So often when we think about parenting our focus is on our children and what we do for them, or what they have to do. How often do we think of ourselves? Self-care is the first and most important step in parenting. How often do we put everything else in the front of the queue and then….if there is time, we have time for ourselves? Do we hear ourselves saying…oh when this is finished I will have time for myself when the sports season is over when school holidays are finished or starting? How often does something else come up to fill that space when we get there?

Waiting for after something is completed is a pattern of behaviour. There will always be something else. It is important to give to ourselves at the same time.

What stops us from putting ourselves first?

1. What we are told

Society can have an influence on what we believe about putting ourselves first. Is it selfish? Do we feel guilty? We are not kind or a good parent if we put ourselves first? We all act according to what we believe. What do you believe?

The truth is, if we look after ourselves and our needs and put ourselves first we will parent more effectively. When we are feeling happy and resourceful we are present and emotionally available to give our children what they need in the moment.  It is usually when we are tired or frustrated that we react to our children. Have you ever found that you respond differently to your child’s misbehaviour when you are having a good day to when you are not? This is not about their behaviour, it is about us. Listening to our frustrations and finding ways to satisfy them, like giving ourselves time, before we focus on what is happening with our children gives us the upper hand and the control we need to facilitate their growth, which is our ultimate role as a parent.

2. Not putting ourselves first meets our need at some level

Always giving to our children or helping them meets our need, but does not always serve them. It makes us feel important and valuable in the moment. When we are organized and doing things for them, it is quicker and easier for us, things flow. It can even be the way we love them. Choosing to let them learn takes longer, it takes patience because they don’t always get it right. It can even cause conflict when they mess up and want you to rescue them. Even though doing it for them meets our need in the moment and is more peaceful, in the long term it causes our frustration. It also affects their confidence in themselves of what they feel they are capable of. It can create a pattern of “I don’t have to do it” or “I can’t do it” in them that will not serve them later either. Choosing to be uncomfortable in the moment is a more fulfilling way of meeting both our needs in the long run and is a far better choice. It is true self-care.

Ideas for self-care

  1. Book quality time in your diary with your partner, friend or children – don’t allow anything to get in the way…even if it causes conflict.
  2. Take time for yourself each day, even if it is 10 minutes to think about what you want. Write it down, think of ways to get it
  3. Make a list of the things you don’t enjoy doing. How can you delegate them? Override the resistance and try different options
  4. Schedule something that you really enjoy at least once a week
  5. Find something to laugh about often, share it with your loved ones
  6. When we are feeling tired, listen. What do you need? Ask for it
  7. Eat well, drink water, give yourself enough time to sleep. Make this more important than what you have to do. Override the resistance
  8. Ask for what you need, even if it is scary
  9. Notice the conversation in your head, if you are hard on yourself consciously change the conversation in the moment

Start small with a few steps each day. Be kind to yourself. The more we do this, the easier it gets and eventually becomes automatic and you will find you are happier and more fulfilled. You will also be a good role model to show your children what true happiness and success looks like.

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