Frazzled and resentful parents do not make good company. Do you sometimes lose your temper at your children and say things you regret? Or be so defeated that you just give up on disciplining your children and let things be? And at times, you are so tired your mind constantly travels somewhere else instead of being there in the moment.
As parents, sometimes it can be easy to dismiss what is most basic for us because we have so many tasks to complete. Do we not have days when we only shower after ‘everything’ is done e.g. after the family has been fed or after the floor is cleaned or after the laundry is done?
Or those times when we skipped meals because we were sending the children to school and then rushing to work for a meeting. It’s not easy but we should take steps to take care of ourselves so we can be in a more balanced state mentally and physically.
The Importance of Self Care
Cooking, washing, disciplining, playing, caring, cleaning and preparing for the next day are just snapshots of what most parents do daily. For parents who do not have much help, it can seem like we are constantly focusing on the young ones.
It’s equally important to remember to take care of ourselves as it helps us to be better parents. When our well-being is in a good state, good energy overflows onto our children in our interactions. Similarly, when we are frustrated and stressed, running on empty, we lose patience with our children.
This may lead to reactive parenting where there’s yelling and tension. We cannot give them what we do not have inside. When we take care of ourselves, we will be able to be more connected and mindful in interactions with our children.
- Take Care of Yourself
Take regular meals. Meals give us energy and it is important to have proper meals. Allow yourself to sleep early or wake up later if time permits. Relax and take breaks. Go for that massage for a much-needed energy boost.
“I do not compromise when it comes to food. But it is not only for vanity reasons. It’s for health and energy level so as to fulfil our dreams and visions, or just to carry out our responsibilities. I nourish my body with wholesome, unprocessed fresh organic food; 80% of my diet is organic. I also squeeze in 15- 30 mins a few times, usually in the morning, to do some exercises such as Jumping Jack, climbing staircase and boxing.”
– Lily Kew, founder of Kew Organics Facial Bar
Choose your battles. Taking care of ourselves does not mean that we do not take care of our children. There are ways that we can do both at the same time. For example, picking up magazines or podcasts that you like when you take your child to the library or when you’re going on a walk with your child.
Need to catch up with a friend? How about going on a playdate? It’s important to build a relationship with other fellow parents as they can be a form of support as well.
- Give Limits to Stress
Stress does not promote self-nurturing. A constant sense of rush and strain can squeeze out the joy in life and let our children feel that what we are doing is more important than them.
Dr Laura Markham (editor, author and parenting coach) notes that while we cannot avoid stress-inviting events in life, we can avoid stress. She suggests paring down our lives gradually to what truly matters and making that choice to choose you and your children’s well-being. The next challenge is then to manage our reaction to that stress.
- Reduce Your Expectations
Society and the people around us may have certain expectations. Be it work or extended family, there are expectations on the parents. Most times, our inner critics are the harshest on ourselves and parents feel guilty for not doing a certain thing better. We need to learn to be more positive and self-criticise lesser.
For mistakes or areas where we did not deliver, reflect on what was done well in that situation. Even though something may have been overlooked, was there something that was done right? Perhaps that was the best you could have done at that moment? Balance guilt with the good that you did.
- Appreciate Yourself – Look Good and Feel Good
Have “me” time. Don’t be guilty of being away as long as your children are in good hands. Go on a date with your spouse – not just for birthdays or anniversaries!
Have a day out with your friends. If you wish to do something (that cycling trip or getting your hair done) set a date for it. If you only do it when you “have time”, it most likely won’t happen. Celebrate yourself.
- Take Charge of Yourself
There are so many things that compete for our attention and time. We only have that much that we can handle. It’s important that we take charge of our lives and before we are overwhelmed. Dr Markham recommends that we need to be responsible for meeting our own needs and solving problems that life presents.
Is there something you need to do that you can give to yourself? Are you feeling depressed or stressed? Part of self-care is also recognising when it is necessary to ask others for help. It may not be instantly resolvable but we can take gradual steps in the right direction that will ease the tensions in our lives and prevent them from spilling onto the children.
Self-care is not as simple as it looks. It is not something that can be “done” by a weekend staycation. It’s about respecting yourself and caring for yourself consistently because you’re worth it. Start small, give a few minutes of thought to yourself or do something for yourself each day. Taking time for yourself translates into being a better parent for your children.
By Som Yew Ya.
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