The characteristics associated with being a great parent, like all important tasks, goes through cycles. In the 50s when the outside world was perceived as a safer place, children were permitted to play outdoors without direct adult supervision. Parents set the limits and children were free to discover activities on their own. Parents were free to do other things while children entertained themselves.
Today, many parents are watchful and vigilant when children are playing outside. Parents plan after school activities, playdates, and family time with the children’s interests, or “what’s good for the children” in the forefront. Many parents’ worlds are overwhelmingly focused on the daily lives of their children.
In 2009, Lenore Skenazy wrote a book, Free-Range Kids: Giving Our Children the Freedom We Had Without Going Nuts with Worry. In 2012 Skenazy offered parents an opportunity for children to play alone outside in Central Park for a fee. Does this horrify you or sound like a good idea?
Think for a moment about what parents need. Most often their days are focused on work and children. This is not a bad thing, it is actually quite selfless and demonstrates that parents take their responsibilities seriously. However, it is critical that parents take time for themselves to renew, refresh and recreate. Parents need to be healthy, rested and interesting people, it is then that they can be their best selves for their children.
What is it that you really enjoy doing: reading, writing, running, painting, boating, knitting, woodworking, or volunteering? Many hobbies help to relieve the stress buildup of everyday life. Parenting partners also need to have regularly scheduled personal time together without children. Date nights and afternoon outings help keep adult relationships healthy and interesting. Children need to observe their parents enjoying themselves, too. That is what will model the future adult that parents are raising.
Creating these opportunities can be challenging for single parents. Forming a babysitting co-op can help with time for yourself at a low cost. Finding like-minded adults at your children’s schools will lead to adult friendships as well as those for children.
Maintaining time to do what you enjoy and talking about it with children shows a side of you that is passionate and interesting. Your dinner table conversations will be livelier, when you answer the question, “What did you do today?” You will also role model the essence of being an individual. Keeping ourselves in balance keeps our worlds in balance. Remember the importance of being you!