A full tank of energy means that you have the potential for a long journey, and signals that anything is possible. You can get up early and make a healthy breakfast for your family, get lunches made, and still have time to read a book with your child before school. You have time and energy to accomplish all that you need to do—work, parenting, and family responsibilities included.
Yet, you have to be careful to pace yourself, so you do not run out of gas during the day. You may also have to “fill up” at regular intervals during the week, by doing something for yourself-exercising, socializing, self-care.
If you try parenting on an empty tank, things will breakdown fast. Your kids are more likely to have meltdowns, and so are you.
Some days I have a fabulous night’s sleep, life is good, and I have a full tank of energy. My capacity is near to 100%, and I happily fulfill my parenting duties, work responsibilities, and assorted errands. I even manage to “top up” my tank by going for a walk, reading my book, or grabbing a coffee with a friend.
This system usually works quite well. However, life is not always predictable. Some days go as planned, other days I find obstacles in my path. Sometimes my own mindset is the obstacle in my path.
I find that I often add to my task list, thinking “I can just do this one more thing before I head home”. Sometimes I lose track of time and forget to have an adequate nutrition break. Sometimes, on the priority list, I put the laundry before my walk. I have learned that these things are the equivalent of the warning light going on in my car.
The other day, I turned up to pick my son up from school. I had grown complacent, as his adjustment to school had gone seamlessly, and I expected it to be a day like all of the others, when we could both relax and recover from the day after school.
I had spent almost all of my energy, and planned to “fill up” after school. But this day was different. He needed me. And when I say he needed me, I mean not just to be physically present, but he needed me emotionally. He was stressed and tearful on the drive home from school. I had to dig deep to find that last bit of energy to help him out.
This is where mindful parenting came in. I pulled the car over, got out of the car, and sat beside him in the back seat. I put everything else out of my mind. It was as if time had slowed, because listening to my son was my only focus. I listened with my ears, mind, and heart. I hugged him, told him I loved him, and reassured him that things would get better.
The reality is that it didn’t really matter what I said to my son. It was the listening that helped. It was the fact that everything else in our lives was secondary to my being there for him in that very moment.
A surprising thing happened. Not only did my son feel better, but so did I. We fuelled up two emotional tanks at once.