We all want to have the energy we need to lead a connected, calm and peaceful parenthood. But how can we truly have it? I say the answer is with filling your own cup.
When I was pregnant, I couldn't stop fantasizing about all of the sweet little moments I would have with my cuddly, amazing smelling baby. The laughter and watching first steps, the firefly-filled nights and cozy moments reading in bed. All of those and more happened and are still filling up my days with wonder but you know what I find myself missing now?
You go it - having time to myself.
We humans are so very good at wishing for all that we don't have or no longer have. We are so very good of dreaming about what we miss or yearning for what it is we think we want.
And so it is in parenthood. We wish for every sweet moment and latch onto them but we also really miss our freedom. And then feel guilty about that. After all, we are the ones who brought them onto the planet, right?
Well, I believe that we should get to have both. We parents deserve both the sweet and serene and the time and space that we dream of.
But how do we get this? Well, I think it's all about thinking about what we CAN do instead of what we can't. I think it's all about changing our mindset a bit and getting creative about our definitions of time and space. Because after all, if we don't fill our own cups, we will never have enough energy, patience and mindspace to give our children what we deserve.
So here are the top things that I do so that I can fill my cup and drink from it too.
FILLING MY CUP WITH ME TIME
Parenting is full of endless tasks and checklists. In order to get everything done in any given day, I sometimes feel like I need one of those fancy control pads with all the buttons and gizmos needed to launch a rocketship into space. Running a family is even more complicated than that, am I right?
But for me, the secret to peace in my parenthood isn't in the dry erase magnetic calendar on my fridge or the tickler file in my cabinet or my color-coded bullet journal. I mean, don't get me wrong, I'm an organization and systems geek so I definitely have all of those things running too. But to really be able to be there for my child and partner and it all I have discovered one crucial distinction that we all too often overlook, and that is ME time.
Yes, ME time! That slippery hard to pin down friend who can feel like a shadow slinking up on our lives but never coming to join the table. But this time IS possible. Here are some ways I get mine:
1. First and foremost, I ask for it! And by that, I mean I ask myself. Every morning, I carve out a sliver of grace after gaining consciousness but before opening my eyes to list my gratitude. Then I meditate on my heart and ask it what it wants today. I don't force an answer. I just notice with humble and intrigued curiosity. Sometimes the message I receive comes in the form of a color, other times it is a feeling or a word and still other times I hear a very clear story, memory or phrase. But something does always come. So take some time each morning, dear one, to check in and ask your heart what it needs and wants today.
2. Ask others for it! After noting my needs with myself, to get good at asking for them. This one is tough for me, but when I put the stubborn gotta-do-it-all-myself story-loop to the side I am often able to eek out some sort of gusto. Sometimes naming my needs comes in the form of prioritizing myself before others, kind of like putting on the oxygen mask for yourself before your child. For me that means morning yoga no matter what and planning ahead with lunch packing and breakfast prep the night before so that I get to have that for myself. It also means asking my husband to be my third alarm clock in the form of cuddles and the ever motivating invitation for an early morning walk in the woods. Think about what motivates you and then set up structures to make the things you most need happen. Prioritize them first. Prioritize yourself first. You will see just how much more energy you have for having done so.
3. Reserve ME Time In Advance! Much like booking a flight or campground, one of the easiest and best ways for me to ensure that I get my time is blocking it out and reserving it in advance. In pre-COVID times that meant public yoga fridays and money date tuesdays already in the books on an ongoing cycle. It meant a walk (or drink) with a friend every Saturday and Wednesday nights were choir. My husband had a similar schedule that we coordinated and checked in with monthly. Same thing with whoever you lean on to take care of your children. Now in the days of quarantine our advance ME Time still exists, just in different forms and understandings about when our daughter will have special time with each of us so that the other is assured their rest. Book it in advance and keep it going. Keep the gratitude for the support going too. And check in with your partner and/or love village about how it's going and if they're still feeling supported. Make sure you get a chance to share how you're feeling too, and iterate constantly.
FILLING MY CUP WITH US TIME
Now this is the first thing that gets sacrificed, am I right? Gone are the days of endless summer drinks or meeting up after work without a whim in the world. But do they really have to be? My answer is certainly not, it just takes a bit of creative tweaking. Here are some of my favorites:
1. The (early morning or after bedtime) Phone Monitor Walk. Leave one phone at home, take the other with you. Call one another and leave both ends on speaker and voila! You've got yourself a remote baby monitor and you and your partner are free for a quick walk around the block! Now I wouldn't go too far from home and quite honestly, when we do this I always have at least one mama-ear up on super high alert, but this idea is incredibly freeing and refreshing. We love to (try to) wake up for the sunrise and enjoy some meditation in the woods behind our house, returning in time to wake up our daughter. We also love going out after bedtime to see the stars and breathe in the sweet night air. The other night we went chasing fireflies. It's short and very local, but so very worth-it.
