Parenting – It’s the only job that you receive no training for and receive no monetary compensation for. You can’t quit, your hard work is rarely acknowledged, and instead of a Christmas Bonus you’re expected to spend extravagant amounts on your unruly boss/child. Add in divorce, financial hardship, maintaining a home, and the countless other stress factors that affect parents, and it’s down right amazing that we survive at all.

Parenting experts world-wide agree that as parents, our obligations are to:

* Provide a safe and interesting environment
* Have a positive learning environment
* Have realistic expectations
* Be consistent with rules and discipline

However, I believe that they have left the most important priority or obligation off the list entirely; it is to TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF!

If you allow yourself to become physically and mentally exhausted by juggling a career, a home, your marriage, your children, and a myriad of other relationships, then nobody, especially your children, truly benefit from your efforts.

Many parents rush home from work, picking up a take-out dinner en-route, shuffle the kids to dance lessons, music lessons, and sporting events, rush back home to finish homework, get the kids washed and off to bed. Then they collapse with exhaustion in front of the television. If at no point during that 24 hour day did we stop and take our own needs into consideration, then we are cheating our employers, our spouses, our children, and ourselves of our full potential.

It’s time for parents to admit that they are not superheroes and that they have needs which are just as important as everyone else’s. Women especially tend to put everyone else’s needs before their own; this is a habit or mindset that eventually will cause you hardship. If you are not emotionally available to your spouse and children, then those relationships will suffer. If you run yourself into the ground physically, mentally, or emotionally, then your relationships and your health will suffer.

Taking the time, even if it’s just a few minutes a day to start, to nourish your mind, body, and soul benefits everyone.

Below is a list of TEN small and quick ways to reclaim time for you:

1. Ask a parent who is also at weekly lessons or events if they would like to take turns driving the kids so that every other week you have time off. Even if they don’t want to do alternate weeks, they still might be willing to drive your child.

2. Be sure to take your breaks, even if you work at home. Employment regulations, which state your entitlement to breaks, were made for a good reason. Taking the time to have a snack, stretch your body, and redirect your thoughts will help you be more productive and reduce stress.

3. If you work outside the home, use your commute time to enjoy your favorite music, reflect on what really matters in your life, or just quiet your mind and truly observe the world around you. This mental down-time will refresh and energize you.

4. Wake up even 15 minutes earlier than normal and enjoy that time alone. The chances of being interrupted at this time are very slim so use the time to write in a journal, meditate, exercise, or just listen to the quiet.

5. When you do get time to yourself, USE IT! Although flopping onto the couch and reaching for the remote may sound relaxing, it does not nourish your mind, body or soul. Use your valuable time to take care of yourself by engaging in an activity that is going to benefit you such as exercise, creative pursuits, reading, or just having a hot bath to relax you mind and body. If you don’t actively use your time to benefit your mind, body, or spirit, you’ll be less likely to create time for yourself in the future.

6. Cut down on your T.V. time! Eliminating television all together would be perfection in my mind, but realistically the T.V. is a way to escape our own reality and to be entertained. Try just cutting out at least one half hour of programming though and you will have gained more time to nurture yourself.

7. Cook or prep meals ahead of time. If you’re making pasta for dinner, make double the sauce and freeze it for next week. On the weekend, try making extra meals to freeze such as chili, casseroles, roasts, etc… This will make dinners easier, quicker, and probably healthier than the 5 minute meals or take-out you normally eat on a Thursday night.

8. Cut your shopping time in half by making a list of items you need and by shopping during non-peak times. By shopping early in the morning on Saturday or Sunday, or waiting until later in the evening during the week, you can gain an extra half and hour to yourself.

9. Schedule time to be un-connected! Turn off your cell phone, leave the emails for later, and get off the computer. Between a phone call from a friend, emails, popping in to facebook, my space, twitter, or your blog, and then playing a quick 1 – 20 hands of Spider Solitaire, you can easily waste two to three hours a night! Make it a habit to disconnect from the modern world on a daily basis.

10. Delegate. Delegate. Delegate. Not just at work, but at home too! Enlisting the help of your spouse, older children, grandparents, and other family or friends can free up time for yourself. If you can afford to hire out housework or yard work, even on occasion, the rewards are two-fold because not only will you gain time for yourself, but you will have eliminated the chores instead of putting them off.

Now you are probably thinking one of two things! Either “I wouldn’t know what to do with that much free time” or “It all sounds a bit selfish to me”. But let’s not forget the reasons we want to reclaim this time for ourselves.

* By making or re-claiming time to nurture ourselves, we become happier, healthier, and more productive.

* When we care for ourselves, we are able to reduce stress and become more emotionally available to our loved ones.

* If we have time to ourselves to reflect on our lives and what really matters, we will be more likely to commit to spending quality time with our loved ones.

The bottom line is that when we put our needs on the top of our priority lists everyone benefits.

Author's Bio: 

Nancy Latimer is an avid student and writer on personal fulfillment. This mother of two who has endured everything from being widowed at 7 months pregnant in 1983 to being told she had lung cancer in 2008, is currently writing a book about the lessons hardship can teach us and finding joy when life becomes an uphill struggle. Her website at reallifemessages.comreflects her belief that everything happens for a reason and shares practical ways to cope during hard times.