I've been doing yoga for about 16 years, longer than I've been a parent. When I practice consistently, I feel almost like a different person: Calmer, more energetic, fewer aches and pains. Stress-related stomach problems are more manageable, tension headaches fade. My overall mood improves.
The perks are undeniable. So why do I rarely unroll my yoga mat these days? Simple: Because I'm the single, working mother of 2 kids, and that crazy thing called "me time" is in short supply. I'm pretty much okay with that -- I've always told myself that self-denial is just part of the parenting deal. Maternal instinct tells us to put our kids first. Maternal instinct told me to put my kids before yoga.
So I was surprised when my kids told me to do the opposite.
It came up one day as we were walking past a yoga studio. My daughter, who is 4 years older than my son and has fuzzy memories of the Mommy & Me yoga classes that served as a lifeline during those first few years of motherhood, stopped and looked at me. "Hey, remember when you used to do yoga all the time? Why don't you anymore?"
"I just don't really have the time," I said. "Between you guys and work and stuff, I'm too busy."
"You should start doing it again," said my daughter. "You were kind of happier when you did yoga. Like, not so stressed. Don't worry about us," she added, gesturing at my son. "We want you to be happy."
"Yeah," said my son. "It would be good for you."
I stared at them in disbelief. Where did these thoughtful, wise creatures come from? Then it hit me: A stressed mom = stressed kids. I'm no good to them when I'm a ball of anxiety with a stiff neck and throbbing temples.
It's funny. As parents, we're all familiar with the airline safety cliché: If the plane's going down, put your own oxygen mask on before your kid's (the concept being that you won't be much use to your child if you can't breathe). Common sense, really, which theoretically should apply to parenting in general, in-flight or not. But, as with so many things -- this is easier said then done. No matter how hungry we are, we make sure the kids get fed before we do. We make sure they're under the umbrella even if it means we get soaked. We put our own needs and wants on the backburner for so long they burn out or boil away.
This is what's best for our kids, we tell ourselves. But my kids told me the opposite, and I think I'm going to listen. Because what's good for me is good for them.
Do you feel bad about taking take time for yourself?
Image via tiffany assman/Flickr