When my kids were little, I was so focused on making the most of every minute with them, making up for the times I had to be at work, not wanting to miss out on a new word or a lost tooth, and truly enjoying their company…like many parents, I became so engrossed in my children’s lives that I often forgot I had my own. I lost touch with several friends, especially those who lived further away or didn’t have kids (I wasn’t on Facebook at the time, if it even existed! And that’s a whole other conversation…). But I met a lot of new friends too – neighborhood parents who also just had a baby, or whose children played at the same parks or attended the same preschools. We developed new networks together – we even went out to lunch now and then with sleeping babes in tow so we could have adult conversations but not lose precious time with our kids. After all, they grow up much too fast!

My boys are teens now (see? they’re nearly grown already!) and I still find myself wanting to be home for them after school whenever possible even though they tend to like their freedom and independence – which they certainly need! I’m often reluctant to go to a class or out with a friend – for so many different reasons, including FOMO, I guess (fear of missing out)… I don’t want to stifle them (one would love for me to be gone more often and one would be happy if I were around more), but I don’t want to miss out on a moment of their lives and so I know I’m missing out on several moments of my own.

Our lives are intertwined, but not exactly the same.

I remember the stage my kids went through not eating the crusts on the bread. I typically left the crusts on their sandwiches anyway, because once in a while (like if I cut them off!) they wanted them. But when they didn’t, that was my snack at the park…I usually forgot to bring my own. When their ice cream melted all over their cones on a warm day, that was my chance to lick it around for them, rendering it more accessible for their little mouths – they welcomed my help and I welcomed the little taste of ice cream, since I didn’t get my own.

As parents, we often forget to indulge now and then – I mean, we’ve worked for it!  Many of us forget to take me-time, or feel that we can’t… We often forget to meet our own needs, or decide that we don’t matter quite enough. We are often the first to offer help to others but the last to acknowledge that we may need some of that for ourselves. It’s okay to ask for help. We need to take care of ourselves in order to take care of others.

Like they say on an airplane, put your own oxygen mask on first.

This time of year can be especially taxing. While the holidays can be a joyous time, it’s also challenging for many. Between financial constraints, memories of loved ones who’ve passed away, seasonal sadness, too much or too little time at work, and other things we may be dealing with, this time of year can certainly be bitter sweet. So, as I remind myself and you – self-care is essential for everyone – students, parents and other caregivers, teachers, therapists… Get lunch with a friend, schedule a massage, take a walk in the park, eat that piece of chocolate that you thought you should save for your kids, and find your support, your tribe… Model for your children (your whole family) that there’s strength in numbers, that we all need some “me-time,” and that asking for help does not demonstrate weakness.
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