I’m a dad with two young daughters (5 and 3 years old), and from the moment I met them, they taught me the importance of caring for myself as well as them.
For example, before fatherhood, I exercised because I thought it made me attractive — now that I’m a dad, I exercise to stay “not dead” for my kids. Needless to say, my priorities have shifted tremendously.
But the holiday season always adds a ton of new pressures — I rarely have time to think about myself, and because of that, I end up being completely stressed out and overwhelmed in effort to keep my kids happy.
So now that it’s the new year, I plan to give myself four gifts that didn’t come from a store, don’t require any shopping, and will benefit me and my family all throughout 2017.
1. I’m giving myself the gift of laughter.
In case you haven’t noticed, the current state of our world provides us with plenty of reasons not to smile. But if we focus our energies on that, we end up neglecting the people, places, and things that bring us so much joy.
So I’m planning to smile and laugh more with the people I love, caring for them and doing the things we love together. In doing so, I’ll be a much better dad, man, and friend.
2. I’m giving myself the gift of slowing down.
Yes, I’m that parent with kids who are constantly on the receiving end of me blurting out, “Let’s go! Hurry up!” But in the big scheme of things, does it really matter if we’re a couple minutes late to some event? Not so much.
Time is the world’s most valuable resource because once it’s gone, we can’t get it back. Our kids will only be the ages they are right now — right now. If I’m constantly rushing around, how can I possibly enjoy the moment I’m currently in?
Slowing down is hard, but I’m realizing that it’s necessary if we all want to reduce our stress levels. Other than requesting to use the potty at the most inopportune moments, kids rarely display a sense of urgency about anything — and that’s probably why they’re so happy all the time. That isn’t a coincidence.
The next time my daughter asks to put a BAND-AID® Bandage on my “boo-boo” and take care of me for 30 minutes in her “hospital,” I’ll let her without losing my mind like I used to. Because as my parents always tell me, there will be a day when I’ll miss moments like these.
3. I’m giving myself the gift of imperfection.
One of my mentors used to tell me that “perfect is the enemy of done,” and I completely agree — especially when it comes to common parenting tasks.
For example, my daughters have really difficult hair to style. Johnson’s “No More Tangles” makes life so much easier in that regard, but there are times when I can’t help myself from attempting to create the perfect ‘do for my girls.
But now I want to think about things a little differently. Do I really have to create the perfect braids for my daughters’ playdates? Will anyone care if my daughters’ ponytails are a little lumpy? Kids are constantly disheveled in one way or another, and I need to embrace that in order to remove an unnecessary stressor from my life.
Recently I let my kids rock their pajamas and messy hair to breakfast, and it was really hard for me to do. But then I noticed how happy and secure my kids were, and I realized that I should be happy and secure with it as well. Because true perfection is found in imperfection.
4. I’m giving myself the gift of “me time.”
Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but parenting is really hard. No two days are the same, our patience is constantly tested, and we’re amazed at how much we can get done while in a perpetual state of exhaustion. More often than not, I find myself completely overwhelmed, and I know I’m not the only parent who feels that way.
In the new year, I’m planning to engage in some self-care. There’s nothing wrong with saying, “You know what? I’m actually going to the spa to get a massage today.” Parenting is all about putting others before ourselves, but the gift of “me time” allows us to have the energy to do that.
So go catch a nap and don’t feel guilty. You’ve earned it.
As a guy who released a children’s book that celebrates healthy essentials of fatherhood, I’m doing my best to ensure I enjoy every one of these special moments. Before we know it, our kids will be grown and starting families of their own, and we need to take the time to enjoy them now.
Am I the perfect dad? Nope, but that’s because he doesn’t exist. I’m just a parent who’s figuring it all out as I go along — just like you. I hope you’ll give yourself the gift of knowing that’s exactly the way it should be.
Story by Upworthy contributor Doyin Richards.