If you have ever read parenting books or web-sites (including our own loveparenting.ie) or done a parenting programme, you will know that one of the key messages to support positive parenting is that parents need to find time to look after themselves if in order to be able to meet the needs of their children. We know that it is so much more difficult to parent when we are tired, stressed out, worried or anxious about something. We also know that losing ourselves completely in family life isn’t good for us or our families—you still need to be you.
You may have read suggestions to go for a walk, take a bath, go out with your friend, etc, and these are all good suggestions that can help us take care of ourselves. But, many parents, on reading these suggestions might think: “A bath-great! As soon as I close the door I will have a little audience splashing and playing with the bubbles. That sounds relaxing!” Or, “A night out—yes, lovely, but after finding a babysitter, paying for a taxi in to town, having a meal or a drink—I would be less stressed out about time and money if I just stay home!”
So, given that most of us have limited time and budgets, how do we prioritise caring, really caring, for ourselves?
• Prioritise and Plan. If this is going to happen, you really need to commit to setting aside some time for yourself. Put it in the diary and plan how you are going to have this time. Make sure you have a concrete plan—a vague notion of doing some exercise or call an old friend sometime next week will likely not happen. Plan to meet a friend for coffee on Tuesday at 5; plan to go for a walk on Monday and Wednesday after the children are in bed.
• Start Small. Facebook and Instragram can convince us that everyone else is out there “living their best life” all the time and having non-stop fun. The reality, of course, is that everyone has their challenges and struggles. You may not be able to schedule a spa weekend with the girls, but that’s okay. Find an hour at home to read a book; do a health and beauty routine; do some stretches and yoga—whatever it is that connects you to yourself.
• Silence the Inner Critic; Re-set Your Inner Voice. Many of us, caught up in the whirlwind of everyday life, can be really hard on ourselves. It can be easy to focus on the things that go wrong and take responsibility for everything. You can only do your best, and having an inner voice that is full of kindness and gentleness (think how you would speak to a much loved friend or family member) can make a big difference.
• Reach Out. Many of us are reluctant to ask for help or even let others know that we are struggling. Reaching out to friends, families and neighbours can really help—you might arrange to meet up with a neighbour for a walk or swap babysitting duties. Most people are willing to help if we can find it within us to ask. If they’re not, recognise that they may have their own struggles.
This article was written by a member of Parenting Limerick, a network of parenting and family support organisations. If you find that you are really struggling and need a bit of extra support, there are a range of service and supports available. See www.loveparenting.ie for details.