Looking after yourself is an extremely important part of parenting. It often gets overlooked as you focus all your energy on meeting the needs of your children and family. If you are running on ’empty’, it can leave you feeling exhausted, useless and maybe resentful or angry. Parenting is a complicated and tiring job. It requires copious amounts of patience, commitment and a desire to do the best you can. Therefore you need to be in the best state possible for one of the most important jobs in the world.
Looking after yourself is not selfish. It is being aware that you too are important, are good enough and that you deserve to be cared for. I think this quote by Sophie Sabbage sums it up quite nicely.
‘“We don’t just need to take care of ourselves. We need to model self-care instead of self-sacrifice to our children‘.
Being aware of what you need and concentrating on your well being is as essential as parenting your child. The better you feel then the better equipped you will be to deal with the everyday/every hour demands of being a parent. Everyone including yourself will benefit from this.
So how do you look after yourself when every hour of the day is taken up by raising a family? All sorts of things can get in the way. Barriers can include physical things such as no time, multiple children, no money, no supportive family nearby or Pandemics! There may be emotional barriers such as ‘I don’t deserve it’ or ‘I’m being selfish’. If you can identify what is preventing you from meeting your needs more then you may be able to discuss ways around it with your partner, family or friends. Solutions to the ‘no me time’ may be found by a simple discussion that identifies and highlights your unmet needs and how it is making you feel.
There are two main things that can help you strike a balance. These are making some time for yourself and giving yourself permission to relax.
Making time for yourself.
Set aside some time every day or every other day to do something you enjoy. It can either be in your home or outside your home. Depending on your commitments it could be for 20 minutes or for an hour. Enlist the help from your partner or family member or friend. It might be something as simple as having your favourite hot drink in your favourite cup. Having a bath (with no disruptions). Going for a run or for a walk. Physical exercise is known to release feel good chemicals such as endorphins, that increase the sense of well being. Having some time for yourself on a regular basis in your busy life helps you to manage stress and makes you feel good about yourself. This can also contribute to long term feelings of well-being. The better you feel the better you will manage the role of being a parent.
Take time to relax.
Sometimes we need to give ourselves time to relax. Self- care is so important. When we relax there are so many positive consequences. It helps us to feel better about ourselves, gives us a break and increases our ability to cope with stress. Nurturing ourselves helps us to feel more positively about life and is good for our physical and mental health. In order for you to relax you will need someone to look after the children/child for a short time. So think about things that make you relax and try to schedule them in on a regular basis. If you can’t think of anything here are some ideas;
- Ask your partner to do the bedtime routine a few times a week. This could mean you could have an earlier bedtime and get some sleep, especially if you are up in the night with a young child.
- Get your favourite shower gel/bubble bath to use. Having a favourite product to use when washing or bathing is a chance for self care and makes you feel good.
- Go for a run or a walk in the park. Being outside and observing nature is known to boost the sense of well-being.
- Listen to your favourite play list or pod cast.
- Read a book.
- Watch a film or your favourite TV series.
- Phone or Face Time a family member or friend.
- Visit a family member or friend or get them to visit you. Raising a child can be quite lonely and isolating at times. We get a lot of positivity from social interaction
- Ask your partner to cook supper a few times a week. Often preparing a meal at the end of the day when you are exhausted is stressful. Getting someone to help with that can be such a relief.
- Take a nap if you are feeling tired. Resting during the day is something most parents benefit from.
When you take care of yourself your body releases the hormone oxytocin. Oxytocin releases feelings of happiness and a feeling of calmness. The more you take care of yourself, the more you will relax and nourish your physical, emotional and mental health needs. It’s simply a ‘win, win’ situation.
What if you are really struggling and can’t manage any time for self-care?
If you are feeling stressed, anxious or low. You are not alone. Parenting can be very stressful and exhausting. Things such as sleep deprivation, childbirth trauma, a child’s challenging behaviour or relationship issues can all make you feel overwhelmed. If you feel things are getting on top of you, don’t suffer in silence. Speak to someone and get help if you need to. It doesn’t mean that you are weak or a bad parent. It just means you need a bit of support and we all could do with that sometimes!
Vanessa Campion is a registered Nurse and a Registered Health Visitor. She is also a Holistic Sleep Coach. She works privately as a parent support consultant at www.savoycsparentingsupport.co.uk.