So, today I'm beaming. Someone has nominated The Inklings of Life for the eCollegeFinder Top Parenting Blog award. This honor actually comes at an amazing time in my life, because I've been thinking of going back to college in the spring to pursue a paralegal degree. Funny how life works sometimes.
In my acceptance email, they asked me for a few words of advice for their student parents. Considering I've been giving thought myself to returning to school, this question had an easy answer...
Find your happy place.
This advice is true to anyone, no matter if they are a parent, a student, a student parent, Santa Claus, the squirrel outside my patio doors, but it's especially true to anyone trying to juggle different things in their life, the way we parents have to do. Being a parent is hard enough. There is always someone counting on you for something, and that's not just until they are 18 and we can take the duct tape off of their wings and let them fly away if they want to (with a huge leash attached to their feet, of course). That's for the rest of your life. From the moment that child is birthed, you are 'mommy' or 'daddy' forever. Eternity.
My eyes just bulged out of my head for a minute.
From day one (and more for us women-folk who had to carry the child for 9 months prior to squeezing a watermelon out of a baseball sized hole or being sliced open from hip to hip) you become a mentor, food provider, cuddler, taxi service, referee (if there are multiple little ones), doctor, teacher, psychologist, maid, chef, and the list goes on. That's enough to make anyone go crazy, but then a select few of us decide to better ourselves and our family by returning to school and adding 'student' to that ever growing list of labels we have as a parent.
So now, we're not only googling our 4th grader's math homework (don't tell me you've never done it), but our own homework, to have that paper written and submitted via email by midnight...
Why do we do this? Because of the love we have for ourselves and our family, how we want to give our children the best future they can have, and how we want to be a positive role model for them, to show them anything is possible.
Or we're just masochists.
So, with all of the roles we already play, we decide to add another one. Finding your happy place has now become a necessity to help balance all of the demands of student parenthood.
Now, by 'happy place', I don't necessarily mean locking yourself in the bathroom with a slice of cheesecake and a glass of wine.
Okay, maybe I do just a little bit.
But, more than that, I mean to find the everyday things that bring a smile to your face, that calm your mind and ease the stress, even if just for 10 minutes. Listen to your kids laughter, cuddle on the couch with a movie, take the kids to a park, or just take a nap while the kids amuse themselves with Webkins (not that I've ever done that... no, not me...). These are the things that not only will make each day go by a little faster, helping you one step closer to your ultimate goal, but will bring peace and joy to your mind and your family.
And we all know if mommy isn't happy, no one is happy.
My smiles come when I hear my 7 year old sound out a big word while he's reading, or when my 9 year old does this funky dance in the middle of the living room; when redbox actually has the movie we've been wanting to see for weeks; when I make an amazing dinner of parmesan coated Italian pork chops so the kids eat more than chicken nuggets and french fries; when I go bargain hunting for kids' clothes and come back with 4 outfits for each of them and only spent $100; when my kids come up to me randomly, while I'm cooking dinner at night or packing their lunches in the mornings, wrap their arms around me and say 'I love you, Mom'... those moments have me higher than any drug could possibly achieve, and let me know that I must be doing something right, even if for that moment.
These are the things I think about when the thought crosses my mind of re-entering school and getting my paralegal degree, of adding the label of 'student' to my long, existing list. And, these are the same things that cross my mind when I have a bad day at work, or wonder if my life choices of the last few years have completely screwed my kids up and I'll be bailing them out of jail in a few years, or when I finally put them to bed at night and have those few moments of 'mommy time' before I inevitably pass out on the couch watching TV.
So, my advice is to not look 3 years down the road when you are due to graduate, look at right now. Take each day as it comes, smile when you can, enjoy the little things in life. They are what's worth living for, and make the road less traveled much more bearable.
And keep cheesecake and wine in the fridge, just in case.