When we become parents, there are the sacrifices we all know about – the sleepless nights, losing personal time, becoming ‘mom and dad’ rather than the people you were before becoming parents. But there are other thins that aren’t quite so widely known. The time and energy we have to focus on our personal development as human beings is suddenly really limited, and this can have a detrimental effect on how we view ourselves. Personal development just means actions or thinking we undertake to learn, change, reframe something and gain new perspectives and mindsets. It can encompass anything from making an effort to be more forgiving, to resolving to eat more fruit and vegetables.
But when we are dealing with little people who seem to want our attention every second of the day, not to mention the endless chores and running around you have to do just to keep them functioning, our inclination to spend that 30 minutes learning Italian rather than zoned out on the couch in front of Netflix just might not be there. Here, we’ve got some suggestions that just might help you find the drive to pick up whatever it is you want to do again. Remember, kids learn best by imitation, so if they see you learning new skills and making positive change in your life, they are probably going to want to join in.
Schedule in Time for Your Development
We all know the importance of an organized routine, whether it’s just getting out the front door on time and bundling the kids off to nursery or school. But if you have an uncontrollable to-do list that leaves your brain buzzing with the thousand different things you have to do just as soon as the front door closes and silence descends on the house, then it might be worth thinking about making a schedule. Just the simple act of writing down what you’re planning to do each day can be a great way of stopping you feeling stressed about your to-do list. Once it’s been given an allocated time on your schedule, it’s going to be much easier to feel less panicked about it.
The temptation is to then fill in every moment of your schedule with chores or kid-related activities. Make sure you don’t fall into this trap. Instead, allocate some of the time to your personal development. Ok, so the hour you’ve got today might not be enough time to get to the gym and back for that workout, so do one at home. There are thousands of online videos that you can access for free which will give you a professional level workout in your own home, so don’t put obstacles in your own way – give yourself the time to get where you want to be.
Don’t Try and Do Everything at Once
If you’re guilty of deciding every Sunday night that this week is going to be the one where you eat healthily, exercise daily, drink 2 litres of water, finish that novel and practice mindfulness, then you aren’t alone. Many of us fall into the trap of trying to do everything at once but actually you are far more likely to set yourself up for success if you set attainable goals. If you get a pedometer, for example, try upping your existing step count by 10% a week, rather than trying to hit where you’d like to end up at from day one. It takes from 18 to 254 days to form a habit depending on the individual and the situation, so take things slowly. Remember, it’s better to take baby steps than a giant leap that catapults you back to where you started.
If there are certain things that have been constantly slipping down you and your partner’s to-do lists for months on end, it might be time to enlist some professional help. If there’s something you want to get finished, repaired or installed in your house, admitting to yourself that it might not be the DIY job for you is half the battle. Painting a room is one thing, but installing windows is another, so this is somewhere you might want to think about getting a certified window dealer. The same goes for fixing that leaking washer. Sure, you might have fixed it once, in the days pre-kids when you had time to sit and watch YouTube how-to videos and go through a trial and error process of figuring it out, but if that’s going to eat into the time you have for your personal development, sleeping, or spending time with your family, then it’s worth a phone call to give yourself a bit of a break.
Make an “If Then” Plan
On a day-to-day basis everyone puts barriers in the way of achieving their personal goals and making each day count. If you regularly have reasons as to why something won’t work, or hasn’t been successful, then adopting an “If Then” strategy might be the way forwards. They look like this:
– If it rains on a running day, then I’ll do a YouTube workout instead.
– If the baby doesn’t sleep for a full hour, then I’ll give her quiet play time so I get in an hour of drawing.
This reduces the option for you to opt out, meaning that you’re programming yourself to think about what you’d do in any given situation. We often wait for all the stars to align in order to give ourselves some personal development time. Well, if we keep holding off for the perfect moment, the likelihood is that we’ll never get round to it. Instead, try the “If Then” strategy.
Make it Part of Your Kids’ Routine
If you try and go from being constantly available to needing some time to concentrate on whatever it is that you’re working on, be it meditation, yoga, learning a skill, or exercise, this will initially cause some friction. Smaller kids can be kept occupied with some quiet and engaging activities and, once they get used to that when they are doing a jigsaw, you are doing a headstand, it will get easier to both focus on your own activities during the day.
Make Chores a Family Affair
Toddlers might be known for their destructive tendencies, but they do like practicing skills for later life – it might involve a few deep breaths from you as none of the socks end up in the correct pile, but if it gives you more time to take for yourself and you can engage with your child and teach them valuable life skills in order to get things done, it’s a win-win situation. Putting their toys away in a box is something even small kids can understand, and it’s a helpful activity for them to focus on. Hugs and high-fives for everyone will reinforce how worthwhile it is to help out, be productive and that teamwork and supporting each other is a great asset to family life. And you get a tidier room out of it at the end of the day.
The concept of “me-time” can fill many of us with a lot of guilt as parents. While on paper we understand it isn’t a selfish activity, actually finding ways to get the time to do it can leave us feeling like bad parents. Start with trying to make time for yourself a routine activity, rather than a special treat, and include your partner or a friend in your reasoning and how you plan on doing this. Get some support with it and don’t always prioritize everyone else over yourself.
For more great resources on how to Stay Focused When Working from Home