You’ve been yelling impatiently at your kids. You’re snapping at your spouse. You stamp around the house, doing three things at once, but getting nothing accomplished. In total frustration, you collapse with a pounding headache. Taking care of yourself doesn’t even make the “to do” list. It’s no wonder you’re frazzled and stretched beyond your limits. What’s going on? Pay attention to the signals. You may be heading towards parent burn-out! Now’s the time to stop and ask, “What do I need to feel good about myself again?”
As a parent, you’re like a pitcher that is constantly pouring. Let’s face it, kids are exhausting! What happens when that pitcher runs dry? There’s nothing left to give, you’re drained and empty. Paying attention to your own needs is the only way to refill the pitcher.
I can hear the protest already: “But I don’t have time to take care of myself!” “I can’t do that for myself, it would be selfish!” GUILT. We’ve got it by the truckload and it rears it’s ugly head whenever we contemplate an evening to ourselves, or say “No” to another request from the kids. Sure, being a parent demands compromise and a certain amount of sacrifice. We give that willingly. Somehow, our needs have to be worked into the balance, too. If we ’re not healthy and whole individuals first, we can’t give our best to our children.
So, where do we start? Take a look at the five basic needs: physical, mental, emotional, social, and spiritual. What’s missing in your life? What did you enjoy in your other life (before kids)? Do you need more relaxation, or more contact with good friends? More intellectual stimulation, more sense of accomplishment, or a chance to feel connected with nature? It doesn’t matter what you choose to add to your life. The important ingredient is simply doing something that gives you positive feelings.
Affirming to yourself that it REALLY IS OKAY to listen to your own needs is more than half the battle. You already are a master of time management if you can run a modern family. Schedule time for yourself before you fill the calendar with activities for the kids. Switch off child-care time with your spouse or a friend. Join a babysitting co-op. Build your support network. A good babysitter is not only a lifesaver for you, she’s one more caring person to enrich your children’s lives. Getting away, or enjoying a new activity will restore the creativity and enthusiasm you need to really be there for your family.
Self-care doesn’t have to involve expensive vacations or time-consuming hobbies. Regular, simple breaks during the day can be just as refreshing. Steal a small moment for yourself for a quiet cup of tea instead of vacuuming. The mess will wait – guaranteed, but your health and happiness may not!
We all can get so caught up in the frantic demands of life, that it’s easy to forget what’s really important to us. Slow down, nurture yourself, allow yourself some simple pleasures. You owe it to yourself, and you owe it to your kids.