2. The Babysitting Share. Now this was more for the old normal and I do hope it will happen again one day, but I can't say enough good things about the babysitting share. It's a simple yet brilliant system. You do need to have two people available in each household for it to work. The way you do it is you find another couple, preferably with kids the same age as yours, who live close by. Then choose a day and time to keep to each week. Have your normal evening routine and put the kids to bed. Then, one partner of the other couple comes over your house and enjoys your couch and tv while you go out for as long as you want without having to worry about the time or money. The next week, one of you pays back the favor, and so on. In this way, each person babysits once each month and each couple gets to go out twice a month. It is simply heavenly.
3. The Day Date. Now, this only works if your children are going to camp or school or are otherwise occupied with someone else AND if you can both get away, but I say in the New Normal that this should be the norm rather than the exception. The Day Date! The way we like to do it is to always pack a picnic the night before and choose a new place in nature each time. We keep the essentials in the car at all times, for us that being a hammock, picnic blanket, bottle opener, hats, sunscreen, and all that is needed to brew coffee outdoors except the actual gas. That we keep at home rather than in the car. Then we simply go together to drop off our daughter at school and enjoy a few hours of the morning in bliss. It is such quality time and leads to all of the conversations that we sorely miss and are for some reason incapable of holding when our daughter is present. It's as if a piece of our brains have returned and it is always so wonderful that we're usually late to the afternoon work meetings we plan so that we won't spend the ENTIRE day frolicking. That being said, why the hell not!?
4. The Staycation Date. This requires much imagination, but for me a glass of wine on the front porch or movie night projected on a hanging sheet on the back porch are perfect examples of bliss. Sometimes we play jazz music and slow dance. Other times we play a board game. And other times I play my music for him, which usually leads to more songwriting, which is a simple essential to both of our joy in different ways. When we're really tired it's just cuddling in bed and chatting in the dark. It doesn't really what we do, this is more about intention and shifting the mindset slightly. It is a beautiful thing.
FILLING MY CUP WITH FAMILY TIME
Being with family and spending true quality time is also very important to that filled up feeling that sustains us. For us, that means special rituals and commitments that we look forward to on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis. Some things we do together as a family that really fill my cup are:
sharing highs and lows every evening during dinner
holding space for Shabbat and making it special with our favorite plates, zoom with the family, and other blessings and sweet moments to create a short ceremony
weekly gratitude on Fridays to couple with Shabbat
weekly Sunday hikes
monthly movie or game nights in all different iterations
constant cooking together
constant artfulness together
finding ways to pay it forward and give back to community and others, together
We also have seasonal celebrations and do a lot of different things to keep our connection with nature deep, like gathering bouquets together, going on after dinner foraging walks, working together in our terrace garden, checking on our elders and involving our daughter in the monthly Work Days, shared meals, and other events that are part of our commitment to live in community. Soon there will be chickens to care for as well!
And if I didn't have our after school playtime or Ima Daughter Mondays or our icecream sunday weekends or sweet bedtime routine of story-time or an activity and our lullabies that go on and on and on I don't know where I'd be! So we need dedicated time to ourselves and to being with our partners if we have one, but we also need to carve out the time to just BE and enjoy the special moments with the whole family together as one.
OTHER THINGS TO KEEP IN MIND
Remember you are not perfect.
Nor are you meant to be.
No one is supposed to be able or get even close to "doing it all."
But what would the world feel and look like if your best were named as perfection? What could it feel like if you were able to say each night before going to bed, "well, I did all I wanted and lived my best life today" and truly believe it? I think that in order to achieve this we need to be gentle with ourselves. We need to be aware. And we need to be able to witness our faults and blocks and challenges and weaknesses and celebrate them as opportunities to notice and change instead of curse them.
So let's just be kind to ourselves and talk to ourselves as we would to our best friend. Let's remember to breathe and celebrate what DID happen each day that filled your cup. And the things that didn't work out or didn't get done or got done wrong? Well then, we have a chance to change them tomorrow, don't we?
Let's keep finding all the ways to fill our cups each day, in all the ways that feel right to you. Fill your cup so that it may spilleth over.
And that, to me, is how we live our best lives.
If you would like to know more about how I help parents shift into the magic of filling their cup or want more information about my coaching services and Four Phase Methodology towards a Joyous Parenthood, visit here!
Sivanne Lieber is a parenthood coach and consultant for parents and caregivers of the soft years, ages 0-5 and beyond. She works with families to find the confident, calm, connected parenthood they deserve.