Deferring, delaying or abandoning pre-parenthood dreams is often not a conscious decision. You probably won’t flinch as you rush past the tennis court, pass on open mike night, or pack away your art supplies. Reprioritizing and dropping “frivolous” pursuits seems the right thing to do since families, work and obligations require most of your time.
You may choke back the tiny but persistent tug at your heart, excuse your slightly quicker temper and ignore your dwindling patience. Hardly anyone connects the dots between neglecting themselves and negative consequences. Most will instead give an internal scolding and a firm reminder that family should be enough. Solo joys and passions can be revisited once children are older and careers on solid ground.
But, what if you embraced the fact that scheduling even a tiny amount of time with yourself could enhance your family life? What if you listened to the experts who say that smart parents who take time for their passions are in fact benefiting their children, spouse, pets, employer and households? If you can wrap your brain around this, your life can literally change to one that you love almost as much as you love your family.
Know that it’s OK to redefine yourself with additional adjectives. In addition to being a parent, spouse, employee, or caregiver, it’s entirely permissible to also define yourself as artistic, spiritual or brainy. Don’t let your dreams die because you think they are impractical. Know that filling your world with “have tos’, chokes out vital “want tos” and what automatically follows is monotonous desperation lived by a grumpy, even resentful parent. This is of course the exact opposite parent you want for your children.
Once you’ve given yourself permission to admit that hobbies and passions are missing from your life, take small steps to incorporate fun into everyday, knowing that doing so is immensely beneficial to your well-being and happiness which will pay huge dividends to those you love. When thoughts of “I should be using this time for something productive” start to invade your head, gently reassure that your dream activity does have a purpose — namely, to give you happiness, which will buoy you as you tackle everyday tasks, from preparing dinner to leading a meeting at work.
Finally, the happy person who is living their dreams and enjoying their hobbies is going to be the upbeat, loving, and fulfilled parent we all want for our children.