The hierarchy of my life – a typical #momlife – goes something like kids first, then family, work, school, spouse, the household, pets, friends, planet Earth, gardening and composting, then me. It’s possible some of these are ranked differently but the fact remains that my needs and wants are ranked dead last. Self-care is something I preach to my friends and believe in highly, but not something I practice. Ever.
As friends vent to me, often breaking down by the stress of life, I remain steadfast in my beliefs:
- You are doing the best you can with what you have,
- You did the best you could and, now that you know better, you do better and
- Be kind to yourself – Take care of you. You cannot take care of everyone else if you are breaking apart at the seams.
These are the mantras I repeat, but admittedly do not follow myself.
I feel like a charlatan, like the parent that wants everyone to eat fruits and veggies but sneaks Oreos, the parent that wants less screen time for the family but checks Instagram while at the park. I preach self-care but do not realize I need it until I’m close to breaking in half.
Kids are hard. There I said it. Kids do not follow the instruction manuals (even though so many are published and are best sellers). They do not know limits and often make decisions based on their amygdala, the primal area of the brain.
Being in a relationship is hard. Balancing work and home life is hard. Taking care of your family, pets, friends, your gardens etc. is hard. The sum total of all these stressors PLUS adding a global pandemic would create chaos even in the most serene person.
How does one find the time to be a virtual teacher to kids that don’t want to learn from you? How do you keep a home clean when cleaning brings no joy, and the kids love clutter? How do you find an outlet when you’re trying to keep your family safe?
It’s too much. Caregivers around the world are burning out.
It feels sacrilegious to complain about a job that demands too much when many around us don’t have one. How can you justify complaining about a spouse and kids and a home and Wi-Fi speeds when so many around us would love to have those problems compared to their own?
THIS. IS. NORMAL.
It’s completely normal to have these feelings. This stress is not our fault. You are not alone in feeling this way. We all feel it. Even me.
We need to prioritize ourselves and practice some self-care. We need to make sure we catch the burnout before we scorch ourselves. We need to admit we are at capacity BEFORE we’re overflowing, and responsibilities are being ignored.
I love hearing about how other stressed parents cope and often hear that their solutions involve a nanny, lavish vacation, beautiful dinner out or spa day. Oh. That is not my tax bracket, obviously. What do regular folks like me do?
Anything. Truly, there is no wrong answer, just find an outlet.
- Take a walk. It’s too hot and humid to walk outside, you say? Then take a break by playing some CandyCrush on your phone.
- Take a bath. No bathtub? Take a hot shower, an extra-long, extra hot shower, with some loud music you can sing along to.
- Write in your journal. You don’t keep a journal or don’t have time for that? Maybe you just post on your social media and say you’ve had a long day and just want a virtual hug.
- Take some “me” time. Does this request seem on par with getting away on a lavish vacation? Put in some earbuds, put on an audiobook or pop-oldies (the ones you know all the words to) while you wash the dishes.
Seriously. All of these are ways to just tune out and process.
Rick Edwards, LPC spoke at a recent Parents Chat about key stressors as parents, what burn out is, and ways to identify it. He gives us some good tips on what self-care is and why it is important.
Rick says self-care gives us an opportunity to refresh and get a better perspective on what is going on. Self-care is learning to appreciate the small things and linking them together with a larger sense of gratitude. Self-care has been misunderstood to mean being selfish when it really means refueling your tank so you can be available. An important life lesson is that you bounce back, but you need to take a break in order to do it.
Self-care begins with self-awareness. Get to know your limits and your needs. Explore what you can do to recharge.
Rick gave some great strategies for coping during his talk.
- First thing in the morning, take ten good breaths. Beginning with this positive action can help you set a positive intention for the day. Something this simple can have a deep impact in your routines.
- Take a few minutes to appreciate small, little things like the aroma from your cup of coffee, or the taste of it in your mouth. Appreciate the value of the moment. Do this several times over the course of the day. When you focus on the small positives, you can create a larger appreciation for what happens in that day.
- Engage and be present in the moment. If you have disengaged, look for tiny opportunities to motivate yourself reconnect. Think about a time where you were engaged. What were you doing? What was your child doing? Even recalling positives from childhood or creating a new tradition can have a deep impact.
- Find a moment to take a break. A spouse or extended family can watch the kids while you take a break. If that is not an option, the first moment before kids wake or just before bed when they are all asleep could be a good time to reflect. The length of time isn’t as important as the quality of the time.
If you have half an hour to yourself, consider listening to Rick’s advice in his recorded Parents Chat here. His attitude and tips for building yourself up to be a more mentally healthy person and parent are wonderful.
Future Parents Chats can be found on our Events calendar. Everyone is welcomed to join, attendance is free, and the topics vary from session to session. Engagement is encouraged but attending just to listen is okay too.