If I had the chance to parent all over again

Empty blue playground seat swing and metal chain with pretty sunset in the background


By Melissa T. Shultz

If I could do it all again—raise a family—I would in an instant. But I’d do it a little differently, because hindsight, it turns out, really is 20/20. I realized this not long after my kids left, when I had the chance to focus on myself, to reflect upon the ways parenting had changed me and the things I learned. I think you can only really accomplish this properly when you’ve achieved some distance from the role.

I’d raise my family differently, not because of the mistakes I made—though I certainly made my share—but because time means so much more to me now. I understand it better and its importance…and the way parents use it, lose track of it, and wish it away or wish for more. It’s all about the time we spend together as a family, the time parents spend making decisions and avoiding decisions; doing the right thing and the wrong thing; and consoling, teaching, reading, talking, dancing, playing, working, dreaming, laughing. It all comes down to time.

If I had the time to do it all again, I’d:

1. Give myself permission to not be on call 24/7. By permission, I don’t mean disappearing without a trace or for long, drawn-out periods. But I do mean handing over the reins of parenting more often so I keep in touch with who I am in addition to being a parent.

2. Enjoy a regular date night with my husband at least twice a month. Away from home if possible, but if we can’t, at least pretend we are.

3. Let the laundry pile up. Because, let’s be honest, nobody is going to fire me.

4. Swing on the swings with the kids. Fun is more fun when your mother is having it too.

5. Make fewer to-do lists. They only beget more to-do lists, and though I might feel as if I’m accomplishing something, I’m only writing down what I already know.

6. Have more “backward days,” where dinner is for breakfast and breakfast is for dinner.

7. Sleep more, better, longer.

8. Worry less, better, shorter.

9. Take time for tea. The entire process of making and drinking it—slowly—is an art. Zen. Brilliant.

10. Be less grumpy about the state of my kids’ rooms. They’ll be empty far too soon.

11. Dance. Regardless of how dumb or goofy I look doing it. Knees don’t stay young forever.

12. Write down the bedtime stories I make up for my kids. And even better, the ones they make up for me. We don’t think so at the moment, but memory fades. The written word lives on.

13. Step out of my comfort zone more often. I’m a role model, after all, for making dreams come true.

14. Be less polite to people who are unpleasant. I’m not going to change them.

15. Drink more milk. Strong bones mean I can lift my kids and run with them—and one day, with their kids.

16. Knit. Somebody always needs a sweater, blanket, scarf, hat, mittens, or socks. Plus, it’s strangely soothing.

17. Travel more. Regardless of the obstacles. It’s an education in itself.

18. Repeat number 8.

Copyright©2016 by Melissa T. Shultz. Excerpted from “From Mom to Me Again: How I Survived My First Empty-Nest Year and Reinvented the Rest of My Life” by Melissa T. Shultz, published by Sourcebooks, Inc. Printed by permission.

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