Of all the parenting strategies that I have read about, tried, thrown out and fretted over, there is one that I have devised as my own that has stayed prominent in my life.
I call it, The Airline Philosophy.
Simply put, you know how if you are traveling on an airplane, the flight attendant gives you the little speech about flotation devices and seatbelts etc? Well, there is one thing they always emphasize, and that is that if the oxygen masks should deploy you should take care of yourself before you take care of small children and those needing assistance. The reason being, that if you put the mask on the baby first, but you collapse halfway through doing so, you are both in trouble. If you take care of you, then you can take care of someone else.
If you, as the mother are hungry, tired, or plain old grouchy, you are not able to take care of your children to the best of your ability, because your needs are not being met. As women, I think we tend to play the martyr, and put others first. It is that exact kindness and compassion that drains us of our abilities to parent successfully.
You do not need to eat the burnt toast (Which is a book by Teri Hatcher that discusses this exact thing), make yourself a new piece!! You do not need to skimp on your sleep to cook and clean, and you do not need to skip a shower. You need those things to feel like a human being, and therefore to parent your children.
In my opinion, and experience you need 10-30 minutes to yourself per day. Let me repeat. TO YOURSELF. Not cleaning, or cooking, or reading stories to your children, but doing whatever it is that makes you happy. If cleaning and cooking make you happy, great. Still find something else for your personal time.
For me, it is usually yoga. If I can't make that work, it might be Oprah on the DVR, an extra long shower, 10 pages of a book, reading blogs I like, or maybe fooling around on my computer. I carve it out, stick to it, and it works. It shows your children that you take care of yourself as well as them. That you are valuable, too.
Let's be honest, does it happen EVERY DAY? No. But if I miss one, I can tell. The days that I don't do it, I am grouchier, more tired, more short tempered, and overall a crummier parent to my children. So I embrace the blue-suited flight attendant words of wisdom and encourage you to do the same.