Perhaps you feel it, too. A stressful, resistant emotion that wells up every time someone says to “love every minute” of raising your kids. I inevitably turn into Michael Scott from The Office when Toby Flenderson returns. In my mind, I am shouting “no” uncontrollably to anyone within earshot. This experience always seems to happen when two-year-old Twinkleberry is waving her arms madly in the grocery store where produce is next to the alcohol. Mommy’s just here for bananas, sweet cherub. Those pretty bottles of liquid are expensive. Savor the moment? Secretly I am hoping we don’t break any bottles and are able to exit the store without property damage.
My daughters are precious gifts. But it was not easy to savor the moment when I had to carry a tantrum-throwing, stark-naked, then two-year-old Toodlebug out of the public wading pool, because she refused to put on her swimsuit. I can laugh about it now, but back then, I was crying almost as much as she was and I felt like a tired parent. I could never quite reconcile how deeply I loved my children, with how much I needed nap time to come a little sooner and last a little longer. While reading Raising Your Spirited Child by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka, I learned about energy sources. For me it evolved into what our family calls the energy bank.
What is the energy bank? For us, it is a source of vitality that sustains our spirit throughout the day when life is happening in real time. When it is nourished, so are we. When it runs low, because of stress, exhaustion, or interruptions, for example, so do we. I found restoring the energy bank has been helpful in facing and embracing the unpredictable, joyful, challenging, rewarding moments of mummyhood.
Here are five tips to nurture your energy bank:
1) Respect it
Taking care of the energy bank first allows you to take care of others afterwards, namely the little cherubs who are running around your house right now with scissors in one hand and glue in the other. The more energy you have in the bank, the more you can enjoy the moment or withstand removing glue from newly-shorn hair. Pre-fueling ahead of an energy bank drain (think trips to the store or having to wait in line) is ideal. However, for me refueling is more common after my energy bank has been drained.
2) Know that the energy bank isn’t the same as love
As I wrote on Facebook last year, loving my children unconditionally isn’t the same as having unlimited amounts of energy. In my experience, striving to love every minute of parenting has never encapsulated what it is like to be a mum. I love my daughters with an unconditional fervor I could never describe before they were born. Yet, I’m often tired and worn down. But the solution isn’t more love, gratefulness, or appreciation for the children. Those feelings are already there. No, the answer lies in taking care of the energy bank because it is separate. It has its own needs. When its need are met, I am more able to enjoy the world around me, including time with my children.
3) Replenish it
According to Sheedy Kurcinka, how you find energy is largely based on your temperament. If you are extroverted, call a few girlfriends for a night out. If you are an introvert, queue up some movies for a night in. If, like me, you are an ambivert, it may be a combination of both. Refueling isn’t a twenty-first century concept either. I distinctly remember The Gram recalling how Gramp used to take Mom and her brothers uptown periodically so The Gram could have the farmhouse to herself. She always laughed when she got to the part where Mom’s younger brother offered to stay behind so The Gram wouldn’t be alone. “No, no!” she would say. “You go! I’ll be fine.” The Gram’s energy bank needed nourishment, and not one of us ever doubted her love for or loyalty to her family.
4) Speak in terms of the energy bank
I no longer tell my girls I am fine when I’m not. Instead I tell them my energy bank is low. I explain that is why I need a few minutes to myself or why I need them to follow my instructions without complaint. It works. Toodle, now six years old, talks in terms of her energy bank, too, a far cry from that day at the wading pool. When she is resting on the couch, she tells me she is “getting rid of the old energy to make room for new energy.” Neither of us feels guilty because we both know refueling is critical. Speaking in terms of the energy bank also prepares children to manage their own. Hopefully, this means they will feel less insecure about having one and more confident about replenishing it.
5) Ignore the unhelpful
Replenishing the energy bank won’t prevent people from telling you to “love every minute because it’s gone in a flash.” But it might help you ignore them or see their warning as a friendly suggestion. It may also help you reply with a quick, confident “thanks!” Recently Twinkle was starting an epic meltdown in the middle of the store. I couldn’t get to a cart fast enough to stave off her shrieks. What started as a debit to my energy bank ended with complete replenishment when an older gentleman said, “Here, take my cart. Would that help you?” Yes! Thank you, kind stranger. I believe I love you. No doubt he remembered what it was like to be in my shoes. And when it is my turn to forfeit a cart to a younger parent whose energy bank is in need, I hope I remember to do so.
However you need to fill your energy bank, go for it, guilt free. When you take care of yourself, you and those you love will benefit.
How do you refill your energy bank?
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