How I Learned to Not Be Guilty for Taking Moments for Myself

It's natural. And healthy.

by Keith McEly

The other day, when dropping my daughter off at daycare, I felt like a terrible parent.

My wife had been working a crazy schedule on set the past three weeks, and after a long three-day weekend of her working, I felt like I hadn’t had a second to myself to think. Everything was parenting- and errand-related, and I wasn’t doing a great job at the end of the weekend because, frankly, I was just exhausted. So, I was delighted to drop my daughter off at daycare that morning and have that couple minute drive to work from her daycare in silence. But I felt guilty about it.

Parenting is a paradox: You’re told to take everything one day at a time, but sometimes if that’s all you see, it’s hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Things come in waves and you have to find the right balance of time on and time off. Time engaged and time disengaged. If there’s anything that parenting has taught me, it’s to try to go with the flow more. But I’ve certainly felt guilty at times for not putting 100 percent into parenting every moment.

I consider myself a great and loving parent. But some days when I’m exhausted, it’s just hard to maintain my calm and loving demeanor. One thing no one really tells you about being an adult is just how exhausting it can be. How, as you get older, sleep is probably your most vital resource. And maybe silence and time to think outside of that. These things are harder and harder to come by, and to a great extent, you need to make an effort to make them happen. Creative endeavors are no longer dictated by when the muse hits, rather you have to carve things out in the few minutes you get here and there. If nothing else, it makes you much more efficient.

And you learn to balance all of this with being a loving parent. You can throw yourself into other pursuits, but there is always that anchor to come back to, the necessary things that need to get done daily and weekly to ensure a responsible and productive being for everyone in the family. The chores become a mantra of sorts.

When I was younger, I hated this cycle. I liked things that had a set beginning and set end, and I found frustration in the cyclical nature of dishes, of laundry, of work in general. I liked a creative process where you began something, worked on it, then it was finished and you sent it out into the world. But I failed to realize once you finish something, the next day you start something new and the process begins again. All of life is cyclical. Not many things are wholly linear.

I’ve realized in recent years that if you’re in a good and happy place, repeating that same happy day over and over is about the best you can wish for. Sometimes, a monkey wrench gets thrown into that equation. But you do your best to adjust and reset at different times. Failure on a single day is not failure long-term.

So, I realized the other day after dropping her off, I don’t need to feel guilty about those moments I take. After all, it’s a marathon, not a sprint. I’m in this for the long haul. That’s the mantra I repeat, and that’s the solace I take in repeating the same day over and over sometimes.

This story was republished from Medium. You can read Keith Ely’s original post here.