Self-Care Is a Gift.
There are a lot of articles and books out there on self-care, what it is, how to get it, etc. (Links below), but this article is specifically about self-care as a parent and how important it is for you, your family, and your children.
It is incredibly challenging to engage in self-care as a parent. There are so many pulls on your time and attention, and as we get further and deeper in to parenting we put ourselves further and further down on the list of things to take care of. There are never enough hours in the day, let alone time to lay back in a bath filled with bubbles and a glass of wine. It is in those busiest of times that we are in most need of self-care, and also least likely to get it.
This is because we think of self-care as “selfish”. This is the OPPOSITE of true.
Why self-care is important:
By taking care of yourself you truly are taking care of your family. I first learned about self-care while getting my PhD in Couple and Family Therapy. I was taught that I couldn’t expect to provide a healing place for my clients if I wasn’t taking care of myself. This meant making sure I was physically and emotionally taken care of and balanced, IN ORDER to be a better therapist. And it worked! I took mental health days, I took breaks, I set boundaries with my clients, my scheduler, and my other job as a researcher; I made time for it. I exercised, I got pedicures, I drank wine with friends, I went to concerts, and I read non-educational books. And I was a better therapist for it.
And then I became a parent, and I stopped doing almost all of those things that I had been doing for self-care. There wasn’t time, I was stressed, I was madly in love with my daughter, and any time away from her felt like I was abandoning her. If I even thought of doing any of my old self-care routines, even something as simple as a long shower, I felt guilty.
But then I started thinking. If I was a better therapist when I was engaging in self-care, would the same be true for parenting? Could self-care actually be the opposite of selfish? As a mom, could engaging in self-care actually be an act of love for my family? Could it be a gift to them? The answer to this question is: YES!
Three Gifts of Self Care
1. Self esteem. You are your child’s most powerful teacher. By engaging in self-care in front of your child you are actively teaching them that it is an important, valuable practice. You are teaching them that you are important. That you, the person you are outside of being a parent, matters in a real, tangible way. You are teaching them, through modeling, that you are worthy of gentle treatment, of respite and relaxation, of time away to rejuvenate (even if it is 5 extra minutes in the shower, or 5 minutes of Facebook). And if they know this about you, they will also know this about themselves. They will know that they are worthy of these things too. If you have a parenting partner and they are on board and also engaging in self care; you are also teaching your children that prioritizing someone else’s wellbeing is an act of love.
2. Freedom from guilt. You will be freeing your kids of the guilt that you felt when you started to engage in self-care. Your kids will grow up thinking that this is just what parents do. You have the chance, right now, to save them from “mommy guilt”. This is a beautiful thing.
3. Better parenting. Think about when you are at your best when it comes to parenting. I can guarantee that it is when you are calm, centered, relaxed, well rested, and in a good mood. Engaging in self-care routines can give you these things. Self-care allows you to better control your own emotions. So when a toddler is having a tantrum, a baby is crying for whatever reason, or a teenager has slammed the door for the millionth time, you will have a reserve of energy and calm to pull from and you won’t be so quick to react in ways that 1) you may regret, and 2) usually don’t work that well. Quite simply, when you’ve been taking care of yourself you will be better able to take care of your children.
Self-care is an important part of my balanced approach to parenting. If you need help in figuring out how to bring some self-care into your life, or suggestions for other parents, please check-in in the comments section or email me! I'm here to help you find more balance in your life and in your parenting.
Here is an article with tips from my favorite podcasting duo, who are huge proponents of self-care.
Here is a wonderful list of tips that aligns well with my Balanced Parenting perspective.