Maintaining your capacity for careful parenting is essential to your duties as a parent, especially when your child’s needs demand an extra level of support. While much effort must be put into raising your child, a great deal of intentionality is also needed to keep yourself functioning in a way that is best for both yourself and your child.
Parenting is a profoundly beautiful experience, but it also comes with great costs. While these costs are all for the benefit of your family, they should not be pulled out of balance to the point where they inhibit your abilities as a parent. The key to keeping this balance is the idea of self-care.
Now, self-care is more than just a buzzword floating the internet in the past couple years, it is a crucial part of being human and too easy to forget in today’s hyper fast-paced, do-it-all, be-it-all society. It also takes serious discipline.
Self-awareness is the first key step in determining which areas of self-care are in need for improvement. Start with your physical state: are you feeling tense? Exhausted? Are you getting sick more often? These are all clues that hint at areas of stress that need to be addressed. Other clues will spill out into your parenting, such as your emotional presence with your children, your consistency with discipline, and your capacity for patience.
There are three general modes of self-care to practice: physical relief, emotional awareness, and finding ways to have fun. Directly addressing your physical needs can be as simple as getting more sleep, eating healthier, or perhaps seeing a doctor to address medical issues which may be causing problems. Practicing deep-breathing exercises, doing meditation of yoga, or giving yourself a spa day are ways of directly hacking your body’s physical stress responses and relieving tension.
Parenting children means dealing with a range of difficult emotions, both for yourself and your children. At times it is too easy for parents to want to be “superhuman” and then have feelings of guilt for dealing with emotions such as anxiety, depression, or anger. Finding ways of becoming emotionally distant, or trying to numb out those emotions serves as a bad example for your children and sets yourself up for further problems. Learn to feel these emotions fully and process them with either a spouse, close friends or family, in a journal, or a therapist.
Having fun and being active can be particularly tricky task for parents. While having fun with your children is a great start, it’s important to hold on to hobbies that you love for yourself as well. Working out is especially beneficial as it can be a direct way to mitigate stressful emotions such as anger or anxiety. If you find it difficult to workout while watching your kids, try activities you can easily do in the home, such as push ups, core workouts, or getting weights. Going out with friends, finding ways to laugh, and enjoying nature are also great ways to keep having fun.
Self-care is far from a selfish act, it is necessary for you to continue to be the best version of yourself in all aspects of life, including being a parent. Neglecting your physical needs, emotional needs, and your need for fun, will result in you being a worse parent to your children, period. So take time today to be real with yourself and make an honest assessment of where you may need to take further steps toward better self-care.