Nick and I have been home from Bali and Singapore for a week now. We still feel so fortunate to have been able to take the time for just us, and I have come back with so much more energy than when I left. I learned so much – about history, religion, language, food, geography, but most importantly I came away with some insights into myself and into parenting. Luckily you don’t have to go all the way to Bali to find those insights (although Bali imparts specific lessons, more on that to come).
The primary lesson I learned from our 10 days in Bali and Singapore was that breaks from your kids are crucial to recover your sense of self. I’m not talking a few hours here and there; I’m talking an extended, 2-3 day minimum break. Parenting, and parenting young children especially, is such a constant workload, it is easy to get lost in the second-by-second needs. When you are clear about who you are as a person and what you expect and value, they have a clear road to follow. And it’s easier to remember which areas to focus on.
It’s amazing how, after a few days break, you can parent so much better. The grinding annoyances of parenthood are less oppressive. You have enough space to realize that it is a stage. You remember the you before kids, and you can keep that person in mind so that they will be there after kids. You can can take the long, guiding view of your kids versus the short, reactive view.
The biggest change a break brought to me was that it reminded me what makes my heart sing. It reminded me that I like chatting with new and interesting people. It reminded me that I thrive on adventure, so long as I have touchstones of ritual and routine. It reminded me that I love history and architecture and food and nature. It reminded me that I can share those joys with my kids, that they should know that their mother loves those things.
I was actually able to feel how much work I had been doing to care for my kids, my dog, my house, because of how little I actually had to do when they were gone. And in knowing how much work I do, I was able to cut myself some slack. We normalize the incredible work of parenthood because every parent does it, and there’s always someone who has it worse. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t still work! Just because it’s normal, just because it’s common, doesn’t mean it isn’t hard. And regardless of how easy or hard you have it as a parent, you should still be kind to yourself and acknowledge that you DESERVE kindness and pampering.
Without my kids to tend to, I was able to check in with my mental health and make it a priority. I was able to realize some of the self-sabotaging I am still doing, a symptom I thought I was in remission from because it didn’t manifest so dramatically. Why was I not asking for things I needed, or not doing yoga, or not eating good foods, when I know those things make me feel good? Why was I not taking a few seconds to brush my hair, wash my face, stretch my shoulders. Parenting is hard, but you can still find the time to do those things. There was some accountability I could own up to but not in a judgmental way. I am trying to do these things always with the mantra “You deserve these things”.
Now I’m taking things slower. I’m breathing and pulling back before I act. I’m speaking kindly to myself. I’m reminding myself to work smarter not harder, and to always remember WHY I am working, whether I am working on my kids, my dog, my marriage, my house, or this space. Because from knowing our whys, from keeping rooted in ourself, we can pour that self into helping others.