My brow furrowed with irritation as the “please refuel” ding sounded in my car. I was halfway to my destination, running behind because of some unexpected pit stops. This would most definitely make me late. While punctuality has never been one of my strengths, I bristled at the thought of yet another expectation I would not be meeting today.

Breathing deeply as I pulled into the service station, I got out to refuel. Yes, I probably could have made it, but I might have forgotten to fill up later and found myself stranded and out of gas. This is likely, as I’m easily distracted by a good song on the radio, the sun beaming through the windshield and whatever Minecraft related narrative my child is orating from the back seat. While still frustrated about being late, I couldn’t help but feel for my car.

There are a lot of days when I feel like I’m running on empty because I haven’t taken the time to fill my cup. Whether it’s needing more affection, rest, entertainment, or social interaction, it’s easy to take your eyes off those gauges for just a moment and look back to find things in the red.

Taking a moment to stop and refuel can be challenging. It’s so easy to get caught up in momentum. This has been the biggest lesson I have had to learn as a parent. I’ve always been a type-A, driven, ambitious person and it takes a lot for me to just STOP and not feel guilty about it. My son appreciates everything I do for him, but he also appreciates when I just stop and don’t do.

He wanted to go to the mall the other day to buy something and I was just beat. “You just stay here and rest mom, you deserve it,” he counselled, conning his step-dad into driving him instead. In that moment, I had to remind myself that rest is part of the program and if I keep running on empty, I might break down unexpectedly later. I’m no good to anyone like that.

Whether it’s calling on my village, figuring out what needs to be done and what can be delegated or skipped entirely, saying no to just one more thing, hugging my little boy, going to bed on time or doing something just for me, I know I can’t spend my time running on empty. Parenting success for me is around turning down the noise enough to hear the “Please refuel” ding. It’s the only way I’m going to get where I’m going, after all.

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