Parenting is hard work, and without consistent self-care parents can easily and quickly burn out. That is why on Mother’s & Father's Day it is not only important to do something special for yourself, but also to make a plan to incorporate more self-care in your daily life. Many parents sacrifice their own self-care because they are taking care of everyone else; they leave their own needs until last. This benefits no one in the family! Not only are parents who sacrifice their own self-care less able to manage their own strong emotions and solve problems effectively, they are also modeling poor self-care for their children. And who wants their child to learn that they must sacrifice their own well-being for the sake of others?
Making self-care a priority is not only a gift to yourself but more importantly a gift to everyone in your life. You cannot show up as your best self as a parent, partner, employee, daughter, or sister without being fully fueled and cared for. You’ve probably heard the oxygen mask analogy before. The airlines do not instruct parents to put their children’s oxygen masks on first; they instruct the parents to make sure their own are securely fastened before tending to their children. Why? Because if you are not oxygenated and something happens to you, you will no longer be able to aid or care for your child. The same is true in life!
When parents first start a family and have a really young child, they need to meet that child’s every need in order for him or her to survive. However, if parents continue to neglect their own needs, neither parents nor child will thrive. When parents feel depleted, they cannot use their social-emotional skills—empathizing, regulating their emotions or solving problems with their child. Instead, they tend to react irrationally because they are exhausted and don’t have access to their rational brain. Those social-emotional skills go offline for a bit. That is why parenting at the end of the day tends to be challenging for most, especially when self-care is neglected.
It is critical that the needs of the parent come FIRST for everyone in the family to thrive. This does not mean you ignore your child and their needs. It just means that your needs are on the list of priorities and that your daily needs are met, too. Take a look at your week’s calendar; what are a few small things that you want to be doing for self-care that you are not doing or would benefit from doing more regularly? These things can be as simple as drinking five glasses of water each day, calling a friend, journaling, taking a daily shower, or exercising. If these few things were handled, you would feel more fueled to be the mom, friend, partner, daughter, or employee that you want to be.
So, when things get stressful or out of whack, remember, the first place to look is self-care! Take a moment now to notice what you are doing to care for yourself and how that influences how you show up in the world.
To help you brainstorm some simple self-care ideas, here is a list of places to look.
This article was originally published on the Committee For Children blog on May 12, 2017.