Remember those hectic, energy-draining days when you were parenting your infant or toddler? Remember how you looked forward to the future when you would be raising your young adolescent and thought -- finally! -- you would have more time for yourself?
Wrong! What you have discovered is that an older child can sop up more of your time. Although midnight feedings and playground duty are things of the past, your adolescent now needs you in different ways. There are car pools to soccer games, stressful parent-teacher conferences, time spent monitoring the computer, phone and TV, homework supervision -- not to mention the hours of worrying about peer pressure, premature sexual activity or substance abuse.
No wonder you often feel overwhelmed. It's time to take a break and nurture yourself. Think of the following not as selfish activities but as a way to recharge your batteries so that you can come to your parenting tasks refreshed. A new outlook will benefit you and your family.
Here are some ways to soothe your spirit:
• Put out the "Don't Disturb" sign. Middlers are notorious for wanting their privacy. Recapture some of your own. What you do behind that closed door is your business.
• Lock yourself in the bathroom. Sometimes it's the only room in the house where you can find time alone. Take a bubble bath, light some candles, read a book while you unwind.
• Take 10. You may not be able to eke out an hour or an afternoon. Don't despair. Sometimes even 10 minutes can rejuvenate your mind and body. Look for these intervals whenever you can. Even waiting in the car to pick up your child may offer the opportunity to listen to soft music while you close your eyes and meditate.
• Exercise. It won't make more tired; exercise is a good way to boost your stamina. If you haven't been active, start slowly, perhaps with a vigorous walk around the block.
• Lunch with a friend. Sometimes we become so caught up worrying about our children's friends that we forget our own. Friends can support us in ways our immediate family cannot. A good friend can listen sympathetically and offer a fresh perspective on our problems.
• Go to the movies. Pick one that will make you laugh, cry or thrill over death-defying stunts. For two hours you can enter another world and forget about your own.
• Eat a comfort food. Choose rice pudding, macaroni and cheese, chicken soup, meat loaf, mashed potatoes or whatever triggers your memories of a more peaceful time. A reasonable portion can soothe the soul without adding inches.
• Buy yourself flowers. Why wait for your birthday or anniversary? Select your favorite blooms, and have fun arranging them in a place where they will catch your eye.