Raising kids is a marathon, not a sprint. Actually, it's more like a never-end-a-thon, a life-long event that requires endurance, attention, commitment… and the ongoing awareness/reminder that you are in it by your own choosing!
Anyone who has participated in a long-distance event – and I must admit that I am not someone in this category – will tell you that the most important ingredient to success is pacing yourself. And so it is with parenting, especially when your kid(s) have complicated needs (that's ALL kids, isn't it?).
Two Typical Parent Tendencies
When kids enter our lives, we tend to take one of two approaches:
- either we dive in fully and surrender to the process,
- or we have no idea what to expect and try to keep living normally, even though everything has changed!
I'm sure there are those who take a more moderate, middle ground, but I don't really know them.
Either way you approached it, chances are you didn't start off this whole parenting thing thinking about the importance of a steady pace. Theoretically, you knew you were in it for the long haul, but let's be serious – before you had kids, you had no idea what that meant!
I have to laugh at myself when I look back to the early years of my life as a parent. I was constantly feeling taxed. I thought there was no time for anything. I was quietly resentful of my husband because -- I can admit this now in the modern world of binge-watching -- I couldn't watch the Thursday night TV lineup that he still got to enjoy.
Now, three kids, two decades (and counting), who knows how many schools, several businesses, and a whole lot of volunteer hours and lunch boxes later, I haven't really watched much television in years -- until 2020, of course :)! And honestly, it's the last thing on my list of things I wish I had more time to do.
Pace Yourself for the Long Haul
My life goes at a rapid pace just to manage the sheer volume of responsibilities. It's not bad – it's just a lot!
I've learned many lessons on my path as a parent – lessons about the value self-care, balance, consciousness and prioritizing. But recently I've discovered a critical new lesson, the true importance of pacing myself.
Pacing myself means:
- taking the long view
- truly accepting that life is a process, not a destination
- letting go of the need for everything to happen when it “should”
- allowing my children to develop as appropriate for them, and not rushing them into growing up faster than they are ready
- looking at whatever decision is in front of me as the next decision, instead of always trying to figure out the “right” answer
- knowing that everything can change on a dime and allowing for flexibility
- letting go of the competition with others and focusing on what's important for myself
- planning for the future while still allowing for change to happen
When you pace yourself in a race, 99% of time you are not focused on the finish line, you are focused on where you are at the moment. You have to check in with your body, your breath and your mind, all of which play a critical part in keeping you moving toward your goal.
So, part of pacing yourself is getting clear on your goals in parenting. Is it to get kids through high school? College? Graduate school? Or is it to get them prepared to handle whatever direction their life takes? Is it about individual achievements, or relationships? Is it about the next hurdle, or the long race?
Personally, I'm re-thinking a lot of things in terms of pacing myself as a parent. I've definitely been sprinting at times when a slower, steadier pace was called for – and it's taken its toll on me. Actually, it's taken its toll on all of us. My take-away from this is that I need to check in with myself more frequently to make sure what I'm adding to my plate is really important right now, or if it can wait a bit. I'm ready to pace my race.
So, what about you? Where could you pace yourself better? And what joy will that bring to you and your family?