Remember all the things you used to love to do before you had kids? No? Neither do most parents! Once kids come into your life, it's easy to bury your desires under theirs—and fall prey to the dreaded mom-guilt over taking some "me time" for yourself. But our passions are what make us come alive, both as people and as parents, so it's critical that we continue to pursue them.
And here's the thing: Don't think of it as "indulging" a passion—because that's a term that's loaded with selfish connotations (and who needs that?). Instead, think of it as lighting a spark inside yourself, the glow from which will also fall on your family. Ignoring your passion can make you feel dull, even depressed. When you go to bed at night feeling like you haven't accomplished anything—though you did a million chores and perhaps also paying work—it may well be because you didn't spend any time honoring what excites you.
Need help figuring out which hobbies or activities might give you that buzz? Consider these tips and techniques:
1. Think about what you loved to do as a kid. Got it? Now, pursue the adult version. Did sledding down a steep hill thrill you? Try another activity known for speed and thrills—downhill skiing or snowboarding, for example—that will bring back that feeling. Loved climbing trees? Join an indoor rock climbing gym. Did you enjoy amassing coins or beads? Think about what you might collect now (and how fun hunting for your treasures could be!).
2. Think about what you genuinely love to do when you're with your kids. Not the things you trudge through because they get thrills. (I shot up more model rockets than I care to admit, but the only pleasure I got from that was watching my son beam.) I'm talking about the things you get a charge from. I realized when my kids were very young that I liked doing their little puzzles with them, so I started buying the 500 and 1000-piece versions to do myself (with a cup of tea and some jazz music in the background) after they went to bed.
3. Get in touch with your 'inner' you. I'm a firm believer that all of life's answers are inside us, but that we're too busy running around most days to listen to the subtle voice that tells us what we need to do. Spend 10 minutes each morning sitting quietly alone, focusing on your slow, deep breath. Then, while in the state of heightened awareness that naturally follows, ask yourself what you'd love to do.
4. Think about where you'd like to go with your family—even if your kids object. Parents tend to think about locales their kids want to head to (the bowling alley, an amusement park). But if you didn't have children, where would you spend a Saturday afternoon or evening? Occasionally take your child there, even if he thinks he doesn't want to go. Each year on my birthday weekend, I always insist that we all spend the day at Everglades National Park, a few hours from my home. The kids always complain in advance about the drive, but because it's my special day, I pull rank. And once they get there, they always enjoy the birds and alligators and wide-open spaces.
5. Envision a creation you'd like to "birth" (besides another kid!). Bringing something artistic into the world—whether it's music, painting, photography, writing, cooking, dance—is a particular kind of passion. While all passions make us feel good, creating generates a special sense of fulfillment. When you think about what project you'd work on "if you had the time," what comes to mind? Do at least a junior version of that right now. Sign up for a one-time pottery class, or start keeping a journal. Don't let yourself censor or judge your talents; the idea is to feel good while you're doing it—to give yourself a full and happy life beyond the joys you get from your wonderful child.
Meryl Davids Landau is the author of the new book Enlightened Parenting: A Mom Reflects on Living Spiritually With Kids.