Over the past few weeks, I’ve talked with several exhausted couples suffering with a terrible parenting perfectionism, and seeking relief for dissatisfaction and irritation in their relationships. All these folks were intelligent and warm, working hard, raising children, and in some cases developing as artists or going to school, among other things. They were all just in a stressful, though meaningful, time of life.

But the joy that could also be a part of it all wasn’t there (well not enough), the humor, the perspective. What could explain this? Well, time for the self and for renewal was almost completely missing.

I suggested several things: 1) whatever you budget for babysitting, double it this month; 2) whatever you do to take care of yourself, double that too 3) stretch out for some activities outside of your “comfort zone” (this requires some self-reflection) and 4) treat your self-neglect as an emergency that is negatively affecting your marriage and your parenting, because it is.

Many women I speak with initially feel that it’s too selfish to spend time by themselves for no special purpose but refreshment and fun, to have dates with their lover (date your husband!) or to spend time on self-reflection and self-care. The price of a babysitter includes a feeling of selfishness or depriving kids of something they need, guilt, and losing control. There really is still a half-understood, unconscious idea that women must not ever put themselves first. Instead we are meant to always care for others before ourselves.

The more you care for yourself and invest in your own renewal and refreshment; the better-able to be present with your family you will be.

What is the value of your marriage? Your own sanity? Your relationship with your children? It’s difficult to put a price on these things—and yet there is a price—it is the price of a good babysitter.

But as a therapist for couples, I have found that the evidence is irrefutable—if we put time into figuring out what really refreshes us, and commit to doing it, we fall in love again with our kids and our partners.

There are lovely, warm, child-psychology majors and responsible high school students saving for college just hoping for the chance to be adored by your kids and to take them to the park for a few hours.

Perfectionism is soul-crushing. So find a good babysitter and do something that refreshes your soul. It’s an emergency.

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