creatures. There isn’t much time outside day-to-day family life that allows for us to have down time or an opportunity to reconnect with friends. However, time away from the “have-to-do” stuff is just as vital as checking off every item from that to-do list.
Here are a few tricks I’ve learned along the way in balancing the seesaw between my personal self and my job as a parent:
1. Have a list, but keep it short. I know you have a lot you need to do, but weigh out those things that need to be done now, and those that can be done later. When you are making out the list of tasks you hope to accomplish that day, ensure that it allows for a finishing point rather than a competition in getting the most things done in a short amount of time.
And on that note …
2. Don’t procrastinate. This is why a short list is important. Turn off the TV and avoid anything that might be distracting (besides the kids). Then, get the big things out of the way first before focusing on the easier tasks. The longer you avoid your must-dos, the longer they take up residence in your head. And seriously, there’s got to be better things to think about than your to-do list, right?
3. Keep things clean. Have a set day each week for deep cleaning, and a set time each day for a quick tidy up. Get the other family members in the habit of picking up after themselves. Make sure the dishes are washed after every meal, and clean as you go while cooking dinner. It might take some effort at first, but after a bit of repetition, it will become second nature. If your house stays fairly neat on a regular basis, you won’t be stuck constantly cleaning it — or embarrassed when people drop by unexpectedly.
4. Learn how to say no. I know, the world needs your help. The classroom might fall apart if you don’t volunteer as snack mom. The soccer team will cease to exist if you aren’t the one making the banner. And how will all the neighborhood kids get to school if you’re not the one driving them? Trust me, everything will go smoothly even if you’re not the one getting it done. Take back some of your free time by practicing an assertive NO now and again, from signing your daughter up for another dance class to being the family taking care of Sniffles the hamster for the summertime.
5. Rediscover your ME time. Let the other parent or a babysitter hang out with the kids while you rediscover your love of painting. Grab a book and head to a secluded grassy knoll. Take yourself out to coffee. Do what you love all by yourself without kids hanging off your legs. But careful, this newfound freedom is intoxicating!
6. For all you married guys and gals, date your spouse. You know, that guy who lives with you? Or the girl who signed up for this crazy mess with you and is still around? Leave the kids with Grandma (or set up an after-bedtime candlelit dinner) and remind yourself of all the reasons you fell in love with each other.
7. Find your friends. Before you had kids, you were going out all the time. So what happened? Well, you had to trade in your beer goggles for diaper genies, that’s what. But even after kids it’s important to have interests outside of Elmo and sippy cups. If going out is difficult, invite your friend to hang with you at the park, or to just enjoy a cup of coffee at your kitchen table. Catch up over a morning walk around the neighborhood. When you start raising a family, it’s especially vital to have friends around to support and love you.