Parents: It’s OK To Take Time for Yourself

It feels counter intuitive for many parents, but focusing on yourself is actually great for your children. With all of the stresses and responsibilities that come with being a parent, it is tempting to simply sacrifice taking care of yourself in order to do everything you feel is necessary to give your children the best lives possible. However, if you don’t consistently practice self-care, you are making life more difficult for not only yourself, but also your family.

Neglecting self-care can have serious effects on both your health and your ability to be a good parent. Consistent stress and unrelieved fatigue can result in a weakened immune system, subnormal functioning, and even psychological effects like quickness to anger, low self-esteem, and depression. This not only makes you feel bad, it sets a bad example for your children.

It can also create a spiral that affects the whole household: You are stressed because you neglect self-care, so you feel irritable; this upsets your children, who act up more than usual, which in turn stresses you out more.

Fortunately, you can prevent this from happening by simply inserting some positive habits into your daily and weekly routines.

The core of effective self-care comes from eating well, sleeping enough, and exercising regularly. A lot of parents probably scoffed at the last sentence, thinking, “I’d love to, but who has the time?”

Getting enough sleep and exercising should be hard-wired into your daily routine, but if they are not, there are a few hacks that you can work into your schedule. First lead by example with your eating habits. Even if your children are picky eaters, stick to a healthy eating plan until they come around on healthier foods. If you consistently lack sleep and are at home with your children during the day, consider napping at the same time they nap. If you can’t get out for a run or to the gym, take your children to the park and run around with them, or disguise some workouts you enjoy as outdoor activities and do them together.

There are a lot of other ways to incorporate self-care into your regular routine, including: 

  • Seeking out child-friendly stores. Stores like IKEA that have supervised playrooms for children can give you an opportunity to not only get shopping done efficiently, but also get some much-needed alone time.
  • Spending time outside. Just being outdoors in nature has been shown to revitalize people — combining that time outside with exercise is even better and actually improves your mental health.
  • Carving out “me” time. Mental health professionals like Meredith Tate, who is a licensed clinical social worker, stress that you must put aside a little time for yourself each day, “whether it’s a few hours, or only a few minutes.” This can include doing something you enjoy, or simply sitting still and focusing on your breathing.
  • Trading daytime babysitting duties with another parent. Make a plan with another parent to look after their children for a couple of hours and have them do the same for you — even just two hours of alone time can make a huge difference. But be sure to actually do something you enjoy during that time.

So much of being a parent is sacrificing your own wants to make your children as happy as possible, so practicing self-care can often feel strange. However, the exhaustion and consistent stress that go along with neglecting self-care can make it difficult to be an energetic and optimistic parent, if not drag down the whole household. Take some time for yourself — it’s the best thing for you and your children.

Megan DottermuschAbout the author: Megan Dottermusch is a community relations coordinator for 2U, Inc. supporting mental health and advocacy programs for the Masters in Social Work program at Simmons College online. She is passionate about promoting proper nutrition and fitness, combating mental health stigmas, and practicing everyday mindfulness.

 

Photo credit: Lee Haywood

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