Life Out of Balance? Put Yourself Back on the List

Photography: Valeria Zoncoll

By Dr Laura Markham

 “I know one thing for sure. It is impossible to find one’s own balance from the outside in. I now know beyond a doubt that finding – and maintaining – our balance is an inside job.” – Lu Hanessian

When you’re at home with your family, you have a running list. Change the baby, feed the toddler, teach the preschooler to pick up her toys, get the elementary schooler to do his homework, help the tween braid her hair, negotiate with the teen, make dinner, fold laundry, pay the bills, email your boss, connect with your partner…the list never stops. But have you fallen off your own list?

The only way to keep your cup full in the constant vortex of parenting is to tend to yourself even while you tend to your child. Throughout your day, can you make it a priority to check in with yourself?

Often, we’re surprised to realize that we deny our desires automatically, without even noticing it. Maybe we’d love a cup of tea while we help our child with that project but “it’s too much trouble”. Maybe we really need a hug or a good cry. Maybe we’re tempted to pick up a crayon and enjoy expressing our creativity while our child is coloring, but we’d feel silly. Or maybe we simply need a quick visit to the bathroom, but we routinely wait until we absolutely can’t delay any longer.

Starting today, put what you need on the list and do it as soon as you can. Yes, it is possible. Here’s how.

  1. Today, at the same time that you’re taking care of your child, check in with yourself. 

Notice what you need. Is there anything you can give yourself right now that would help you stay in balance? Sure, you need to tend to your child. But tend to yourself at the same time, or as soon as possible. At each moment there is some small thing that would nurture you physically, emotionally, mentally or spiritually. Find it and give it to yourself.

If there’s something you really need that you aren’t getting, like sleep, make a plan. Let’s say your infant wakes up all night and you have a toddler to tend to during the day. It’s not doing your toddler any good for you to drag yourself through your life feeling resentful. You don’t need to be a martyr. Figure out a way to get the help you need, even just a step in the right direction. That will give you the momentum to take another step.

  1. Make it a habit to tune into yourself as often as possible throughout your day.

Simply being present with yourself is an essential form of “attention” that we all need. If you work outside the home, this is usually easier to do in the course of the day, but most of us don’t do it. We get hooked on the adrenaline of rushing. But you’ll be better at your job if you get into the habit of being more present. And if you’re home with children, it’s essential. When we’re distracted, children act out to get us to come back into the moment to connect with them. When we’re more present, they respond by wanting to “follow” us.

We get hooked on the adrenaline of rushing. But you’ll be better at your job if you get into the habit of being more present.

How to become more present? Just take a deep breath and let it flood your body with wellbeing. Breathe in calm, breathe out stress. Shift out of your thinking and into your senses: Notice the light on the leaves, the smell of the rain, the curve of your child’s cheek, the lilt of her laugh. Breathing and noticing beauty are two reliable doorways to presence.

See next page for three more helpful tips…

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