The greatest gift you can give your family is your happiness. The second greatest gift you can give you children is your marriage…healthy, whole and intact. This is what I share with the mothers in my Self-Care for Moms workshop I facilitate twice a year. When we become a parent, everything changes. Our perspective on life changes; our role in life expands. Our priorities and resources all begin to shift. For most of us, parenting has been our greatest joy but it can also be our hardest work. Many of us dive into parenting whole heartily wanting the absolute best for our children. When I ask my workshop participants want they want for their family, inevitably the answer is always happiness and love. If we are to teach our children happiness and love, we must first model it. The old saying it true, we learn not by words but by actions. So how do we, as individuals, connect with happiness and joy again?  How do we, as parents, connect with love again in a fast paced world, jammed with “to do’s” and an overflowing calendar of activities and events.

To help my workshop participants find the answers, I ask them to think about or meditate on joy. What is it today or in the past that has brought you happiness? What helps you connect to the feeling of aliveness and vibrancy? Maybe pre- marriage or pre-children, it may have been something like painting, writing or photography. It is not uncommon for a new parent to set these types of activities aside. For me, one of those joyful activities is ice skating. I grew up in Michigan and spent quite a bit of my childhood on ice skates. Over a year ago, I took my youngest son ice skating for the first time and while on the ice was connected once again to that joyful, free feeling. I decided we need to make ice skating a regular activity on our schedule.

Make a list of the things that bring you joy and then begin to incorporate them into your schedule on a weekly or monthly basis. It can be as simple as an hour at a coffee house, curling up with a good book on your couch, or even taking a “mom’s day off.” I’m a much better mom when I get an occasional day off. I try to take one at least once a month.

While our personal “self-care” time can dissipate once we become parents, attention to our relationship with our spouse can also suffer. The responsibilities of parenthood can be a true turnoff. Bills, laundry, meals to prepare, cleaning, a career and many other demands can drain our energy and leave little left for our relationship with our spouse. This is why I think it’s important to put your marriage on the calendar. This means a “date night.” I know it may sound impossible to some but it’s imperative if you want your marriage to thrive. Date night does not need to be fancy. Once when we were tight for money, my husband and I drove to a hill in our town and parked to view the lights of the city. We talked about things that would most likely not come up at home surrounded by kids, pets and the TV. It was inexpensive and allowed us to get away from the buzz of the house. I do however suggest one rule of not speaking about serious issues while out on date night. The point is to have fun not take advantage of the time gap to resolve ongoing issues and “personal beefs” with the other person. If babysitting is an issue, look into babysitting co-ops through a local mom’s group where you can swap babysitting nights. I’m sure there are many parents out there that would enjoy a night out as well and would be happy to exchange babysitting favors. You could also research local high school or college students who are looking to earn some extra cash. It’s possible you could post the job on a bulletin board at a local school. Word of mouth can be even better so you can get a personal recommendation for the babysitter.

I do understand how challenging this can be but it’s definitely worth the effort. Sometimes it may require shifting priorities around and dropping one or two other activities to open up your schedule for self- and marriage-care. When I’m struggling with scheduling personal and date night time, I remind myself of how important my happiness, peace of mind and a healthy marriage are to my children. It helps me stay focused on what’s truly important.

By Kim Rice.  Kim Rice is a Wellness Coach (gfcfcoaching.com) and mother of three children in Pleasanton writing about topics such as autism, depression, and diet and life transformation.  She earned her BA degree in Journalism from the University of Detroit and has over 20 years of corporate writing experience. You can follow her on: gfcfcoaching.blogspot.com, Twitter: GFCF_Living and Facebook: “Thriving without gluten or dairy”