Lessons in Kindness from My Five-Year-Old: Be Kind to Yourself

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This article was originally published on LinkedIn.  Read the original copy here.

As hard-working professionals, we all know the importance of being able to juggle multiple priorities.  I may start my day with a neatly prioritized list of my own projects and deadlines, but by lunch, they’ve typically shifted to accommodate urgent requests from colleagues or customers and…did someone mention lunch?  Suddenly, it’s 3PM and I haven’t made it to the kitchen yet.

As a parent, I rarely get a hot meal.  Between jumping up and down to retrieve a forgotten utensil/napkin/glass of milk/refill of said glass of milk, by the time I reach my plate, it’s generally luke warm at best.  It’s a bit like learning to do everything with just one hand when you first become a parent – you adapt.

When I was a “new mother,” I was often shadowed by my own personal dark cloud of guilt.  Guilt at leaving my tiny daughter with another person to care for her at just six weeks old, guilt at spending time finishing up my graduate degree when I could have been spending time with her, and guilt at being so tired all the time from the combination of the three: working full-time, finishing school, and having a new baby.  I felt I needed to spend every available minute with her until I became so run down I couldn’t function.  I hit a wall.

It was during this time that I came to the realization that I could not be a good mother if I was not being kind to myself.  If I was too tired to even think clearly, much less play energetically with her, I was not being fair to her or myself.  I was doing her no favors by giving her every second of my time.  I was depriving us both.  I also knew that what I was doing, my work and my school, were both just as important to her in the long run as she develops her sense of self and what is possible for her.

So, I took a spa day or two (or ten, but who’s counting?) and I came back refreshed and ready to fully be present when we were together.  I also came back with a new sense of purpose, understanding that I needed to continue to take care of my own wants and needs in order to be the best parent and role model to her.

The same goes for work.  You don’t have to be a parent to understand this analogy.  We all knothat balance in work and life is vital to our performance, our health, and our happiness, but how many times do we actually practice this philosophy?  How many times do we tell ourselves “I’m working these 14 hour days right now, but once this project is done, I can rest a bit,” only to jump into the next project full steam immediately after?

Personally, I’m of the full-steam persuasion, but I’ve learned over the last 5 years how important it is to take care of myself – not only for myself, but for the sake of my work and my family.

Lesson learned: Make yourself a priority. Be kind to yourself and remember to get up, stretch, and eat lunch.

How do you instill balance into your every day routine?

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