The Importance of Practicing Self-Care as a Parent
When a woman is pregnant, she is often encouraged by friends, family or medical professionals to invest time and energy into taking care of herself. But, for some reason, this attitude does not carry through to after her baby is born, both in society and within the psyche of most women. It’s almost as though the association between self-care and the mummy-to-be is cut along with the umbilical cord. Snip! And just like that, there is a disconnection. No longer does self-care mean good mothering, it suddenly means selfish mothering.
Although it is natural, normal and necessary to put our children’s needs ahead of our own, more often than not parents tend to over-action this message.
It is common for women, in particular, to subconsciously internalise the message that they are expected to give and serve others. It is in our biological make-up to want to help others, especially once we give life to another human being, however wanting to give and giving out of self-imposed expectation are two very different things. While it’s wonderful to make selfless gestures or give our time to good causes, we need to be wary of meeting other people’s needs at the expense of our own all the time.
As a parent, caring for yourself is a behaviour we have to train ourselves in, and commit to.
Taking good care of you means the people in your life receive the best of you, rather than what’s left of you.
What is Self-Care?
Self-care is not selfish and is not self-indulgent; it is not something to be guilty about.
It is very important to understand that self-care is essentially made up of two different categories of activities. Firstly, there are our ‘basic needs’; things that are important predominantly to our physical wellbeing, such as bathing, eating, brushing our teeth and hair, and being clothed.
Secondly, there are our ‘cup-fillers’; activities that we enjoy, that we consider fun, make us feel happy, fulfilled and inspired.
Sometimes these self-care activities can cross-over — a long hot shower can be extremely enjoyable and is also important for our health. With that said, it is perfectly ok if some days all you can manage is your basic needs.
So, acts of self-care could include anything from taking a nap, to exercising, spending time with friends, catching up on a favourite TV show, getting your hair done, taking a bubble bath, watching a sunset or reading a book.
Self-care activities that fill your cup look different from person to person, and they don’t always need to be done alone or without our kids. In addition, if scented bubble baths and meditation bring on a major case of the eye-rolls, then you probably won’t feel replenished by doing them. Don’t like yoga? Don’t do it! There is no wrong or right way to ‘do’ self-care.
Benefits of Self-Care: Parents
Benjamin Franklin once said:
“When the well’s dry, we know the worth of water”
When self-care is absent in our life, we can feel overwhelmed, exhausted and unappreciated by the people around us. Our sense of self-worth disintegrates, and before long we start to realise the need and value in reinvesting in our own wellbeing.
Neglecting self-care can lead to short-fuses, poor decisions, depression, anxiety and feelings of meaninglessness — none of which is good for anyone, let alone a parent. Over a long period of time, it can even leave us feeling drained and passionless, without a sense of who we really are and what we enjoy.
Ultimately, taking the time to give ourselves what we need leads to greater happiness, calm, emotional resilience, clarity, motivation and energy. We are restoring the internal balance that is often disrupted as a result of endless giving; to our children, our partner, our work… and the list can go on.
Benefits of Self-Care: Others
Taking care of ourselves provides us with the energy we need to keep up with our kids and give the best of you to them. The moments we spend with our family will matter more and things will appear to run more smoothly due to the positive shift that regular self-care practice can have on how we see life events and handle them. This means feeling less impatience, anger, guilt, or frustration that we often project unconsciously during our interactions with our children and others.
Do the Math!
Once we start spending time doing things for ourselves, they may seem huge at first, but writing it all out means we soon realise the time we take for ourselves isn’t so crazy.
- 1. Looking at one week, list all the things you do for your children; hosting play dates, taking them out for lunch, going on bike rides, playing at the park, trips to the library, taking them to sports, school, the zoo etc. Now list the things you do for yourself. The first list is surely always longer than the second.
- 2. Now, look at how many hours your children are awake compared to the number of hours you spend away from them. Whether your children are of pre-school, primary school or high school age, the numbers don’t lie. There is nothing to feel guilty about.
Lastly, finding time for self-care isn’t difficult; just 5 mins a day can make a world of difference to our mood and perspective on life!
Remember: our kids are watching everything we do. The only way our children are going to learn about their own self-care is from our actions. When it comes to how we treat ourselves, children learn how to look after themselves, treat themselves, spend money on themselves and love themselves from what they see us, and other adults they love and admire, do.
We need to start shifting the way we see self-care; what it is, what it looks like and what it means to you and your family. Looking after yourself and regularly ‘refilling your cup’ is the most critical step to living a happier, balanced life as a person with children.
If you need any help with supporting employees to create life balance and manage time better, or would like to know more about our parent support programs, then please give us a call today on 0402 294 953. We’d love the opportunity to help!