If you love your children and want what is best for them then it makes sense to take care of yourself.
After all, the best thing your children have going for them is you – a parent who loves and cares for them. However, as parents, it is hard to know what taking care of ourselves really means.
When discussing parental self-care, even parenting experts talk simplistically about taking ‘me time’ – taking a break from your child and doing something special for yourself. Yet, for many parents ‘me time’ opportunities are few and far between.
“If you can take ‘me time’ then enjoy it, but I think that there’s a whole lot more to taking care of yourself than just taking some ‘me time’.”
Here are five ways to take care of yourself as a parent that I think are more important than taking ‘me time’:
- Be kind to yourself. Many of us have learnt to bully ourselves. We can learn, with time, to be kind to ourselves instead. When you notice that you are bullying yourself then take a step back and ask – if my best friend, or my partner or my child were in this same situation, how would I treat them? Now, treat yourself with that same kindness.
- Take the pressure off. Take an inventory of everything that you are expecting of yourself – your parenting responsibilities and goals, your occupational responsibilities, your responsibilities in running your household, your hobbies, your relationship commitments, your personal goals. Is it realistic? Is it the life you want to live? If the sum total of your expectations is too much then it is time to take the pressure off. Prioritise your commitments and problem solve. There may be goals that you could choose to put on hold, expectations you could simply drop, responsibilities that can be outsourced, or tasks that could be done in an easier way. It may also be time to renegotiate joint responsibilities with your partner or to ask for support from family or friends.
- Parent in a way that feels good and right to you. When making parenting decisions, don’t feel pressured to do what works for your friends or family. Parent from your own heart, parenting in a way that feels right and joyful for you.
- Make your life as a parent rewarding for you. Don’t wait for ‘me time’ to have fun yourself. Integrate activities that you enjoy into time spent with your children. There are many ways to do this and it depends on what you enjoy. If you’ve always enjoyed art, then do plenty of art activities with your children. If you love the great outdoors then have plenty of outings to the park. You can also listen to your favourite music while you play with your children, make yourself a yummy lunch, catch up with a friend at a playground, or read a magazine while you cuddle and feed your baby.
- Be healthy. Staying healthy by getting some physical activity, eating healthy foods and giving ourselves time to wind down and relax is important. I know you know how do to this. But what you probably need to do is to re-read step two, because you need to learn how to do this without all of the pressure. So, I’m not talking about hitting the gym five days a week, or diet overhauls, or losing weight. I’m talking about taking small steps towards health that are realistic and enjoyable for you. I’m talking about small changes like: eating a piece of fruit for breakfast, cutting down on junk food snacks, hitting the gym once a week, going for a walk to the park more often, starting the day with five minutes of stretches and star jumps or, putting on music and dancing in your lounge room in the evening.
Remember, you are the most important resource your children have and they are going to need your support for a long time. So, take good care of yourself.