Being a parent is emotionally, physically and mentally exhausting. Even on our best days it is a struggle to be our best selves at work, in our relationships, and as parents. Often there is a struggle to find a healthy balance between work, parenting, relationships, and ourselves. And too often, self-care is moved to the bottom of the to-do list and, let’s be honest, most times it doesn’t even make the list.
But what happens when we don’t engage in self-care? I think it is safe to assume that most parents would say that they feel exhausted, drained, easily triggered, forgetful, snappy, and generally unhappy. And how does that ultimately impact our kids and our relationship with our kids? Well, kids are perceptive and they can feel when mom or dad is edgy. Most kids then worry about setting mom or dad off, getting yelled at, or hurting mom or dad’s feelings. It also causes us to have those “not so proud” moments of parenting where we yell or say something that is hurtful and ultimately, escalate a situation. Lucie Hemmen uses a great analogy in her book Parenting a Teen Girl: A Crash Course on Conflict, Communication & Connection with your Teenage Daughter. She describes these moments and the aftermath as bad parent hangovers. Basically, a parent hangover is the painful thoughts and feelings that linger after a parental meltdown. And, as we can all attest, these moments are bad for everyone.
So, what can you do to reduce these moments and help you move towards being the balanced, energetic, and resilient parent that you want to be?
- Learn to say no: Your child, spouse, friend, parent, and/or co-worker will survive if you say no to things. Too often we say yes even though we know that we don’t have the time or energy and then we become exhausted and resentful. Knowing our limits and boundaries has a positive impact on everyone we have contact with.
- Get space: There is no question that as parents, we love our children. That doesn’t mean, however, that we need to be around them 24-7. Cultivating a sense of healthy separation will ultimately lead to a stronger and less conflictual connection between you and your child(ren).
- Engage in activities that you enjoy: Remember the days before kids and how you would spend your time? Well, just because you have kids doesn’t mean that you can’t continue to engage in some of the activities that you loved to do before they entered your life. This means spending time with friends, getting out of the house, and engaging in activities that refill your tank. Little things can count too like taking a bath or reading. Engaging in activities that we enjoy ultimately reenergizes us and helps us be our best selves as parents.
- Get healthy: Practicing healthy habits is an important self-care strategy. This doesn’t mean that you have to go to the gym fives a week or go on a diet. It simply means that you are actively making healthy choices and engaging in healthy activities. This can include taking walks, doing yoga, or engaging in mindfulness activities.
Remind yourself of the oxygen mask procedures on an airplane. Always place the oxygen mask on yourself before helping small children or others in need of assistance. Why? because we can’t be there for others if we don’t take care of ourselves. Know that self-care is a necessity, not a luxury. It allows you to be the best version of yourself and thus the happiest and most effective parent you can be.
Hemmen, L. (2012). Parenting a teen girl: A crash course on conflict, communication & connection with
your teenage daughter. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications, Inc.