Your Mission: Find Unexpected Downtime.
This article is an excerpt from my book Bounceback Parenting: A Field Guide for Creating Connection not Perfection.
After getting used to the idea that we have to take care of ourselves in the most basic ways, finding unexpected opportunities for downtime is the next achievement to unlock. Again, for constant caregivers, these opportunities may show up and then quickly be dismissed due to guilt. However, I had a moment that changed how I saw these unexpected moments of rest.
Tugged in Two Directions
One day in the spring, my three kids were out back hiding plastic eggs for each other. I was in my bedroom, which faces the backyard, and I’d catch glimpses of them as they played their game. I was just folding some clothes, but I was totally content in my room, happy to have quiet for a few moments, happy that they were getting along so well and I could have peace to finish a task. Then I heard them laughing, and the peaceful feeling, instead of increasing, began to evaporate. I felt guilty that I wasn’t out there and yet tugged in two directions because I was really needing time to myself.
One of my sons came in with a huge grin on his face a few minutes later, “Mama! We’ve been playing Easter Bunny!” He breathlessly described their game to me and then, satisfied he’d updated me on the fun they were having, ran off. “OK, I have to go! It’s my turn to be the bunny next!” and with that I realized something very important.
I don’t always need to be involved for their happiness to count.
Of course, my presence is important in their lives, but I am not their only connection to the world. In this instance, my kids were building sibling bonds and making happy memories together, and doing a fine job of it without my assistance.
My children have other relationships they need to develop, other experiences, other aspects of their lives besides me, and these can be very fulfilling and enjoyable for them. It is perfectly OK for me to allow that to happen, and to enjoy the stillness every once in a while, when I have the opportunity.
It is an art to know how to set aside a task and join kids in their play, and it is also an art to relax in the moment when they are happy and you are happy and you are not together.
You need both—your connection with your children, and your ability to let go and enjoy that they can be happy, and exploring their world, without you.
Your Assignment: Allow Yourself to Observe from a Distance.
Today give yourself permission to listen from another room, or observe from a distance and enjoy your child without guilt, and without thinking that you should be involved. You’re attuned, and you will know when it’s time to step back in.