Here is September's installment of "Ask Shelby" from Chester County's own Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, Shelby Riley.
I am a stay-at-home mom and now that my kids are back in school, I feel bored and unsatisfied. I don’t want to end up wandering the aisles of Target to keep myself busy. I don’t want to work full-time…I really treasure my time at home and with the kids. I just need help feeling useful.
Signed, Summer Lovin’
Dear Summer Lovin’,
Being home with your children and taking care of your home are wonderful, worthwhile endeavors. I see a lot of parents who feel somewhat unfulfilled and disconnected from their own interests and passions. Here’s what I would recommend:
- Create a schedule for your week. Block out time that is child-focused (after-school, sports, family outings) and time that is home-focused (grocery shopping, laundry, etc.) Now create a few blocks of time for exercise (walking, yoga, a martial arts or dance class, whatever you find fun and gets your blood moving a bit). Next, one or two social outings, with or without the kids, it’s important to connect and share time with friends and family. Next, one tiny, one small, and one medium block of time for self-care. And finally three blocks of any size marked “personal growth.”
- Now, time to make a list of self-care activities so you have some choices during the week. Make three sections: tiny (5-10 minutes), small (30 minutes-1 hour) and medium (2-4 hours). Now come up with five things for each section. Examples: Tiny-5 minutes of meditation, short walk around the block, hot shower with favorite/fancy body wash. Short- reading a book or magazine for pleasure, manicure/pedicure, photographing the changing leaves in your neighborhood. Medium- going to a movie in the middle of the day, taking your bike to Valley Forge park, walking through Longwood Gardens.
- Lastly, make a list of personal growth activities. Again, divide your paper into sections: intellectual, spiritual, physical, and creative. Come up with a few ideas for each category that will stretch you, stimulate your curiosity, and help you explore your interests. Examples: Intellectual- read a book on a certain topic, watch TED videos online, learn a new language. Spiritual- attend a new/different religious service, volunteer to serve in your community, spend 30 minutes looking for the divine in everyday life. Physical- sign up for a 5K, work with a personal trainer, take a dance class. Creative- break out the paints and get to work, write poetry, take voice lessons. You get the idea.
This schedule with purposeful activities will help you to re-connect with your interests and passions. You may find something that turns into a part-time career, or something where you can volunteer your time and feel inspired and valued. Or, you may find there are a few meaningful activities that help you to express other parts of yourself while your family and home aren’t in need of your immediate attention.
Good luck—and most of all—have fun!
Shelby Riley, LMFT is the owner of Shelby Riley, LMFT and Associates, LLC. She is currently the President of the Pennsylvania Association of Marriage and Family Therapy (PAMFT). Remember to check out Shelby's website www.shelbyrileymft.com for useful information about therapy for individuals, couples, and families.