Books have an amazing way of dropping into my life at exactly the right moment. There’s usually one thing that really stands out to me, even from books that offer more than just one tip. Maybe it’s my poor retention, but I figure if I get one useful, applicable thing out of a book, that’s good enough, right?
About five years ago, a friend recommended Christine Carter’s Raising Happiness. What stood out to me most was Carter’s line, “Put on your own oxygen mask first.” On an airplane, we’re always reminded to attend to ourselves before assisting our children. It runs contrary to our nature, but it makes sense: if we pass out while trying to help our child, neither of us is going to survive. The same is true for our proverbial “life oxygen.” If we’re not thriving and happy, we won’t be an effective parent.
It was a novel concept for me—a mother with a houseful of kids and a family business—to decide I could and should do some things for myself. I learned that instead of dedicating every waking moment to mothering and work, I could allocate some time for me. So, after spending about 15 years rushing between my kids and work, with rarely a breath between, I had an “ah ha” moment that was very liberating. I realized that one of the best things I can do for my kids is show them how a flourishing adult lives and acts. My Saturday morning runs – by myself – became guilt free!
My recent reads include Simplify (Bill Hybels), which reminded me again to “fill my bucket” regularly by making sure my days, weeks, and months include some of the things that energize me and produce happiness. If my life becomes an endless stream of ONLY the less-fun, bucket-depleting tasks, I go from “Super Mom” to “Super Bomb”; I get crabby and awful to be around, which doesn’t make for good mothering. Hybels recommends putting these “bucket fillers” on my calendar so that they rise to the same importance as dentist appointments and staff meetings.
Brené Brown’s Daring Greatly also came highly recommended, and it did not disappoint. I especially loved the chapter on parenting, along with her message that mirrored and reinforced those of Raising Happiness, Simplify, and Carter’s recent book The Sweet Spot: if we want our children to experience a joy-filled, balanced adulthood, we had better show them what that looks like.
It brings me tremendous joy when I get a text from my college-age daughter telling me about a great run she just took. It affirms for me one of Brown’s primary points in Daring Greatly, that who I am and how I engage with the world really are good predictors of how my kids will turn out. I must remember that it’s not selfish to go for a run alone, meet a friend for a two-hour coffee date, browse a magazine or catalogue, peruse Pinterest, or whatever else is “my thing” at the moment. In fact, by showing my kids that I have “a thing” (besides them) that invigorates me, I am teaching them one of life’s important lessons – when you find something you love, gives you energy, and “fills your bucket,” be sure you make time to keep doing it, even when your life is busy.
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