Welcome to the Club
Whatever way we come to parenthood; planned, unplanned, IVF, surrogacy, fostering, adoption or other means; we know we are blessed, and bravely set off on a lifelong journey, not knowing exactly which paths and directions we will have to navigate. We may have some ideals about parenting, family and relationships but anyone who has journeyed some of the way, such as I, realise that most of the time we wing it and thankfully things have a way of working out. There is no rule book and there are no one set of instructions when it comes to being a mum or dad. Without doubt being a mother is the most overwhelming, all consuming and responsible task I have ever taken on, but over time, like countless others I have settled into it my parenting role, the family dynamics and would not wish to go back to a time when I was on my own.
From the moment our children enter our lives, we as their guardians will do everything in our power to keep them safe. As parents, our brains are programmed to do whatever we can to protect and care for our children. We get used to organising play dates, activities and opportunities. We need to be strong when things don’t go as planned. On behalf of our children we may find ourselves advocating for resource hours in school, dealing with a medical diagnosis in a system with little supports or dealing with an angry teenager in the home. Nobody ever told us it would be easy and they were right! All families will encounter times of stress and crisis. It is in these choppy times our vulnerabilities surface and we need to dig deep to find our capacity to cope.
Whenever I talk to parents I tell them that taking care of themselves is just as important as taking care of their children. In fact, it may be more important, even if it goes against our parental instincts. Frequently when I am met with a degree of scepticism the analogy of tending to your oxygen mask, should the aeroplane cabin pressure drop comes in useful, because as parents we must learn to breathe rather than panic. It is then possible to do what is best for our children.
Self Care for Parents
In reality, parents need to be strong for their children. Self-care can be a difficult concept to grasp, but if we don’t take care of ourselves, how can we expect to help our children? Our children learn how to be from their homes. They absorb how we handle conflict, stress, joy and the ways we communicate among other things. As parents we are role models but very often we get caught up in the busy doing part of parenting, while losing sight of the all important hidden messages we give every day and these become the norm, which our children take into their future relationships.
Believe me, taking care of yourself is a game-changer for everyone in your life especially your family. Self Care does not have to be expensive or another thing on your never ending “To Do “list. Here are some of the strategies , besides exercise and having fun which I have put in place. Making small changes now, being consistent and putting in the action will lead to building new habits, for you and your family.
– 5 Simple Tips to Transform Your Health & Your Homes –
- Prioritise Yourself;
You need to make the decision that you will prioritise your own health and well-being. This does not mean you are selfish or that you do not care about your child. In fact, this means that you have the good sense to look after the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual spheres of your lives. By doing so you will be in a much better position to hep loved ones when they run into difficulty and you will be teaching them that self love is the foundation of all love. As parents and guardians we can begin to bring the compassion we readily give to others into our own lives.
- Prioritise Your Time
There are 1,440 minutes in a single day. How many minutes do you give to yourself each day? Do you wait till the end of the day to gaze mindlessly in front of the telly, too exhausted to nourish yourself? I advocate taking a Mindful Minute and building it into your day. This allows you to stop and to connect by simply letting go of doing. To begin sit with both feet on the floor, allow the eyes to close, notice any noise and slowly begin to focus on the breath for a few moments. Breathing in – relax, Breathing out – letting go. Continue for a little while allowing the shoulders and any tensions to release. Noticing how it feels to nourish yourself in this way.
You can bring this activity into your daily routine, for example every time you hear a bird sing, a phone ring or a kettle boil, you can pause to connect with yourself, your mood and your body.
With practice you’ll be able to think much more clearly and effectively, and your day-to-day life will improve as you tune into your own needs and the needs of others.
- Prioritise Rest and Sleep
Restorative sleep is one of the best things we can do for our health. As a person who struggles with sleep I have to work on this one and slowly things are improving. Earmark an evening when you are purposely going to go to bed earlier than normal. Begin your winding down routine beforehand by removing yourself from screens and technology. Ventilate your room and perhaps a spray of lavender may help as a trigger. A relaxing bath, lights out, gratitude for the day just gone should help as you snuggle down releasing stress and renewing every cell of the body.
We know from our children and our own experience that a good night’s sleep can cure a lot more than tiredness.
- Prioritise Food
By choosing to eat well I do not mean dieting which can be more damaging in the long run and can send negative body image messages to our young. When you acknowledge that food is fuel then you are going to want to choose well so you and your family can feel well. When I started to increase my greens by making smoothies people became curious; so much so that my class in school asked to make them. The fact most of them didn’t like the taste didn’t matter as the conversation about healthy food had started; they soon were whizzing up their own versions using berries, yoghurt with an array of colours and textures. Getting rid of a lot of processed food in my home has had knock on effects for my family who are now more likely to snack on fruit, the occasional sweet treat as well as having fun hearing the kernels pop as we make our own popcorn.
Initially food prepping took an age but now I enjoy preparing home made soups and salads as and have no intention to returning to packets and jars.
- Prioritise Support Structures
As parents we are stronger together. I got this message on the first day my eldest started school as I learnt more about parenting from other parents rather than the books I read. I found parents who were positive, supportive and good fun. Over time I began to trust my gut when it came to my children and gave the “Know Alls” a wide berth.
Likewise, when we prioritise ourselves it is good to get buy in from others. You may have someone in your family who is happy to journey with you and help with your goals. I found my wellness partner at work and after a few years under our belts we have had loads of fun along the way, while improving our physical and mental health.
At times I lose focus but I keep coming back to my priorities knowing that perfect balance is not attainable; in just the same way, I know perfect parenting is a myth. Taking care of yourself by giving yourself the love, attention and respect you deserve, you get the “oxygen” you need to keep on breathing. Believe me Self Care will change your life for the better. And you know what? You totally deserve that.