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Worktime Interrupted --
How Can I Find Time For My Own Work?

by Istar Schwager, Ph.D.

If you are a parent who is having trouble finding time to do your "soul work," to pursue the activities that give you energy, hope and expression, join the crowd. If I could think of two things to help parents be better parents, one would be to give every parent classes in child development, and the other would be to make sure every parent had the opportunity to recharge, get inspired and create. Parenting is very demanding and can be quite depleting. as well as rewarding. An exhausted parent is often a resentful parent. A resentful parent can become a hostile parent.

Certain enterprises require stretches of uninterrupted time. Young children, by their very nature, are interrupters. They need a lot of attention and seem to be radar detectors for when you are focused on something other than them. A mom or dad on the telephone or in front of a computer sets off alarms in kids who realize they must have food at that very moment -- or choose that opportunity (no coincidence) to scale the furniture.

Don't blame your kids -- they are hardwired to need their parents. But do try to find some practical solutions so that you get some time to do the things you love. And remember that feeding your soul helps you become a better parent.

Here are some suggestions for how to find time for the things you love to do:

  • Prioritize. Make your "soul work" a high enough priority so that it bumps some of the routines that will always be there. You'll do the laundry less resentfully if you have put in some time on your novel or sketches. Something's gotta give. It can't be your kids, and it shouldn't be your most meaningful pursuits.

  • Be realistic. You may not be able to work on your own projects for hours a day. But if you can schedule even one three hour stretch in which your child is cared for by a sitter or spouse, that may give you enough time to get a project started or plan a next step.

  • Be flexible. Your child's naptime may not be ideal, but it does give you some time. Or, since most parents of young kids fall asleep early at night, the very early morning has potential. I finished the last parts of my doctoral dissertation by setting the alarm for 4 AM. and working until the household got moving at 6:15. It was exhausting, and I couldn't have continued indefinitely, but it worked out well for the home stretch.

  • Schedule. It may be Wednesday evening or Sunday afternoon. Create a regular time each week when you will do your thing. Make sure everyone in the family knows that that time is spoken for and try to stick with it. If the routine gets interrupted one week, don't give up. Go back to your designated time when the emergency is over.

  • Take a class. One miserable winter I decided that the only thing that would make me happy was to paint non-stop for a month. Couldn't do that, but realized I could fit in a drawing class for a few hours a week. It was an incredibly revitalizing move. A class provides a place where nobody can interrupt and everyone is focused on the same activities.

  • Find support. Other parents facing the same dilemma can provide support and encouragement. Stay away from those who consider housekeeping their highest priority. Support each other in giving up perfectionism and instead focus on growth and exploration.

© 1999,2000,2001 by Dr. Istar Schwager. All Rights Reserved
Reprint with permission only

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