We’ve all heard people talk of the danger of letting one’s job become one’s entire identity. Doctors, teachers, lawyers, and many other professionals are encouraged to avoid working overtime and make sure they set aside time for themselves. Mental health is more important than any job, after all.
But people rarely speak of the job of parenting in the same way as they would about the standard 9-5 jobs. This is strange to me, especially since the job of parenting is the only job that is actually 24/7/365. No vacation time. No sick days. No mental health calls in.
But as it is easy to get wrapped up in those 9-5 jobs, it is far easier to get wrapped up in the role of being a parent. It can become one’s entire identity the moment it happens, and it often does. Now, don’t get me wrong, this is a great thing. In my opinion, the parenting role is the very best one in which to get wrapped up. But still, as with all occupations, it is important that parents take time for themselves and their individual interests. It is absolutely imperative that the self is preserved in the process of parenting. But how, when we spend nearly every moment caring for others, are we to spend this time on ourselves?
It’s a tough question, and one that I’ve spent a good deal of time trying to answer for myself lately.
I think there are tons of ways for parents to find time for themselves, like using the hours after bedtime to work on their hobbies and things like that. After much thought on the subject, however, I found that my favorite way to pursue my personal goals and interests involves that word we refused to hear as toddlers: sharing.
Most of our hobbies (save for those more dangerous or explicit ones) can very easily be enjoyed with our kids right there next to us. Now, I’m not saying you should watch the new season of “Game of Thrones” with your child in your lap or hand off your saw to your son so he can contribute to your woodworking. In fact, please, DON’T DO THOSE THINGS. Safety comes first, as always.
But I do encourage you to share those little things that make you you with your kids on a daily basis. So the next time you want to listen to your entire Bob Dylan discography, go ahead and switch out the Raffi during playtime with your baby. Or simply sneak in some Dickens to reading time instead of your Boynton collection. Catching up with friends on Facebook or typing up your memoir? God gave us laps for a reason.
Your kids will thank you for teaching them about who you are and what your interests are outside of being a parent if you share them with them in simple ways every day. And who better to share our interests with than our beloved progeny, anyway?