When Is the Last Time You…?

By Melissa Stefanec  |  MelissaStefanec@yahoo.com

If you’re a fellow parent, your day might have looked something like mine. It was likely just as crazy, because we are all trying to balance too many things.

Today, my day consisted of making adjustments to my schedule to cater to a sick kid and therefore skipping my shower and starting work early. I also had to run a sick cat to the vet and take a meeting from the car. While I worked, I had to make sure my poor, sick kid had enough to eat and drink and felt loved.

I also coordinated with a music teacher about busing arrangements for musical tryouts. I slammed my laptop shut in just enough time to pick my other child up from their after-school activities. I got dinner on the table, signed permission slips, filled out absentee paperwork, did the chores, wrangled homework and made plans for all of the craziness that tomorrow will bring.

Maybe your day didn’t look exactly like mine, but I bet you overcame a hundred tiny obstacles and are left feeling foggy, heavily depleted and exhausted.

Maybe, like me, you’re feeling soft on the outside and hard on the inside. It’s even possible you’re also feeling like a mild failure who is holding it all together with caffeine, school glue and “I love yous.”

In the face of all of the demands and responsibilities, it’s so easy to get lost. How do we, in the age of intense parenting, find a way to savor the good things and maintain our personal spark? I’m not here with answers. Instead, I’m coming with a list of questions.

I don’t share these questions to provoke any guilt. There is enough of that involved in parenting. I ask these questions as an opportunity to reflect.

Here we go.

• When was the last time you hugged your kid for a long time?

Hugs are energy for the soul. With all of the rushing, have you found time to hold onto each other when there wasn’t a forced expiration date? As our kids grow older and want to be touched less, do you savor the times they want to be embraced?

• When was the last time you gave yourself permission to be angry?

Anger is a basic human emotion. If you’re anything like me, you feel guilty when you get angry. Have you welcomed your anger and sat with it? Did you sit with it long enough to gain insights? Did you ask yourself what you want to change?

• When was the last time you told yourself that it could wait?

It doesn’t even matter what the “it” is. Maybe it’s the dishes, laundry, the cleaning out of the refrigerator. Have you given yourself permission to watch gently falling snow instead of rushing onto the next chore? Have you convinced yourself that trying to do it all breaks your body, brain and spirit?

• When was the last time you told your body how impressive it was?

Have you taken inventory of all the amazing feats your body has accomplished? Have you reminded yourself your arms are a haven for your children? Do you believe in your own strength?

• When was the last time you told your child why they are loveable?

You probably tell your child you love them each and every day. But, have you reminded them of what makes them loveable? Have you doubled down on the good stuff, so they keep nurturing the right things? Have you filled up their stores so that they might face the storms of this world?

• When was the last time you told your partner what makes you feel loved?

You deserve to be loved in a way that actually makes you feel loved. Have you recently told your partner what you need to truly feel appreciated and wanted? Have you made room for those things? Have you convinced yourself how wildly deserving you are of these things?

When was the last time you asked for help when you needed it?

You deserve help. You’re not weak for needing it. Raising kids always took a village, but our modern-day villages are dissipating. It’s lonelier than ever to be a parent. Have you gotten comfortable with asking for support from anyone who will offer it?

• When was the last time you told another parent what you admire about them?

Villages aren’t built in a day. They require nurturing and time. But parents don’t have a lot of time to give. But what if I told you building a village starts with a compliment? Can you make yourself a stronger parent by admiring other parents and engaging with them?

• When was the last time you reminded yourself how difficult being a good parent is?

To be consistent, thoughtful, tough, kind, interested, empathetic and on-the-ball is the sort of feat that great stories are made of. Have you given yourself grace when you fail? Have you recognized your hard work?

In conclusion, if you’re feeling exhausted, spent and maxed out, maybe asking yourself these questions will encourage you to give yourself room to thrive. Because, when we nurture the world around us, we are more likely to be nurtured.

Now, I’m going to try and take my own advice. Writing it will certainly be easier than acting on it.