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By James Prenatt

Each new year I set my goals. I reflect on the year past and how hard it was, how hopefully, this year will be better. I also listen to “Long December” by the Counting Crows on repeat, but we’ll get into that another time. Or better yet, never.

I’m a self-motivated person, which means I need personal goals to work towards. Without them I feel anxious and aimless. While I think this is a good quality, the downside is that it means I tend to be a perfectionist workaholic who dismisses any downtime as wasted time. After all, now that I’ve got another life to take care of, I should probably do nothing but work in order to support my family, right?

Wrong. While the importance of hard work as a parent can’t be overstated, I think part of being a parent is finding inner motivation, working towards goals for your own personal satisfaction and not just to put food on the table. In times like these I tend to look towards my father as an example.

I don’t remember my father for his work even though I know his job provided monetary support for seven children. I remember him for the things he did in his spare time, including carpentry, training for marathons, and most importantly, spending time with his wife and kids. He always found time to relax in some form.

I think part of the problem is that parents often feel that me-time is selfish. I would argue that finding time to yourself is just as important as finding time for your kids. I feel as though many parents who give everything up for their children tend to feel burdened and thus, transpose those feelings upon their kids, which isn’t fair. It’s never fun to feel like a burden.

I am lucky that I now have paid holidays and a good amount of time I’m allowed to take off. For instance, I had ten days off during Christmas and New Year’s, besides being called in for snow removal, which obviously frequently happens. I told my wife how anxious I was that I needed to get as much work done as possible over the break and she kept saying the same thing: “It’s okay to relax.” Four simple words that when you’re a workaholic are sometimes the most important you can hear and the least easy to follow.

It’s okay to relax. Say it again. Keep reminding yourself. Just because you’re a parent means you need to spend your day off cleaning the house instead of watching TV and playing videogames. Stress reducing is key to staying patient with kids. Of course, to most, having any kind of time to relax is a privilege and I’m certainly aware of that, but when given the opportunity, I attempt to take it, I attempt to reboot and do things just for fun. I’ve always been a business first kind of person, stuck in routine and highly strict with myself, often putting taxing things over small pleasures and looking back on it, that’s what one of my biggest regrets when it comes to youth. I wish I spent more time relaxing and most importantly, being kind to myself.

So not only is this year about setting higher goals, working even hard than I did last year, it’s about finding time to enjoy myself and thereby enjoying my time with my family. It’s been so hard for me to just shut the voices in my head that tell me I should be working off. Lately though, I’ve been making sure that certain hours are devoted only to family. This year, I hope I can find more of it.

James Prenatt lives in Baltimore, MD with his beloved wife and stepson, who tells lovely stories about bunnies and crabs. He writes fiction and poetry along with contributing to blogs such as Everything for Dads and Parent.co. He likes punk rock, good movies, and bad coffee.

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