When my wife and I arrived with our youngest for his first tee ball practice, we noticed the parents all huddled in a circle. No kids were on the baseball field. They were enjoying themselves on the nearby playground.
“We can’t practice,” the team’s coach told us. “Practice is canceled.” She was unsure when practice would be rescheduled.
That was March 18, 2020 – the day COVID-19 got real in my small New Jersey town a few minutes outside of New York City.
Being a stay-at-home dad for almost six years, I felt better prepared than most when the pandemic shut everything down soon after. However, nothing really prepared me for having three kids home all day on devices trying to do remote learning for most of the next 18 months. One of the things I had been looking forward to, starting in September 2020, was finally having a single drop-off for all three kids at the same place for a FULL day of school. Ah, to dream …
That finally came true a few weeks ago when the 2021-22 school year started with all in-person instruction. When I dropped all three kids off for elementary school at 8:15 a.m. sharp, knowing I did not have to pick them up until 3 that afternoon, my heart was overjoyed. Over six hours to myself!
But part of me felt guilty. Should I feel bad about being so elated to have the day to myself?
Those feelings of doubt were quickly overridden by a simple fact: physically being in school was where my kids needed to be. School is where you make childhood friends, some of whom you might even have for life. It is the center of your most formative years and is crucial for healthy development into a well-adjusted adult (or some version of that). And, these days, if we can keep them in the classroom safely, I am all for it.
When you prioritize your wellness, others benefit
But I also realized that I need at least some of that time alone for myself. As parents, we try to put our kids’ well-being first, but how can we be good parents if we are not in a good place ourselves? So often, we get caught up in the daily duties of parenting and household management – from making meals to doing laundry to getting the car fixed and any number of tasks in between — that we forget about our own physical and mental health. If we are overwhelmed or stressed, we can easily pass those feelings onto our kids and family members.
We parents all need a break now and then. That doesn’t mean you should let your house get completely out of order, but the importance of prioritizing self-care — doing something for yourself and only yourself to rest, relax and rejuvenate – is vital to our ability to care for others in our lives.
For some, that means escaping to a quiet room to read a good book for a few hours. For other, it may be binge-watching a show for an afternoon or hitting the golf course or just taking a nap. We shouldn’t feel guilty about that. Sometimes that little break, that little recharge, can make all the difference in how the rest of your day will go and how you interact with your kids and partner.
So this is how I celebrated myself for surviving as those homeschooling months. As a huge Marvel fan I knew I had to see Shang Chi and the Legend of the 10 Rings in the actual movie theater as it also stars Simu Liu, one of my favorite actors from TV’s Kim’s Convenience. And, I had not seen a movie in person in FOREVER. I told my wife I wanted to catch a matinee (or How to Save Money 101). We hit on the idea of instead of me just going out on my own, we’d turn it into a family outing with my wife letting me enjoy my Marvel movie alone while she took the kids to see the new Paw Patrol flick. Win, win! Somehow, prioritizing my joy and need for a mental break by seeing a popcorn movie ended in being a memorable family day because back home after the movie we found ourselves eating hot dogs on blankets in our yard and playing Nerf wars the backyard.
I have come to realize sometimes it is OK to prioritize yourself from time to time, though never at the expense of others. Doing so might seem small or insignificant at the time, but sometimes, when you prioritize wellness through self-care, you end up prioritizing your family’s well-being without even knowing it.
Tips for better self-care
By Kevin McKeever
It doesn’t take a lot of effort to occasionally prioritize your wellness for the sake your family and loved ones. Here are some things to try:
- Do at least one thing a day just for yourself. Whether it’s carving out 30 minutes to exercise, read, call a friend or take a solo walk around the neighborhood.
- Listen to your favorite music. Turn it on when prepping meals, cleaning or anytime you have another task at hand.
- Step away from the screens. When you have a spare minute or two, take a deep breath and take in all your see, hear and smell around you rather than rapidly scrolling through Instagram.
- Get more sleep. This is a key to health in general. Aim for seven hours.