December 17, 2017

How To Find More Time For Yourself

By Cathy O’Neill

Even though parenthood changes our outlook on life and almost overnight matures us, we are still the same people we have always been.  By and large we still need the same self-maintenance we needed before the kids arrived.  But getting our daily allowance is harder to do after kids appear.

Sometimes, though, we make our married-with-kids life harder than it has to be. In our effort to have it all, we can end up focusing on the wrong things and overlooking what’s really important. Here are the two things we can let go of that will make more time for the things we need:

1. harboring unhealthy attitudes

2. striving for perfection

Topping the list of unhealthy attitudes is the “It’s Never Enough” feeling. Even though we effectively have it all when we have our marriage, job and offspring ducks in a row, we are perpetually longing for more. Closely related to this attitude is our Pursuit of Perfection. Just trying to keep the fridge stocked, the checkbook balanced and the kids healthy is a pretty substantial undertaking.  But instead of feeling good about ourselves when we manage to do just that, we pine for the washboard abs, the granite countertops and/or a new car.

Perfectionism is a myth. It only exists in magazines and movies. And THEY ARE NOT REAL. Using perfectionism as our gold standard is just plain bad for us.

As Ann Lamott has written,

“Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life.”

Here are a few things you can do to make your life (and the lives of those who love you) happier, saner and less perfect (and that’s a good thing)!

1. No more open houses. Why do we go into Open House Overdrive whenever we have friends over? Lets stop cleaning up for playdates. Why not let our friends see that our lives (and houses) are just as chaotic and messy as theirs? And, now that we’re talking about it … lets stop presenting show palace perfection for our dinner parties. Because,

2. Take out + friends = a dinner party. Remember the days when dinner with friends was pizza and beer and you didn’t hesitate to invite people over because you hadn’t gotten around to putting drapes up/ getting the carpets steam cleaned/buying decent tableware. Let’s just chill out and enjoy each others company.

3. A sticker and a fruit snack.  Birthday parties are wonderful and important. There’s nothing better than celebrating the day our children arrived in our lives, and the fact that we’ve all survived another year. But things have gotten out of hand. If the kid can’t remember it, or is likely to sleep through it, they might not be old enough for a party. Get a cake, take a few cute pictures, and consider your job done. And for any age child, when you do have a party, as our friend Theresa said, “The contents of a goodie bag should be a sticker and a fruit snack. Those moms who put lip gloss in them are Satan. My six-year-old got it all over our couch.”

4. Ask, is it really worth it? Are you unwittingly burdening yourself with unnecessary work? We all want what’s best for our kids. But perhaps, before we sign up for more work, we should make sure that the return on an activity is worth the blood, sweat, and tears of our investment. Try applying the following test the next time you think about planning a birthday party, adding another activity for your child, or agreeing to participate in the school bake sale):

A. Is this really going to benefit my child, me, or my marriage? (If the answer is no, say no. Ifthe answer is yes, move on to question B.)

B. If I do this will I complain about it later? (If the answer is yes, don’t do it. If the answer isno, go to question C.)

C. Is there a less painful way to make it happen? (For example, buy, don’t bake cookies forthe school; trade off driving responsibilities with another Mom, etc.)

We understand that sometimes it is really, really hard to say no because we want to give our kids the best possible opportunities. But when we consistently sacrifice our personal pursuits we can unintentionally hurt our kids.  An unhappy, exhausted parent is a poor parent.  And all those extra activities might actually work against our end goal, to raise happy, self-confident, independent kids. This is what one child psychologist had to say,

“Parents want to give their kids an edge by putting them in all these activities. What they don’t seem to realize is that the best edge they can give them is gained by sitting down with them at the dinner table, just being with them, just hanging out as a family. Kids who are truly secure in themselves have the real edge. Ultimately that’s what’s going to make them a success.”

So whenever you can, say no to the small things, so you can say yes to the big things.


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Cathy O’Neill is a co-author of the bestselling book Babyproofing Your Marriage: How to Laugh More and Argue Less As Your Family Grows (Collins, 2007). Published in ten countries, Babyproofing Your Marriage: How to Laugh More and Argue Less As Your Family Grows details how parenting young children impacts marriage and explores how to laugh more, argue less and communicate better as your family grows.  Cathy has appeared on NBC’s Today Show, Fox News, the BBC, SkyNews and over 50 radio shows across the country and in the UK. You can learn how to babyproof your marriage and find ideas on how to make marriage – and life – during the early parenting years more enjoyable and fulfilling at


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