Since January parents have once more been working very hard at balancing the roles of many different people in their children’s lives. You have been teachers, playmates, confidantes, counsellors, and online experts, shoppers, cleaners and carers. However, you probably have had very little time or opportunity to just be YOU or to focus on looking after yourself. We know that being a parent is the most important job of all but it is certainly complex, challenging and tiring. As children return to school, anxiety and worry have been added into the mix.
In order to navigate this important job it is vital that parents look after their own needs too but you are probably thinking where will I get the time or the energy to look after me and what does it look like anyway? At the moment parents are working on getting routines in place for their children so include time for you in the routine and try to stick to it. This time could be used to make one small change that focuses on you. Perhaps a change that would help you stay active, eat healthy food or get some of rest.
Changing the scene by getting out for a short walk or changing the tempo and mood by putting on some music and dancing around the kitchen can really recharge your batteries. When time is limited we tend to grab a quick snack and this is often not the best food choice. Make sure to have your own meal and sit down to eat it. Keep some healthy snacks within easy reach. Fruit can be really handy. How many times have you made a cup of tea and never taken the time to drink it? Commit to giving yourself 5 minutes to have a cup of tea and maybe a not so healthy treat! Feelings, thoughts and behaviour are all connected so if you finish that cup of tea then you may feel a little calmer which may help your thoughts be less irritable and you may behave in a more patient way with your kids. One small change!
Establish a bedtime routine for yourself. Have a regular bed time and a wind down time before you hit the sack. Choose something you find relaxing, a bath, read a book or try some relaxation or breathing techniques. Have some screen free time before bed and avoid screens in the bedroom. Often as soon as your head hits the pillow you brain goes into over drive and fills with thoughts and things you need to do. Consider having a notebook beside your bed and jot down the thoughts that are whirling around inside your head. Then you can forget about them until tomorrow.
Social media is a catch 22 situation – we are encouraged to use it less but it has become a lifeline and connection to society and our family and friends. So be selective and choose links that make you feel good. Link with people that help you feel positive about yourself. Parents certainly don’t need any help knocking themselves down as they can be good at that all by themselves!
Unfortunately getting a babysitter and having a night out with our partner of friend is not an option at the moment. Stay In dates can be enjoyable even if it is just a date with yourself. Watch a film, listen to music, and enjoy a chocolate bar – whatever works for you. Allowing yourself this time will give you renewed energy for all the other things that are still waiting. Reunite with things you enjoyed before becoming a parent, old habits you have forgotten about but enjoyed.
Treating and looking after yourself isn’t being selfish. It’s being aware that you’re important too and deserve to be cared for just as much as anyone else. You cannot pour anything out of an empty cup so fill yours up regularly.
Celebrate the good things in your life particularly if you feel overstretched. Take time to remember the positives however small. It can be helpful to make a list of things you thought went well. If everyone enjoyed the meal you cooked praise yourself. Think of keeping a gratitude diary and jot down 3 things each morning or evening that you are grateful to have in your life. Never underestimate the power of starting and ending the day recalling the positives in your life.
Part of taking care of ourselves is being in touch with our feelings and needs. You owe it to yourself and to the important people in your life to do things, however small, to make yourself feel good. So Make One Small Change for YOU!
This article was contributed by Tusla PPFS and Incredible Years Limerick. Both are members of Parenting Limerick, a network of parenting and family support organisations.