Parenting,  Wellness

Self-care ISN’T Selfish: How to Fill Your Cup to Help Your Family THRIVE

Parenting is freaking HARD! It’s stressful, emotional and downright exhausting! And it seems like all day, every day you are bombarded with messages telling you to “enjoy the journey” and “this too shall pass.”

Let me be the first to say that I GET IT!! Not only have I been IN your shoes, but I see parents daily that seem like they are just holding it together by a thin, wispy, ready-to-break-at-any-moment thread.

The perception that parents are more stressed than the average Joe is not imagined. A 2017 Gallup poll showed that 79% of Americans feel that on a daily basis they frequently or at least sometimes encounter stress! Breaking it down further, women are more likely than men to experience FREQUENT stress and PARENTS (with a child under the age of 18) are more likely to experience frequent stress than non parents (or parents with a child over age 18).

This stress affects every area of our life – our sleep, our work, and our family. Our kids sense our stress. It affects their behavior and it affects how we parent. It’s pretty challenging to calmly discipline your 3 year old for the 9,757,000th time in a day when you are running on empty.

Right about now, I see you nodding your head thinking – yep, tell me something I DON’T know. I know I’m stressed, I know I could be a better parent if I wasn’t as stressed – but WHAT THE HECK AM I SUPPOSED TO DO ABOUT IT?

Here’s the short answer:

The Oxford Dictionary defines self-care as:

The practice of taking action to preserve or improve one’s own health.

The practice of taking an active role in protecting one’s own well-being and happiness, in particular during periods of stress.

Taking care of ourselves is one of the least selfish things we can do for our family.

Let me repeat that, SELF-CARE IS NOT SELFISH.

Taking care of ourselves allows us to thrive – and in turn allows our families to thrive.

Taking time out for yourself teaches your children to value THEMSELVES. Our children are learning from our example. Do you want your child to grow up and do nothing but work, take care of everyone around them and fall into bed every night an exhausted ball of stress only to get up the next day and do the same thing over again? Nope – I didn’t think so. Then WHY do we accept this life for ourselves?

Now that I’ve (hopefully) convinced you that stress is bad for you and for your kids and that self-care is an ESSENTIAL part of reducing stress in your life…here are some practical steps you can take TODAY:

#1 Answer these statements:

     I experience relaxation when I…

     I am rejuvenated by…

For ME:

I experience relaxation when I meditate, take a long soak in a warm bath, or veg out in front of my favorite TV show.

I am rejuvenated by running, spending time with friends, and blasting my favorite music while dancing like a fool.

I don’t do each of these things on a daily basis, but sprinkled throughout my week, they help bring a sense of peace into my life and give me the energy to face the daily challenges that inevitably that come my way.

#2 Identify your barriers to self-care

  • I don’t have time
  • I have no one to help me with my kids
  • I feel guilty leaving my family and my other responsibilities

Here is the thing, gang – anyone can find 10 minutes in the day to do something for yourself. Put down your phone, get up 10 minutes earlier or spend 10 minutes before bed doing something for YOU!! It doesn’t have to be huge – take 10 deep breaths, go for a short walk, reconnect with your partner or a friend – whatever works for YOU.

Self-care doesn’t mean you have to be ALONE – if you like to blast music and dance – do it with your kids; if you want to take a walk, plop your kids in a stroller and go for a walk; if you need to take a few cleansing breaths – make sure the kids are safe, go in the bathroom, close the door and take a few deep breaths.

And as far as feeling guilty – like I said above – taking care of yourself HELPS your family. Trust me when I say that any child would rather have a happy, relaxed, engaged parent that might need an hour or two per week away from them vs. a tired, cranky, stressed out parent that is with them 24/7.

#3 Schedule time for self-care

Maybe you need 10 minutes per day, maybe you need 1 hour per week, maybe you need one full day per month. Whatever you NEED – prioritize yourself and SCHEDULE it. Write it on the family calendar. Let your family know that this is YOUR time.

For me, I know that I do much better when I’m held accountable for something:

  • In order for me to fit running into my routine, I register for a race so that I have a training plan that forces me to get my butt out the door and run at least 3 days per week.
  • I know that I love to read, but often have a hard time carving out time – so I belong to a book club that meets once per month which “forces” me to read at least one new book per month AND spend 2 hours with other women hanging out and discussing our latest selection.
  • I have a meditation app on my phone that keeps me accountable by keeping track of how many minutes/days-in-a-row that I’ve meditated – I’m motivated to keep my streak going so I sit down every day for 10 minutes to practice meditation (not to mention that this practice has really changed my life).

It may take some adjusting at first – especially if you are the type of person that rarely takes time for yourself, but stick with it. Your family will adjust and when they see the positive changes in you, they will understand and be glad to give you time to yourself.

When our emotional cup is empty, we have very little left to give. It's so important to fill our own cups daily.