by Chris Jones

When I’m ready to get into my car and go, there are fewer things more frustrating than seeing my dashboard warning lights still lit after the car has started.

“I feel like I’m always fixing this thing!” I groan, rolling my eyes as I let out a long sigh. Woosah! Serenity now!

You know like I do that cars play an important role in our daily lives. This means keeping up regular maintenance, or they will no longer work or will perform poorly and break down at the most inopportune time. (Ever have your engine blow on I-95? I have.)

Staying in good mental health as a parent is similar. We don’t have warning lights, but we know the warning signs when we’re feeling off. One day we’re getting everything done effectively and the next we’re under the covers with the blinds drawn. That’s how burnout works. That’s the parental check engine light.

I ignored my warning lights from February until June. I need to power through today and then I can rest tonight. Tomorrow will be better, I’d lie. Who was I fooling? I was struggling to get the kids out of the door some days. I dreaded making meals. And heaven help the child who got out of bed for a glass of water five minutes past their bedtime. I was fried. It wasn’t until my wife suggested that I go to counseling to talk to someone about how I’ve been feeling about the role changes (she’s working outside the home on a shift schedule, while I run my business from home).

I’ve started biweekly therapy in June, and it proved to be a great decision from the first session. My therapist has been instrumental in helping me balance my work schedule; stick to using block scheduling for maintaining separation between work, family and personal time; navigate a particularly difficult external relationship; and keep realistic expectations for myself (I’m an ENFP, so if you are too, you know the struggle!). Best of all, she has helped me to become better at saying “No” to things in favor of scheduling time for myself.

I share this with you because in this issue, we’re talking about children’s mental health, suicide warning signs, and child advocacy. It’s hard to be there for our children in moments of need when we too have needs. I want to encourage you to have a professional look at your own check engine light. Our spouses and kids know when we’re not at our best in the same way we know when they are struggling. We owe it to ourselves and to our families to ensure that our mental health is a priority. As the old saying goes: you can’t pour from an empty cup.