Two-thirds of working parents reported feeling too emotionally or physically drained when they got home from work to contribute to their family. 2019 National Survey of Working Families - Parents at Work, Advancing Parental Leave Equality Network
How is it that our lives have become so full that, when we get home at the end of the day, there is nothing left? The fuel that has kept us going all day has run out, having been used ‘performing’ at work, giving them our ‘best’ and our ‘all’, so perhaps it really feels like all that is left to take home is the dregs! It is time to ask:
Where is the space for parenting our teenagers?
Let's take a step back and look at how our relationship with parenting has changed over the years. Where once we might have considered parenting to be physically demanding, now it can seem there is a sense that we have to be constantly on our toes just to stay afloat. It takes great presence to not be distracted so that when our children or teenager is talking to us, we’re not thinking about what our boss said during the day, or what we think we should have said back, presence to not be distracted by that 'ping' on our phone and wonder if it is the email that we have been waiting for.
If we see the quote as something we don't want to be saying about ourselves, then somehow, we need to work out a way to live in our day so we do not drain the energy tank before we get home, indeed, perhaps even find a way to be in our day that doesn’t actually drain the tank at all. Instead we have fuel for ourselves, our day and fuel for the family when we get home from work.
Rather than collapse into bed exhausted at the end of the day, perhaps one of our goals should be to go to sleep at the end of a day feeling like the day is completed, almost as if we are not tired but choosing to go to bed to refuel the tanks ready for the next day. Do we need to review our day in light of this and look at all the areas we are draining our fuel to a point we are running on reserve or even empty?
The way to create space for parenting in the evening, is by creating space in the day and not compartmentalising one from the other.
So, what might be draining us?
Trying to be good, perhaps even perfect at work
Looking for validation, approval and recognition from our managers or colleagues
Fitting in, wanting to be liked and accepted by our managers or colleagues
Not listening to our body when it needs a break, a rest or some sustenance.
What drains us is going to look, sound and feel very different for everyone but, more often than not, there is an element of one of those areas draining our precious fuel in our day. As a small but relevant aside, it looks very similar to the challenges our children and teenagers experience at school, so perhaps there is a very important reason we should address 'what' so we can consider the 'why'. Are we able to show our teenagers the way forward in life through role modelling another way to work and to live? Perhaps one that does not strive for approval, recognition, identification and outcomes at the expense of our health and perhaps integrity? What is clear is we cannot role model anything we are not living ourselves and we cannot live anything we have not considered, questioned or connected to. Let’s face it, we may never have considered we are conforming in our lives at all, let alone looking for identification and recognition so we wouldn't be able to role model anything different. If you are willing to consider why you are exhausted and not feeling like you have any resources to contribute to the home or parenting at the end of the day then let’s consider a stock take of two key things:
How we spend our energy in the day. How much is coming from a need to fit in, or from a genuine need in our job?
Where we source our energy from. Where is the supply for the energy we are using coming from and where and how often do we refuel?