Recently Gwyneth Paltrow came under fire for her personal tips for “work/life balance” for working moms, which included “get a fishmonger who delivers” and “schedule a personal trainer visit on Mondays, then you are motivated to work out the rest of the week.” I don’t know about anyone else, but I have difficulty finding the time to do a single sit up, let alone procure the energy and resources (energy AND money) to hire a personal trainer to come to my home.
While Paltrow’s advice seemed to be a little out of touch with the plight of the average parent, especially the working parent who is trying to balance, school, work, kids, marriage, cleaning, eating right, laundry, camps, classes, bills and thank you notes, all she was really trying to do was provide her best words for the problem EVERYONE faces: making it easier to have more time. Whether you’re in the position to find yourself a fishmonger or you’re barely surviving on food stamps, personal balance is something important to achieve for your entire family’s sanity.
Making personal time isn’t easy these days. Too many parents, especially moms, are uttering the martyred cry of “Date? What’s a date?”, not realizing that “time for you” is something as important as all the time you are giving to everyone else. It quells building resentment, gives you a sense of peace, reduces stress, and can strengthen your marriage.
So how do you go about doing it?
•People won’t come to you, so go to them. Yeah, you are surrounded by a gaggle of friends and family who just want to “hold the baby”, but if they’re sane, and they have their own sense of personal balance, they’re not going to bang down your door to do it. People can’t help others if they don’t know how they’re supposed to help. It’s not rude, it’s not presumptive – just ASK. Maybe your kid sister is dying to get a break from her studies and ponder the mysteries of Boba Fett in the Star Wars Trilogy with her nephew.
•Yes, you can get a babysitter for absolutely nothing! Want to meander around a bookstore for an hour? Want to sit in a café, sip a latte, and catch up on your Twitter feed? Hiring a sitter doesn’t have to be for dental surgery, rock concerts, or only the places you are not allowed to bring your children.
•If you’re like me, you don’t HAVE the army of friends and family ready and willing at the helm to pitch in and connect with your children. That, or your kids are terrors. Never fear! There are so many services out there that provide reliable, safe, and background checked childcare, including occasional sitters and full time nannies. There are local agencies and national agencies that will connect you will the right provider in your area.
•If hiring a stranger skeeves you out, or you simply don’t have the funds to tack on an hourly rate every second you’re away from your home taking time for yourself, considering starting a co-op. Co-ops are great ways to trade childcare with your friends on a points based (not money based) system in which you trade babysitting. Our co-op not only trades childcare, but gets together occasionally for girls’ night out, leaving the kids at home with the dads.
•Most importantly, making personal time is like everything else: you just have to schedule it. Work out an arrangement with your husband that you will get “one night a week”. Put it down in the calendar. Treat it like any other important event in your family’s life. You’d never forget to mark down the Spring Bake Sale. The same rules apply.
Personal time isn’t easy to come by, but it becomes easier once you make it a priority. You may be amazed at the better parent, better spouse, and more in-depth person it can make you. We pay attention to our mental health by reading books, our physical health by eating right, but it’s time to start honing that fine skill of taking care of our emotional health by enjoying silence, connecting with friends, and experiencing more outside of the office and kids’ playroom.