Silver Lining: every parent needs their one thing

August 31, 2016

every parent needs their one thing

I'm a firm believer that every parent needs one thing. Well, two things if you count an emergency chocolate stash. I'm not here to talk about a chocolate stash, but every parent should probably have one of those as well. ;)

Parents need at least one thing that doesn't involve being a parent.

We love our kids. We really do. We love watching them grow up and meet exciting milestones and experience things for the first time. As you can tell from the content of my posts, my kids are a huge part of my life. It's a choice I made, it's a choice I love, and it's a choice I wouldn't change for anything.

But the truth is your daily sphere of influence shrinks a lot when you're a stay-at-home mom (or dad). It can be incredibly lonely, isolating and terrifying to just be home with the kids. If the only thing you're involved with is your children, it's easy to feel stretched thin and frustrated on the days when it seems like all your children do is whine and make mess after mess. Anyone would feel grumpy and depressed after long days of children teething or refusing naps or fighting with their siblings!

That's why every parent needs at least one thing that's completely separate from their role as a parent.

I learned this the hard way. When I had my first child and my job fell through at the last second, I thought it was a sign I wasn't supposed to work. But it wasn't just that I was unemployed. I wasn't leaving the house, I wasn't getting much adult interaction, I was barely involved in my church community, and I definitely wasn't happy. It's so easy to stay home in your own rapidly shrinking bubble, providing for your child but neglecting all other aspects of your personal life and emotional health. That's what I was doing, and I was incredibly depressed. In fact, I didn't start being happy until I started working part-time six months later. 

You see, my one thing is working. I love getting a babysitter for the kids and utilizing a completely different skillset. I love solving problems, interacting with other professionals in my field, and contributing financially to my family. First I worked as an educator, and now I work as a blogger and influencer, but for me the bottom line is that I'm working. It's what I'm passionate about, and what makes me fulfilled.

It doesn't have to be a job. That's just my thing. One of my best friends is very involved in her church community, and her thing is creating the most amazing, insightful sermons to teach every Sunday. Another friend is a beautiful singer, and her thing is singing professionally with a local choir on Wednesday nights. Another friend loves to try new and complicated recipes, and bakes delicious intricate desserts. I know moms who are super involved with book clubs or running in races or thrifting. 

It doesn't matter what your thing is, how much time it takes up, or whether it generates income. It just matters that your thing is separate from being a parent, and that it makes you excited. It's about creating balance, variety, and interaction in your life. It's about using skill sets you don't always utilize as a parent.

I've taken an unofficial poll among people I know who have children. Guess what? 100% of them feel like a better parent when they have do something besides being a parent. 

I know I'm a much more patient and loving mom when I have that balance in my life - that chance to step back from the diapers and fussing infants and toothpaste smeared on my bathroom counter. When I get done working, this magical thing happens. I realize I missed my children! And I really really like them! And the toothpaste on the counter isn't a big deal - it's just a little toothpaste. I'm happy to snuggle them, play with them and change their diapers the rest of the day.

So I guess, if I were to give advice to people about to become parents, I would say this: Becoming a parent is the best. You will love it. But find your one thing (or two things, or three things!). Find what makes you happy, fulfilled, and excited, and don't give up on it. You'll be surprised how much of a better parent it makes you. 
Photos showing glimpses of work and home by Photography Hill

I'd love to hear from you about this (especially if you mostly stay at home with your kids).
What is your "thing" besides being a parent?
Do you feel it adds to or detracts from your experience as a mom or dad?
And when does having a side hobby start being detrimental for your life as a parent?

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