Self-care is a buzzword we hear a lot in the media these days—especially in parenting articles and social media. As our world gets more hurried and chaotic, medical professionals and parenting educators are encouraging parents to take care of themselves just as much as they care for their children.
But what is self-care and why is so important for us parents? In this Triple P post, we examine what happens when we don’t make our own needs a priority, as well as suggest healthy ways to incorporate self-care into your daily routine.
Quality over Quantity
Adults have needs just as children do. We need close relationships with other adults; we need to feel understood; we need to have time with our friends, as well as time for ourselves; and we need time for the activities we enjoy doing most.
This may seem unrealistic for parents in the throws of raising young children, but consider this: Being a good parent does not mean sacrificing your own needs to tend to your children every second of every day. It’s finding the right balance for your family where you can take breaks from your children to help recharge your batteries.
Parents whose individual needs are being met find it easier to:
- Manage their child’s challenging behavior
- Stay calm in stressful moments
- Be present with their children
- Be patient
If you’re spending every waking moment with your child day in and day out and ignoring your own needs, ask yourself: Are your children getting the best version of you? If not, perhaps it’s time to look into what you can do to take care of yourself better.
When you are in a situation where you have a conflict between your needs and your child’s, some balancing questions you may ask yourself are: What does my child need? What do I need? Can they wait? Can I wait? Is there a way for us both to get our needs met?
Burnout is real
As much as we love our children, the demands of parenting are stressful. When we constantly experience high levels of stress, it can cause us to feel irritable, angry, tense, impatient, as well as affect our sleep and eating patterns. When ignored, these feelings can sometimes lead to anxiety and depression. This can be especially true for parents who feel isolated, do not have a support system in place, or are experiencing other major stress factors, including a recent move, divorce, financial worries, etc.
Sometimes stress and feeling overwhelmed are signs that you are trying to do too much. You might find that you are inconsistent in how you parent or that you get angry over things that would normally not affect you. Our emotions and behavior have a significant effect on our children and how they behave, which is why it’s vital that you look after yourself and your own needs.
Ways to fit in self-care
Self-care is going to look different for everyone. For a parent, it might include healthy ways to relax, have fun, exercise, or socialize.
- Connect with other parents through support groups, such as Parenting Now, WellMama, Baby Connection.
- Take a relaxing bath while a spouse or other trusted caregiver takes the kids on a walk or to the park.
- Try to squeeze in regular exercise 3 times per week, including a walk or jog, bike ride, dance party in your house! Put baby in the stroller, or jog beside your child while they ride their bike.
- Take some slow, deep breaths into your belly. When you have taken a full breath, pause for a moment and then breathe out slowly through your nose or mouth.
- Spend time in nature. It’s proven to help reduce anxiety and stress.
- Write down 3 things you are thankful for every day.
- Call a friend who will listen, and debrief your day.
- Spend quality time with your partner or friend.
Seasoned parents will tell you that parenting never gets easier—it just changes. While you may have swapped toddler upsets for the emotional highs and lows of the teenage years, you’ll find that it does become little easier to make time for yourself. Being mindful of your emotions and tending to your needs when your reserves are low will help not only you, but your whole family.