Gifts for Dad ➔

Oh, family time. It’s an important part of my life. I love my children and want to give them as many experiences as possible, which is difficult as a mental health therapist because I’m usually at home or another job (or doing paperwork) while they are at school and seeing clients after school. And, as most parents know, nights are just a mad rush to get them fed, bathed, read to and to bed.

I preach “take care of yourself” and “find time for yourself” to my clients. “If you don’t take care of yourself, who will take care of the ones you love when Life finds a way to make you relax?” I ask them. However, if there’s one thing I’ve come to recognize, it’s the people who have the personality of nurturers and caretakers (not necessarily the position of employment) who fail to follow their own advice.

Ask any therapist, doctor, nurse…or mom or dad…when they have time to take care of themselves. They’ll have an answer ready, guaranteed. Me? I snuggle and nap with my baby. I exercise in the morning. I spend time with my family. Ready-to-go answers.

But there’s always more to it that goes unsaid. I stress, and, yes, I yell. I’m a perfectionist and it’s difficult for me to let my children explore or do things on their own. I gave thanks when my 5-year-old learned to tie her shoes within days (literally) but I pull my hair out because she still messes around when it’s time to put on her shoes (is it just me, or can she follow directions at school without a problem?). I schedule difficult hours and don’t allow extra time, which means I’m late a lot.

I learn so much from my clients, so many words of wisdom they don’t know they are giving to me. “Hold your children close. No matter how angry or frustrated you are with them, no matter if they say they hate you, they are still alive,” says one client who lost a child.

“I try to look for the positive in everything. Sometimes it is hard because so many negative things seem to happen to us but then something truly, amazingly wonderful happens,” says another client who is struggling to provide for her family amidst multiple hardships. “I just like being silly,” says a child.

 Words of wisdom, imparted during times of struggle and hardship. Our lives are a matter of perspective. Each of us has it better than some and not so comfortable as others. Comparing your life to someone else’s is just asking for trouble because you can’t possibly know the experiences of that other person, the obstacles he/she had to overcome, the “lucky” turns life handed to them or the ones they earned. There’s always those secrets behind our smiles, the determination within the hardships, the tears in pillows, the competitiveness in sportsmanship.

Nurturers do their best and give of themselves. They try to make life better for others, sometimes at cost to themselves, but they also don’t keep a tally of those costs. It HURTS them to see others hurting and struggling, and to heal their hurt, they try to help others heal theirs.

The Easter season is a time many people celebrate as a time to rejoice. Remember, though, there was also a sacrifice that preceded the joy.

I challenge you to do two things:

1) Take care of yourself. Find time to rejoice and to do something you enjoy.

2) Think of a nurturer in your life, someone who has helped you without expecting anything in return, and make your own sacrifice to give back. Reach out to him/her.

“Be kind to everyone; you do not know the hardships they are fighting.”

I know this quote has been accredited to many famous philosophers and people in history. However, for me, it’s simply a reminder of a dearly departed friend and teacher. He lived by this saying and passed it on to us in class through his words and actions. 

Just think: What kind of a world it be if we were all simply kind to one another, if we simply reached out?

Jessica McCaslin

Jessica is a mom who is working outside the home part-time and who is learning to cope with the ever-changing daily challenges of full-time parenthood. She graduated with her Master's degree in community counseling from the University of Nebraska at Kearney in 2005, and works with a diverse mental health population. Jessica resides in Central Nebraska with her husband and four children on the family ranch.

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