Refilling Your Cup


Finding Answers When You Can’t Find Time to Balance
by Rebecca Lemar

Ani woke up at 4:30am. I ran to her room so she wouldn’t wake up her older brother. It was annoying to be awake so early night after night, rocking, but not really reaching her. I ended up taking her to my bed and laying her on top of my body. Her legs curled around me. Her skin is so soft. It takes awhile, but she falls asleep.
I’m a good parent.
No, correction, I am a great parent if I can reset myself. There is a huge output of energy in raising children, spent on night drama, repeating myself, cleaning up spills and poop, hiding frustration, folding endless amounts of laundry and doing dishes. Instead of fun and inspired mom I fall to “truckin’ on” mom and forgo balance. There is a sense that I should know all the parenting answers but, during temper tantrums in the store, or when crabby pants doesn’t like the blue spoon, or during the yowls of sleep training, I get a firehose dose of my unknowing. It makes me think: “if I had more money, I could buy TIME.” And with time I could recalibrate, decompress and refill my cup in order to be a great parent again, but we never have more money and we never have enough time. So how does one find balance when money and time aren’t available?
One of my favorite lessons from motherhood has been finding energy when I should be depleted. I went back to work full time as a teacher when my firstborn was two months old. With twenty-eight children in my classroom, a lot was expected of me. My little baby deserved my time and attention too and so I burned the candle at both ends to fend off guilt. He didn’t sleep through the night until he was fifteen months old and I was always surprised by 6am that I found any energy to open an eyelid let alone manage a classroom and give everything I had to my family, but somehow I did.
What we give is really important. Children need brain stimulation and experience to make sense of the world. They also need love, attention, affection, and endless amounts of patience. Regardless of my own energy level, spent or fresh, my children need opportunities to be independent, like letting them help with the laundry and make the bed even when I just want it DONE. Parenting is an exceptionally important time of our lives when our children are forming who they are and who they are going to be. Our giving is fuel for a better tomorrow, but we also need to refuel, refill our own cups.

Sleep refills me. Massages, yoga, running, walking out of the house alone once in a while. The key to finding balance is to consciously acknowledge that which refills, and then make room for it in your life. You can start by making a list, because during this wild adventure called parenting, our resets and refills need to come automatically, like a habit, just to keep up with all that young energy. Celebrate the small victories and let them refill you: A conversation with your best friend, a walk in the woods, a clean house.
I have tried a new tactic in my classroom lately, perhaps looking for a quick and steady refill at school. I have started smiling more. Smiling while I hold the door for the children to go outside, smiling when I’m tired, smiling when I redirect them to a better choice. What have I learned from this? They smile back. A lot. And they say thank you more. And it feels authentic to me and to them, and kind of fearless. It refills me.
I’ve also learned that to teach joy, cheer, manners and kindness to children is the fun part of raising children. Parents have the power to change the world, and changing the world is another kind of filling the cup with lasting impact.
I’ve come to understand as I battle stress, guilt and exhaustion, the answer is not more time, the answer is not more money. Breathe deep and smile, I tell myself, You can handle this. I acknowledge that which fills me and I let it replenish the mother inside. The trick is discovering what it is for the authentic you.

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  1. Funny, as we have just gotten the girls off to bed and guests arriving at my house at noon tomorrow, I sit here in my laundry room with with heaps of laundry, a house to clean and a cake to bake and wonder, How am I going to even start. So I started this article, yet still procrasting, and find a beautiful message. Opened it up and began to read…my life, my feelings and encouraged that a woman who I look up too, has a full time job with younger children than I, writing blogs in her spare time, lives a closely related life like mine. I am relieved and regenerated. For some reason to feel the same in motherhood is beautiful, fulfilling and together even though apart. I will take your smile through your words and smile back at you! I am now going to face my laundry room and long night ahead with a coffee in hand and a smile on my face and see how it goes. Thank you for sharing your life. Timing was perfect for me!

    With a smile I will start

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