[the juxtaposition of the title of this post and this stock photo is hilarious]
My wife and I (loosely) followed the E.A.S.Y. philosophy when each of our three children were born. Eat, Activity, Sleep, and You time. The gist, or at least my takeaway, of the philosophy is this: resist the temptation to get stuff done while the baby is asleep. Instead, sleep (especially early on), read a book, pray, workout, crochet; whatever activities you most enjoy, do those in your downtime and let the dishes pile up in the sink (and save them for your spouse!).
This thought crossed my mind today while I was folding and putting up laundry while the boys were running around in Make Believe Land (already finished our homeschooling for today… w00t w00t!) and the little girl is rearranging everything in our house below 3 feet. The kids were occupying their time themselves (ptl) and I was free to get a little work done.
I broke the rule, tsk tsk.
The concept of “you time” is getting at something true, but, as Lewis once said, you time is “so nearly true yet so fatally wrong.”
Time away from the crazy
It is absolutely essential that parents set aside time every day to not be parents.
Parenting infants is a season of necessary imbalance. Infants cannot do anything for themselves, thus every waking hour (24/7) they require you to be alive; they require all of you. Parenting babies is really hard.
As your children age they need you less. When they’re young, their growing independence feels really nice (when they’re a bit older it can have the feeling of “losing” your child, but that’s another post). The direction of adulthood is one of more and more independence, giving your children more and more responsibility and at the same time giving them more and more freedom. “You time” is the parent’s first baby steps in letting go, culminating in one day sending them out into the world to go it alone.
Why I think “you time” can be dangerous
(New Parent #1) You’ve craved children all your life. The little one has finally come and you are their everything. Sure, you’re exhausted, but this parenting thing is awesome and you love nearly every moment.
(New Parent #2) You’ve craved children all your life. The little one has finally come and you are their everything. This person you’ve longed to be with has finally come, but now you’re exhausted and you’re really hard on yourself because you thought “I’m supposed to love having a baby” but you now find that it kind of sucks (literally, sucks the life out of you if you’re a nursing mom).
I believe (part of) the answer for both of these parents is “not being a parent time.” To be sure, this is another side of the same coin, but the flip is important. One of the chief dangers of parenting is the ever present temptation to make your chief identity as that of mom or dad.
For the super-mom (New Parent #1), time away from your children is a must so that you are not fully consumed with them. You need the daily discipline of remembering that your chief identity isn’t mom or dad, but daughter or son of your Heavenly Father.
For New Parent #2, disciplining yourself to not be a parent is a must, but do not think of this as “you time” or the insidious devil called resentment will take up permanent residence in your soul and he will rule nearly every moment of your day (because parenting takes a lot of your time).
This time away (which should grow as your children do) is important. But it’s not about you. It is a reminder that all of your life is not about your kids. This flip-side, I believe, can guard you from opposite dangers of idolizing parenthood and harboring resentment in your heart.