Goodbye, 2021, and welcome to 2022. You may feel ready to put 2021 in the past as I do. It has been a year of challenges and changes for us all. I’m not big on making New Year’s Resolutions; however, my wish for you is that this post will make a positive shift within you and in how you relate to your family.
A few decades ago, when I was the mom of a toddler and a newborn, I felt like I never had enough hours in the day to carve out some time for self-care. Then one day, I decided to keep a diary of everything I did during the day with and for my kids. That night I realized that I spent a whopping 10.5 hours doing childcare-related tasks. YUP, being a mom is a full-time job, and finding the time to carve out some me-time can be challenging. A few weeks ago, I wrote a blog about spending quality time with our kids. I firmly believe it is vital to spend quality time with ourselves – also known as self-care.
Why is Self-Care Important?
Self-care is an essential part of parenting; it is vital to your emotional health and well-being. It’s easy to feel guilty when we take time away from our kids to engage in self-care. It often means we have to ask someone else to watch our kids so we can go out with friends, go to the gym, or have a date night with our partner. If we get pushback from the person or people we ask to help us, it’s important to remind ourselves that another person’s discomfort isn’t a reason for our needs not to be met. You need the other’s cooperation for self-care, not their approval.
Repeat after me, “I am allowed to take time to take care of myself, and do not need another person’s approval to do so.”
Does this scenario sound familiar? You want some alone time, so you tell your spouse or your parenting partner, “I want to go for a run this afternoon at around two pm-ish.” Your partner responds, “Hmmm… uh… I guess so.” Now, stop for a moment and check-in with yourself first. How do you feel about your partner’s response? Next, recognize and separate your feelings from that of your partner’s feelings. Is your partner’s response one of annoyance or is it uncertainty? Now tell yourself, “those feelings belong to my partner. They are not my feelings.”
Your response to your partner may be one of understanding and compassion. “I know it’s hard to be alone with the kids. I appreciate your support.” Or your response may be one where you take ownership of your partner’s feelings and become responsible for their feelings by diminishing and dismissing your needs. You say, “Oh, never mind, it’s not that big of a deal. I’m kind of tired today and wasn’t sure if I wanted to go anyway.”
If your response is typically the latter, stop and remind yourself that your partner’s discomfort isn’t a reason for your needs not to be met. Then tell yourself, “my partner may be feeling annoyed. That’s ok! It is allowed. It isn’t my responsibility to take those feelings away.”
Remember Self-Care isn’t Selfish. In fact it is the opposite. Self-care is making your physical, mental, and emotional health a priority so you can be a better parent. Self-care is how you show yourself that you are worthy and valuable. Genevieve Shaw Brown is a mom of three and a reporter for ABC News in New York. One day she realized that she gave her kids better care then herself, as she describes in her book, “The Happiest Mommy You Know: Why Putting Your Kids First is the Last Thing You Should Do.”
Self-care lets you give your kids the best of you.
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What are the Undeniable Ways Self-Care Can Make you a Better Parent in 2022?
- Self-Care reduces your stress levels: stress causes us to live in survival mode. We have difficulty regulating our emotions, problem-solving, and creative thinking in survival mode—essential skills for good parenting.
- Self-Care increases your empathy toward your kids. When you make time for self-care, you can listen to, talk with, and enjoy the time you spent with your kids. You will relate to your child’s big feelings with care and empathy.
- Self-Care increases your tolerance and coping skills when your child expresses big emotions and melts down. Being a parent can be super frustrating and challenging at times. Some days we need all of our coping skills to make it through the day. Suppose you notice that you are constantly triggered by your child’s behavior and find yourself snapping at your child over any and everything. That may be a significant warning sign that you need to carve out some self-care time. It’s important to remind yourself that you aren’t a bad parent. You are doing the best you can with the skills available to you at the time. Self-care can increase those coping skills.
- Self-Care helps you get a better night’s sleep. It is difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep when we feel stressed. Brain Research shows up that stress puts us in survival mode. Evolution has taught our bodies that it isn’t a good idea to fall asleep if there is a Saber Tooth Tiger in the bushes. Our bodies cannot distinguish between a Saber Tooth tiger and a super stressful day. The result is that we have a hard time falling asleep, and our sleep is restless. Self-care helps us shift our minds and bodies out of survival mode and into rest and repair mode. In rest and repair mode, we now feel safe enough to fall asleep and stay asleep, thus giving our body the rest it needs.
- Self-Care leads to better mental health in our kids. In a study published in the Harvard Business Review, Stewart D. Friedman took a fresh look at the data from an earlier study and published his conclusions that “mothers who spend time on themselves – relaxation and self-care – and not so much on housework, was associated with positive outcomes for children.”
What Are Some Different Categories of Self-Care?
Self-Care gives us ways to nurture and be kind to ourselves on many different levels. Self-care includes taking the time to provide ourselves with care in the following Eight Areas:
- Emotional self-care
- Physical self-care
- Social self-care
- Mental self-care
- Spiritual self-care
- Professional self-care
- Practical self-care
- Reparenting self-care
Self-care encompasses all the many parts of who we are. Each area needs nurturing and self-care.
What are Twelve Simple Ways to Practice Self-Care in Different Areas of Your Life?
- Say “no” to functions (and people) that drain your energy.
- Cook and enjoy a healthy meal; if cooking isn’t your thing, order in.
- “Stop and smell the roses.” Spend one whole day making a conscious effort to not rush through your day.
- Get an entire night’s sleep of eight solid hours.
- Move; go to the gym, run, take a workout class, stroll around your yard or neighborhood.
- Let the sunshine in. Research shows that when sunlight enters our eyes and stimulates our pineal gland, it creates chemicals that elevate our mood and bust stress. Spend some time outside in the sunshine.
- Belly Laugh – Watch your favorite funniest TV show or movie.
- Buy some flowers for your table.
- Show kindness to yourself by thinking kind thoughts about yourself.
- Meditate or engage in other mindfulness activities such as a daily gratitude journal.
- Do something once a week that makes you happy. Doing it more often is even better.
- Reparenting – when you are struggling, put a hand on your heart and say to yourself, “I am a good parent who is having a challenging time.”
I want to challenge you to pick one item on this list each month in 2022. Then practice this item once each week during the month. Then please come back and share with me how it went in the comments below.
For Books and Activities that teach your kids emotional intelligence (click here).