When my kids were preschoolers I would stay with them for a few minutes at bed-time, lying on their bed to help them settle. Many of those times I was so tired myself I would start to fall asleep. Most of the time they fell asleep pretty easily and I looked forward to when I would have my evening free to myself. Sounds selfish to me now as I write this, but it’s true. And selfish is not such a bad thing if it means taking care of yourself.


Selfish or selfless which is better? Well it all depends on how you define the two words I guess. Typically the word selfish, has negative connotations. The image of a greedy self absorbed could-care-less-for-anyone-else-but-themselves-ogre comes to mind. On the other hand, when I think of selfless the image of a Mother Teresa figure comes to mind, always doing for others and putting others first.


But as I begin to think about the two words more, some different thoughts come to mind:


  • Is making sure that you take time for yourself, serve you alone or does it allow you to rejuvenate your energy and peace of mind so that you can be more present with your children?
  • In thinking about your own needs you set an example for your children that they need to listen to their needs first. This doesn’t mean that they don’t think of others. Rather, before helping others, they make sure that they are in a position to do so otherwise, they will deplete themselves and be of no help. This way they don’t feel resentment towards others because they sacrificed their self dignity.
  • In taking care of yourself in balance with taking care of your children you let them know that they are important but everyone has needs. You teach them to value themselves and make choices that feel right to them.


We can meet our own needs in harmony with our children’s needs. When I start to notice that I am resenting having to give something up for my children that is a sign that I am not coming from an authentic place of wanting to be there for them. It doesn’t mean I don’t want to be there for them, but rather signifies that I am not taking care of myself.


Self sacrifice has it’s price. You may think that you are doing your children a favour when you sacrifice your own needs, however, if you are feeling resentment chances are your children are feeling that too, and nobody wins if that is the case.


So how can you balance both needs? What it comes down to is a shift in perspective. If you are choosing to do something with your children and it means putting your needs on hold this is fine, as long as your needs don’t get lost in the mix. Team tag with your partner or other support to make sure your needs have time to be met. That way it’s scheduled in and when you are with your children, you are with your children, and your mind is not wandering off to thoughts about how you never have time for yourself.


Now that my children are older, their need for me to be present is still there. It hasn’t magically gone away, and I am glad. I am an imortant part of their life as they are an important part of mine. At 8 years of age (just 2 more weeks) and 11 1/2 years old they still want me to read story to them at night, and I am happy to to so. I look forward to it.


My 8 yearold still wants me to stay with him at bedtime after story for a few minutes. There was a point where I was fighting it, trying to change it, and he pushed for more time. Then I let go, and allowed myself to enjoy sitting in silence with him, being present with him. I realized that it was one of his ways of connecting with me at the end of a long day, and rather than feel resentment because I was eager to have my evening time, I began to feel appreciated as a parent.


That’s the shift. It doesn’t mean that I use up all my “adult time” staying with him at night, it’s limited to about 5 minutes after lights out. What it does mean is that I am respecting his needs, and not getting into the mind set that he should be able to settle on his own. It means that I am choosing to take a more caring persepctive, seeing his need as appreciating time with me as a parent rather than a need to take from me. And it means that I continue to take time for myself to keep the balance in our relationship.



Are you finding it hard to do the balancing act of self-care while meeting your children’s needs? Do you find it hard to take time for yourself? Do you secretly resent the amount of your time that your children seem to “take” from you? The Parent Inspiration Toolkit has many tools to help you with the balancing act of parenting. And now you can purchase the kit as a whole bundle or pick and choose from the Parent Inspiration Workbook , The Little Book of Self-Care and 4 different relaxing and rejuevinating meditations each with its own original music.  NEW: We now have samples of the meditations available for you to listen to. 


18 Responses to “The Balancing Act”

  • Petrea, parenting is most definitely a balancing act! Now that my children are out of the house, I miss those quiet times at night before they went to sleep. Learning to appreciate those moments is important work.

  • I can totally relate to the balancing act between our own needs and the needs of our children. Like you, I have learned over the years how important it is to take care of my own needs to prevent those resentments, as well! Love your tips. Thanks!

