Can we begin with first recognizing this very important truth?
Self-care is not selfish.
It’s worth repeating: Self-care is not selfish.
While actively making time for ourselves and taking breaks from family time can cause guilt and anxiety in mothers and fathers alike, the truth is the self-care is essential—and it’s actually one of the greatest things you can do not only for yourself, but also for your children and your family.
And yet, you’re busy right? Who’s got time for self-care when there’s laundry and dishes that need done, carpooling and playdates to manage along with balancing all of the responsibilities that come with being a parent and those associated with work, schooling, marriage, etc.?
Your very lifestyle leaves you with little or no time to have fun, relax, rest, and enjoy downtime, right?
But the truth is that constantly being “on” and at the ready solely for your children, your family, and your responsibilities at all times can cause burnout. You likely find yourself feeling worn down, lacking energy, functioning in a disconnected manner as if you’re on “auto-pilot”, and maybe even cranky and snapping at your loved ones over minor things.
Consider this analogy: If you were choosing a child-care provider and you had a choice between someone who seemed stressed, tired, and overwhelmed versus someone who seemed rested, contented, happy, and healthy, who would you want for your kids?
As the leader and role model within your family, if you yourself are steadily feeling stressed, tired, spread thin and generally not well—how can your kids and family, then, possibly be well?
“You can’t just think, ‘Someday soon I’m going to take a day for myself,’”, as Genevieve Shaw Brown says in her book, The Happiest Mommy You Know: Why Putting Your Kids First Is the Last Thing You Should Do. “We have to prioritize the same as we would prioritize things for our kids. We’d never miss an appointment for our kids, because they are important. Equally important is prioritizing yourself and your own needs.”
Recognizing the need and importance of self-care as a parent isn’t the same thing as finding time for and actually implementing self-care as a parent.
While it can feel nearly impossible to create time for yourself in your encompassing role as a parent, here are a few options and possibilities that you’ll likely find aren’t as difficult as you imagine to fit into your routine—and more than worthwhile:
- 1/30. On the idea that there are roughly 30 days in each month, designating even just one of these 30 days as your “self-care day” can do wonders for recharging and revitalizing your parental spirit. One stay-at-home mom (who worked out an agreed-upon schedule with her husband to create this monthly day to herself) shared, “For my first day off, I drove an hour away, with a new CD blasting, to explore a new town and do a little shopping. The next month, my cousin visited, and we got away for some dancing. I felt much too old and tired for this, but she reminded me of how much I enjoy getting silly on the dance floor!” (Washingtonpost.com) Not only can “1/30” create much-needed self-care time, but studies show that just anticipating and knowing that relief and rest are coming can bring as much psychological reward as the actual time. Could you find a way to designate “1/30”, or one day each month, to your self-care?
- Bring in a helper. Whether this looks like asking a family member to cover you for a set amount of time (while you attend your yoga class or even just take an unhurried, solo walk), hiring a sitter, working with your significant other to carve out child-free blocks of time for one another, or even swapping childcare with a fellow parent—maybe you watch her children on Tuesdays from 2 – 5 p.m. and she watches yours on Thursdays—bringing in help will ensure you get the self-care time you need. Could you find and create ways to bring in occasional help?
- Set a goal within your larger goal. Sometimes, setting the goal of achieving self-care time can feel too vague or too big. Setting smaller, attainable goals (within your larger goal of self-care), such as running a 10K race or beginning and completing a scrapbook, can provide incentive. Whether you’re then creating time to practice running each week in prep for your race or gathering supplies one week and scrapbooking the next, the smaller times you schedule in become your replenishing steps along your larger goal of self-care. What’s something you can think of that might be a smaller goal for you within your larger goal of self-care?
- Say no. Not only will setting limits on your time create less energy being taken from you in the first place, but saying no more often to things that don’t serve you and aren’t fulfilling to you will free up more of your time to designate to self-care. What’s one thing you might be able to decline or say no to that would bring you more time for yourself?
Finding time for self-care as a parent can feel difficult. But keeping in mind the importance of refreshing and replenishing your parental soul, not only for yourself but also for your kids and family, will help you to be intentional about making and designating time for self-care in your lives.