As a parent, it is easy to get caught up in the daily responsibilities of helping others. From the moment you wake up, to the moment your head sinks down on to your pillow, it is easy to get swept up in running your household, meeting the demands of your job, and being a supportive parent to your child. There are so many demands on your time that often, personal care can be overlooked. After all, bills have to be paid, and your child depends on you for their needs.
However, the importance of self-care cannot be ignored. Just as you attend to the basic and emotional needs of your child, you also must make time so that your own needs aren’t overlooked. To an individual who isn’t a parent, it can sound deceptively simple: eating regular healthy meals, getting exercise, receiving regular, preventive medical care, getting a full night of sleep, and spending time outdoors. Easy, right?
As any parent can tell you, ordinary tasks become Herculean feats when you’re juggling the responsibilities and care of another human life. However, when you ignore your own needs, you’re adding stress to your mind and body, which can lead to a weakened immune system, depression, and unhealthy coping skills.
This also affects our ability to parent our children in several ways.
When we don’t take care of ourselves, we are also teaching our children that it’s ok to neglect self-care. Consider how you would like your children to implement self-care as they grow older and consider the example you are modeling for them. Are you handling stress and conflict the way you would like your child to? If the answer is no, you may want to find ways that you can show your child that it is a positive thing to take time for yourself.
An additional challenge we face when we neglect our own needs, is that parenting becomes even harder! When we don’t take care of ourselves, we can feel frustrated, exhausted, and unmotivated. To be good parents, we have to positively demonstrate the ways we would like our children to develop. This is nearly impossible to do well if we are run down, and it can lead to emotionally reactive parenting, which can be damaging to your relationship with your child.
Ultimately, for most parents, there is never enough time in the day for you to “get around” to taking time for yourself. There will never be a good or easy period in your life for self-care – you have to make time and treat that time with the same importance as you would treat a professional obligation. Set aside a time in your day, whether that is early in the morning before your family is awake, or in the evening after work to do something that will build you up and help you feel physically and emotionally strong.
Self-care can look very different for each person, as we are all inspired by different things. Consider taking time some of the following acts of self-care:
- Spend time with friends and family in a relaxed environment: Make sure you have time to enjoy each other’s company without the burden of responsibilities:
- Stay in touch with other people in your life. It can be incredibly helpful to maintain relationships with friends outside of your family for support:
- Saying no to extra responsibilities: Sure, everyone appreciates a team player at work, but it is positive and healthy to set reasonable boundaries so that you don’t overextend yourself.
- Give yourself quiet time for self-reflection: Consider taking a brief amount of time to journal, set your intentions for the day, and enjoys moments of stillness without distraction.
- Enjoy a hobby or trying something new: Maybe you’ve been dying to check out the local farmer’s market, or you’ve been eyeing that new yoga studio near your house. Give yourself time each week to pursue your interests and passions!
If you take time to attend to your own needs, you will be better able to model positive coping skills for your child, and you will feel way less stressed doing it. Self-care allows you to use your time more productively and enjoy the process of raising your child.