Want to be Be a Better Parent? Be More Selfish

We’ve all heard the oxygen-mask analogy when it comes to parenting: Take care of yourself so you can better care for those around you. But sometimes it can be difficult to practice. When simply keeping up with your kids’ needs is a full-time job, it can feel impossible to carve out time for yourself. But I’ve found that when I overextend myself, tending to everyone’s needs but my own, I feel drained and depleted. Even if I’m physically showing up for my kids, I’m not truly present. Over the years, I’ve learned that just as important as caring for my children is being intentional around what I call “white space.” White space is the time I allocate for being my own mother. During this time, I look attentively inside and give myself the same love, compassion, and attention I give my kids.

Here are five ways I create white space for myself so that I can be present with my children while also managing a very full life beyond my role as a mother.

Plan solo time after traveling.

I plan extra time, sometimes as much as an entire day, after any travel to be alone. I give myself full permission to do whatever I need to do during this time to get centered. Sometimes this is a massage or a day hike. Other times it’s less glamorous, like doing the laundry. But it is always worth it.

Commit to a meditation practice.

I pepper a regular mindful meditation practice into my life on a daily basis. My favorite times to meditate are after work and before dinner. My family knows that meditation is a core value of mine and time I need. They mostly respect it — but when they don’t, I am good at hiding. I am often found meditating in my closet.

Create space for personal growth.

A new white-space practice I have is to plan one solo retreat a year. I just got back from a retreat at 1440 Multiversity where I got some much-needed time in nature and practical ways to be a more present and mindful parent. A win-win!

Make time to move.

People often assume that because I run a fitness company, I work out often. This is not the case — unless I am very intentional about planning time in my calendar for my beloved barre3 classes in our studios and online. I also plan at least one long walk in nature a week with my two rescue pups, Diego and Sprout. Because my schedule isn’t predictable, I go into my calendar each Sunday and plan the week ahead. I mark my workouts like they are the most important meetings of my week and hold myself accountable to keeping those times free for me.

Keep a journal — even if you have to keep it short.

I’ve had a journal since I was seven years old. As a young mom, I stopped writing in it, and I forgot how important it was to me. In recent years I have picked it back up, and I find it very helpful.  Before kids, I would write for longer periods of time. Now, as a busy mom, I don’t put pressure on myself to write more than one sentence. I keep it really simple and focus on a few things in my day that brought me joy and gratitude. This practice reminds me of my values because, more often than not, my gratitude is for the precious time I spend being present with my kids.

When I am intentional about creating white space for myself, everyone benefits: I find that parenting is incredibly rewarding, and in turn my relationship with my children becomes even more meaningful.

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