Imagine having a full-time job that has no vacation and no days off, and requires you to be on-site daily from the moment you open your eyes to the moment you go to sleep that night.
Although you get no financial compensation, you sure do get paid in hugs (quite literally!) and unconditional love.
While relationships are valued as the most important thing to us, in life it can often feel like a second job. The one that is the most rewarding, and at times, the most challenging. As we navigate being a parent, common emotions and concepts such as frustration, exhaustion, and burnout are what many of us face in our day-to-day lives.
As the little ones go to bed, and you finally have a moment to yourself, it seems as though that moment can be fleeting and you do not have enough time to prioritize you and your self-care.
When was the last time you took time for yourself? If you are pondering this question for far longer than a single minute, this article is for you.
Self-care is crucial for parents, as it helps us to be at our very best for our little ones.
Let’s explore some ways you can begin to schedule in some much-needed “me” time into your busy schedule, to ensure you are well supported mentally and physically throughout each step of your parenting journey.
Self-care is more important than you think
A phone needs to be recharged constantly in order to work, right? We work in a similar way. It’s impossible for us to function without taking time to rest and recharge our batteries (that goes for body and mind), let alone to give full assistance and care for another human being.
The research detailed that parents who regularly engage in self-care were more likely to feel skilled and confident as parents, and were more likely to report the ability to focus on parenting tasks despite external stressors. They were also more likely to report enjoying parenting and less likely to view it as a demanding and frustrating task.
On the other hand, parents who are self-critical were more likely to feel less skilled and confident as parents, and they felt less able to focus on parenting tasks.
How are you going to take care of somebody else if you’re not feeling well and rested yourself?
Build a Support Network
Building a support network is typically easier said than done. However, you would be surprised by the amount of individuals in your circle who would gladly jump in and be your support network.
Whether a family member who can watch your little ones for a few hours, or a close friend who you can lean on to support you with weekly phone calls for example, each individual in your circle can play a crucial role in ensuring you are taking the much-needed care you need of yourself.
The most important thing is to not feel guilty or ashamed to ask for their help (don’t forget that’s the purpose of a support network). As humans, we can only take on so much on our own. A support network built of the people you both cherish and trust the most will help you to find moments during the day when you can focus on your physical and mental well-being as you navigate the journey known as parenting. A support system can also look like listening to parenting podcasts, joining a parent support group, or talking through parenting challenges with friends and family to ease the isolating feelings you may experience.
We know sometimes it may feel like it, but being a parent doesn’t mean you have automatically turned into a super-human. Everybody needs some extra help sometimes, and it’s more than okay to raise your hand when things get a little too much for you to handle.
Go Easy on Yourself
You know what goes hand-in-hand with self-care? Self-compassion. In fact, they’re like the Romeo and Juliet of parents’ mental health and well-being (but in this version, there is no tragic ending).
This much-needed skill is alarmingly under-practiced. The Parenting Research Centre pointed out that just over one-third of parents (37%) felt they were often hard on themselves as parents, and 24% had mixed feelings about whether they were too hard on themselves or not.
Furthermore, there’s a deep connection between self-criticism and parenting confidence. The study confirmed that among factors such as fatigue, self-care, psychological distress, physical health, and having sufficient time, self-criticism remains the strongest influence on parenting confidence.
As parents, we can accomplish a lot. A tremendous amount of it! However, as humans, we can also make mistakes and require much-needed breaks.
Perfect parents don’t exist. While we make mistakes, learn from them, and grow from them, it is actually a life lesson for kids on how to live a life that is real and messy… Not a perfect one that doesn’t exist.
Self-care and Self-Compassion
As self-care and self-compassion are a duo much like Romeo and Juliet, the truth is that one can’t exist without the other. Parents are less likely to practice self-care if they are self-critical, and are more likely to be self-critical if they don’t practice self-care.
In fact, self-criticism is one of the factors that can ‘cancel out’ some of the benefits of self-care. In some circumstances, therefore, interventions that focus solely on self-care without addressing self-compassion may have a limited impact on parents and parenting.
Essentially, these two are the perfect couple. And it’s up to us to put them into practice. So how about starting today?
For the days that you have a few moments to yourself and are ready to embark on your self-care journey, remember to pencil in some self-compassion moments too. Write down a few journal prompts about yourself. Your parenting style. Your parenting journey. Remind yourself that what you are experiencing, and how you are parenting, is part of who you are and the unique journey you are on. Another way to do this is to improve your personal mindset and relationship with yourself, by talking to yourself as if you were a parent talking in a loving way to their child when they make simple real-life mistakes.
Give it a try!
Increase your self-care and self-compassion with Emily
Everything starts with balance. With it, you can balance your duties as a parent without forgetting yourself. Just remember, you cannot take care of another human being if you don’t take care of yourself!
If you want to learn more about life balance, and how to navigate healthy coping mechanisms as you embark on your parenthood journey, let’s get in touch! I would be more than happy to support you and work with you to find strategies and tools that you can lean on.
Disclaimer: Emily is a board-certified health coach with knowledge and training in these areas, however, it is important to always consult your doctor to make sure any of these ideas are safe and okay for you.