Most parents don’t think they have the time or energy for self-care. Let me stop you there. If you have time to take care of your children, then you have time for self-care. It’s is important to take care of yourself, as a parent, just as important it is for you to take care of your children. You can’t care for someone else if you are not caring for yourself. Rather, you can care for someone else, but how effectively?
Why is self-care so important?
Any parent who has gone a few days in a row without the proper amount of sleep will be able to tell you that everything seems more difficult and our fuses are much shorter when sleep deprived. Parents often give so much of themselves to their children, they forget about themselves, or perhaps feel guilty for taking the necessary time to do things to care for themselves. When any person neglects themselves, it leads to stress on the mind and body.
This could have two major impacts on children:
1. Modeling unhealthy behavior – Children see everything. They know when you don’t have time to shower all day or aren’t eating right because you were grabbing food on the go. They see the fights you and your significant other get into when you don’t get enough sleep. This can teach them that it’s ok to neglect things in their own lives and these relationships – or whatever it is that is being neglected- are not as important and take a back seat. Take a moment now to reflect on your life and actions. Are you showing your children how to care for themselves and nurture the relationship with your significant other?
2. Parenting becomes a great challenge when you don’t care for yourself. Lack of self-care can cause parents to be stressed, irritable, exhausted or even depressed. Parenting takes a lot of energy! In order to implement positive, proactive parenting, we need patience, energy and optimism. On top of not caring for yourself, you are not able to care for children in the way you normally would. The bottom line: Lack of self-care can lead to reactive parenting, with a lot of yelling and missing opportunities to reward positive behavior.
What is self-care?
When parents hear the word self-care, often it gives images of manicures and spa days, taking vacations, or abandoning all of life’s responsibilities in order to rejuvenate. The idea of having to make time for self-care in itself is enough to cause a substantial increase in anxiety for parents everywhere.
I am here to tell you that self -care doesn’t mean dropping the kids at Grandma’s house and running for the hills. Think about the things you do for your children every day – feed, play, change endless amounts of diapers, bathe, and put them to bed. Maybe reading books or playing sports is on the agenda. These basic things you do to care for your children day in and day out are the simple self-care tasks you to do for yourself.
Where do I start?
Implementing self-care isn’t something that is going to happen overnight. It takes time to make small changes. Start by thinking about something you really enjoy doing but haven’t had the time. Make it a priority to incorporate that into your day for 15 to 30 minutes. There are three different types of self-care; physical, emotional/social, and creative/spiritual.
Physical self-care includes things like eating healthy meals regularly, exercise, getting enough sleep, unplugging from your phone, computer and TV, and getting fresh air. Try going to bed 30 minutes early to get more sleep or using the time you would normally be on electronics to go for a walk outside.
Emotional/social self-care includes, spending time with people that make you feel happy, expressing yourself (yes, this includes allowing yourself to cry), reading, working on your relationship with your significant other, and reducing stress.
Creative/spiritual self-care can include, taking quiet time, practicing your religious affiliation, journaling, spending time in nature, and enjoying a hobby.
Implementing these changes may require you to ask for help at first. I’m here to tell you – It is OK to ask for help. The benefits will shine through for yourself, your children, and those around you. Taking time for yourself is not selfish and it doesn’t mean that you won’t be able to provide care for your children. It in fact, means the opposite; you can be the best you to provide the best care for your children