  • Petrea, this is beautiful. I especially love when you said this: Then I let go, and allowed myself to enjoy sitting in silence with him, being present with him. I could see you there doing this and how sacred this is for you and him..to just sit and be present. They are so blessed to have you as their mother.

    • Thank-you Stephanie. These moments really are beautiful and I treasure them. Like most parents I still have my moments when there is resistance to let go- because I am in my head too much- but fortunately this doesn’t last and I can enjoy being present with my boys.

  • Great post Petrea, it is so important to take care of yourself as a parent and I think more mums need to really understand this. We have always had ‘quiet time’ for an hour or so in the afternoon which was put in place after my kids stopped taking afternoon naps. They have been taught that this is the time when mum (and dad) need a little downtime during the day to read, draw etc. in order to be fully present for them at other times. xx

    • Lovely Jo! It’s so important to teach this to our children as they are growing and understanding the world and relationships. I think your routine is really going to go a long way in teaching your children empathy as well.

  • so funny Petrea because I could completely related to this post. My kids are 8 and 11. I struggled so much around bedtime, wanting my time but also wanting to be with them as they fell asleep. I know have the same situation, happy to read to them but then wanting “my time” when they want a few more minutes with me after. When I can drop the idea that there is a difference between “my time” and “being with them time” it helps to shift it dramatically. And I agree with you completely – taking care of ourselves, putting our needs first, is not only not selfish, it’s what gives us the space, time and energy to totally give to them.

    • Great ages 8 & 11 LOL! Sometimes I feel so pulled by their needs and mine but yes like you said Daphne there is a shift when we acknowledge our needs in a respectful way.

  • Great post, Petrea!

    I’m slowly getting more and more “me time” as my children are growing older (they are 3 and 6 years old) and I love it! I agree with you that everything we do are things they learn from us. If I show my kids that my needs are unimportant or if I pretend that I don’t have needs that is what they learn too. I am so grateful to my children for allowing me to learn how to take care of my needs too. They are such excellent mirrors of our behaviour! I used to take care of others before taking care of myself but I had to change this in order to survive ; ).

    I still love lying down next to my daughter until she falls asleep. I have realised that this is only for a short time so now I savour every moment of it. It’s hard to do that sometimes when they are babies though…

    Thank you!

    Love, Karina

    • So true Karina before you know it you’ll be wondering what happened to the time when …. But you’ll have such fond memories. I do believe that once we are able to take the time for ourselves then it is easier to relax into these moments and “savour” them as you said.

  • I think this all comes down to something I wrote about recently — that we are not our relationships and that includes “mother.” We are, firstly, autonomous human beings sent here with a purpose that is deeper and greater than any of the roles we play in our lives. I explain it much better in the post (http://www.girlonfiredance.com/2012/01/your-relationships-are-not-your.html) — a post for which I received a request from a therapist to print it out and share with her patients. Which was cool. 🙂

    When we inhabit our primary identity in this life, we only get better at all the roles we play for other people.

    • Yes I agree we are not our relationships but we learn so much about ourselves and our needs through the trials, tribulations and celebrations of our relationships, especially with children. I can only guide my children, they choose what to learn, and I in turn learn so much from them.

  • Our solution to this problem is to create “sacred downtime” for my sister, who works all day and needs those 15 minutes to be herself before she meets her kids’ needs (they are 11 and 7.) My solution to get me the time I need both personally and professionally was to put my toddler in a home day care four days a week so I could get work done and so I could be present with him in the time we do have together. <3

    • “Sacred downtime” -how beautiful! Yes I think that it is so important to add these routines-whether it be daycare or downtime – so that both parents and children can truly enjoy their time together. It’s not about the amount of time but rather the quality of that time.

  • I love that you’re able to draw the line between caring for yourself and being self-centered. It’s so hard to do, and we wind up beating ourselves up in guilt or shame because we crave some alone time. That’s so okay! When we aren’t selfish enough – don’t make sure we have time for ourselves – the relationships we have with everyone else tend to suffer. I’m glad you could find the need for balance before your scales toppled over.

  • […] more ways than one, really it’s true.  I have written elsewhere about how important self-care is when you are a parent because children do as they see, not as they are told.  The way we treat ourselves can set the […]

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