Why Taking Time for Yourself Actually Makes You a Better Parent

When you’re a dad, there’s a certain amount of GSD that comes with the territory. From the minute we wake up and put our feet on the floor, there are jobs to tackle and things to get done. But in the grind of it all, it’s entirely too easy to get overwhelmed without realizing it. …

When you’re a dad, there’s a certain amount of GSD that comes with the territory. From the minute we wake up and put our feet on the floor, there are jobs to tackle and things to get done. But in the grind of it all, it’s entirely too easy to get overwhelmed without realizing it. And once we’re overwhelmed, we often find that we find value in being overwhelmed. As weird as it sounds, we become so used to being on the run all the time that that becomes a part of our identity.

Then it becomes even harder to slow down because we don’t feel like ourselves when we’re not busy. But all of this running around is having a lasting impact whether you realize it or not.

We’ve normalized being overwhelmed as parents, but the truth is, most parents are overwhelmed and it’s a problem. One survey found that 60% of parents find the mental workload of parenting to be overwhelming.

Between soccer practice and cheer practice and grocery shopping and doctor visits and sleepovers and family coming to town and…whew…it’s no wonder we get overwhelmed. Yet we always think we’re fine.

The truth is, parents need a break regularly. And you don’t just need a vacation every 6 months or year. That isn’t enough. You need time to recharge so you’re not trying to pour out to everyone else from an empty vessel.

Here’s something you probably haven’t thought about in a long time: what do you do for yourself? What are your hobbies? What do you do just to have fun and not to accomplish some sort of family goal?

Studies have shown that leisure activities, which is defined as something you enjoy doing that isn’t considered work, leads to “lower blood pressure, total cortisol, waist circumference, and body mass index, and perceptions of better physical function.”

The specific leisure activities looked at in the study were:

  • Spending quiet time alone
  • Spending time unwinding
  • Visiting others
  • Eating with others
  • Doing fun things with others
  • Club, fellowship, and religious group participation
  • Vacationing
  • Communing with nature
  • Sports
  • Hobbies

For many parents, just reading through this list gives them anxiety. It feels like if we were to stop the daily grind to try to do any of these “unproductive” things, everything would come off the rails.

Or maybe you do the things on that list with your kids and you call that leisure even when it feels like more of a hassle than anything relaxing.

It’s also possible that you’re doing some version of the above items, but they’re sporadic and inconsistent so you’re not really getting the true benefit of them. The study found that, “There seems to be value in aggregating leisure activities together as opposed to studying any one specific activity.” 

They also say, “Enjoyable leisure activities, taken in the aggregate, are associated with psychosocial and physical measures relevant for health and well-being.”

In other words, just having one go-to activity for “you-time” (like working out) isn’t ideal. Instead, parents need to develop a lifestyle that naturally involves a variety of opportunities, on a regular basis, where the primary purpose is to simply enjoy themselves and unwind.

It sounds selfish to think about. It sounds irresponsible. But there’s a way to create enough margin in your calendar to enjoy yourself without neglecting your family. Lean on family and friends – the ones who offer to keep your kids but you never take them up on it. There are also all sorts of local networks within churches, schools, and community organizations with resources to help busy parents find time to get away.

There are also usually paid options that offer short-term child care (just search for “short term child care near me” in Google).

The point is: make time for yourself.

At the very least, make time to get away with just you and one of your kids (if you have multiple). One-on-one time with a kid can be relaxing, but adding much more than that takes you into responsible watch-out-for-everyone-else mode and you’re no longer letting loose.

Listen, taking time for yourself is not just good for you, it’s good for your family. Your kids need you to be fully present and fully yourself when you’re with them. You can’t do that when you live in a perpetual state of burnout.

So please, get a hobby. Go camping. Go fishing. Do the thing you’ve been putting off. You’ll be glad you did and your kids will be better off for it.

Posted by Mike P. Taylor

Mike Taylor is a proud husband, father of 4, and author from Nashville, TN who communicates God's love in a way that makes sense.