Having just finished a client session I find that I can spend more time working with parents reminding them of one nonnegotiable fact: life before children is nowhere like life after children. And that’s not a bad thing. It’s what you signed up for. But where we make the mistake is that our personal time, how we connect with ourselves and how we connect with our partner becomes affordable collateral damage. In order for you to be the most amazing, entertaining and inspiring parent, and partner, this thinking has to be turned on its head.
It’s so super easy to fall into the trap that our life as we knew it before kids will somehow return to us, in some form. Or that we tell ourselves that, once X happens then I’ll get back to running, or to the gym, or hang out with friends .. somehow relying on a future event to trigger us into action. However, let’s be honest, it rarely works that way. That future event happens and then is replaced with another and then another. And this is where we lose a little bit of us, and begins to effect not only you, but also your relationships.
Now I’m not here saying that you need to storm up to your partner and holler: I’m going to the gym now! What I’m looking for you to consider is that unless you take some action, some step toward your personal goals, hobbies, pastimes, sports .. whatever it is for you, you will suffer in some form later on. And I’m talking not only from client experience but also from personal experience.
I felt that I needed to fix and provide for everything and that the ‘I’ in the new family was utterly sacrifice-able for the benefit of my new-born son and for that matter new born mum. I threw myself into getting home and dedicating myself to the cleaning, cooking, baby care.. whatever it took to ‘make things good’. But slowly and incrementally I lost some of me in there, and it took a long while to recover.
And what I would tell my former self is what I tell my clients: you are going to have work out what hobbies, sports, events, pastimes, whatever it is for you to power down, to recharge, to connect with you again and once you have that list you need to make them ‘musts’ into your day, week or month. Yes, sure, you are going to have to negotiate a few and whittle the list down to the ones you absolutely must keep, and that may change over time but for now let’s start with that.
Before having your first child I’m willing to bet that you and your partner were totally at ease with living your lives on a whim. If you woke up one Saturday morning and felt you wanted to go for a run, boom, you’d go and do it. Up, dressed, see you in an hour. Job. Done. Now that luxury is gone. Or well, it’s not gone, but it would take a brave person to believe that they could consistently get away with telling their partner after a sleepless night of feeding that they were just popping off for an hour.
What I want to make clear is that the luxury of ‘no notice’ choosing like that is gone, but the sport or hobby hasn’t. We just need a bit of re-education.
What I’ve found the most useful for clients is something which may feel a bit artifial but is a sure-fire way to help not only you, but also your partner too.
You’re going to have formalise the conversation. You’re going to have to schedule a time in the week or every fortnight where you sit with your partner (or whoever you may use in your support network) and plan out the week. Now you may do this already for general family matters, but I want you to use this time to also add in the things that you want to do. By having this conversation each week you have the chance to see when you can fit in your ‘you time’. It need only be as simple as saying: I’d like 3 hours to go to the gym, which day would be best? This involves your partner in the discussion and helps to come up with a solution.
Now, for the bonus. This isn’t going to be all about you. This is a perfect opportnuty to ask and hear what your partner may like to do. Begin to give them the chance to express what they would like to be doing and when could it fit in with the week. There will be things that they want to do and reconnect with in the same way you do, perhaps more so if they’ve had a challenging week with minimal grownup conversation.
What you’re doing here is elevating the conversation, formalising something that happened easily and with little fuss before kids but now requires formal scheduling. It may seem artificial at first but I can assure you that you will reap the benefits quickly both persoanlly and for your partner.
Let me know wht you think. Perhaps you have a different way to get the ‘you’ time you need. Please leave comments below and share with the community what works for you.