Why You Need to Make Yourself a Priority in Parenthood
Parenting: A lesson in structure and flexibility, love and forgiveness, and patience and perseverance. It is picking up the discarded clothing from the floor of your teenage son’s bedroom, only to rewash it since you’re not quite sure if it is really clean or not. It is watching the movie Frozen again, for the thirtieth time, and belting out “Let It Go” with little thought. It is the many hours you spend in the driver’s seat of your minivan, chauffeuring your children from school to soccer practice to church and then back home again, just in time for you to go to bed. It is about parenting when you are tired, stressed or overwhelmed, frustrated, misunderstood, or depleted. But the initial 18 years of your child’s life do not have to be this way. Make time for yourself too.
You’re More than Your Label of “Parent”
Remember the adage that you must put on your oxygen mask in an emergency before helping your child put on his. Without first taking care of yourself, you are not equipped to care for others, at least not for the time and intensity in which they deserve. You go through the motions of life without ever really living fully; grasping at acceptance, wishing for success, and dreaming of affluence. In the process, though, you leave others with little, just remnants of your exhausted day. No one is worth receiving what remains by the time the sun fades. We are human beings, and we are so much more than left-over bits of the last 24 hours. We deserve to experience contentment and bliss, to know joy and fulfillment and to know ourselves as being separate from just our role as a caretaker.
As a mother or father though, we often put our child’s wants and needs above our own. It is only logical as we want better for them than what we had ourselves a generation before. The question then is this, what does that do to us as a person? As a mother or father, husband or wife, and just as a human being in general, how does that impact us? How does this define who we are as an individual?
Parents Should Schedule Time for Themselves
If you are reading this and saying, that sounds good in theory, but I am too busy to do anything for myself. I simply can’t find the time. Just remember your specified “me” time can be as simple; some examples may be:
- An extra ten minutes in the shower
- Running to the grocery store without kids
- Catching up with your mom by phone as you bake lasagna for the family
- Spending some time reading for pleasure while your children spend the afternoon playing tag outside with friends, etc.
Taking care of yourself doesn’t need to be complicated. It just needs to be personal. It needs to fit who you are as an individual with the resources that you have available.
Pencil into your planner a few minutes of time each day or week and commit to it, just as you would commit to work or any other organized activity. You are no less important than any of these things. In fact, you are more so. Remember this and make yourself a priority. Don’t feel guilty; you have given so much to others, it is now time to provide some care for yourself too. Besides, the benefits of placing yourself first are exponential.
Three Important Reasons to Take Care of Yourself
- Taking care of yourself shows others that you deserve to be taken care of also. You do not always need to be the caretaker; you should receive attention, just as those you care for. Additionally, when children see that you place value and worth in yourself, they are more likely to honor you and treat you with the respect in which you deserve. What parent doesn’t want that?
- Taking care of yourself will create relationships that are richer and more satisfying. Not in a commercial way, but in the love, support, guidance, and joy that you share with loved ones when you unite as a family for game night, special dinners, and story time before bed. You will be more invigorated in your actions with others, more patient with others, and more dedicated to what you do than you ever thought possible.
- Taking care of yourself will create a healthier you; a more physical, psychological, mental, emotional and spiritual you. This of course will depend on the type of “me” time in which you choose to participate, but even still, who can argue against better health? This is something we all should try to attain regardless of the amount stress, grief, and suffering we face in our everyday lives.
Maybe in reading this, you thought taking on the task of self-care seems like too much, too selfish, too uncomfortable, too something. With time though it can become just a natural part of everyday life. So take the initiative and carve out that “me” time, you will find that you will live more fully and engage more deeply with those around you than you ever thought possible. Please, take that step. Let this be your invitation to self-care. I can promise you now that it will be worth it. I promise that YOU are worth it.
Tracy Glantz, MS, is an Educational Therapist at CHI Health.