Self-Care: Parents Need Care, Too

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Parenting isn’t easy. You know all the reasons why–the waking up in the middle of the night, the constant need for attention, the precarious nature of growing up. It is a relentless job, but the payback is amazing! The experience and perspective you receive from being a parent will change your life forever. Nurturing children as they grow up, becoming independent, functional people is rewarding and soul-building on a level only parents truly understand.

Your biology shifts and everything becomes about keeping your children healthy, safe, and happy. The process sometimes seems to demand all of our hearts, souls, and bodies to accomplish. Parenting can be so demanding that parents forget about their own well-being. The most important thing for parents to remember is that they are no good to their children if they aren’t taking care of themselves. It is paramount to being an attentive parent.

It’s necessary to address three main areas to ensure parents are getting the care they need–physical, intellectual, and emotional well-being. Just about every parent could do a better job taking care of themselves in these ways. However, if we become too overwhelmed with any aspect of parenting, online counseling is an affordable option for parents to consider. It’s accessible and works on your timeframe. Whether you’re a seasoned parent or are expecting a newborn, below are ways that parents can more properly care for themselves.

Physical Self-Care

Young children, like puppies or kittens or any other type of baby, are essentially agents of chaos in their early years. They’re messy. They’re fussy. They require a lot of attention to keep them fed, cleaned, and impose some semblance of organization. But they’re sweet, cute, engaging, and they learn so quickly! Infants implore parents to bond with them and naturally take up a lot of physical energy.

Logically, we have to take care of ourselves to be effective parents, role models, and caregivers. But it’s easy to become overwhelmed and forget to eat meals, forgo sleep, skip showers, pass on the gym, and allow ourselves to get run down by our busy lives. The basics apply to yourself just like they apply to your baby. You should eat nutritious meals, get enough sleep every night, exercise frequently, and care for all the ancillary aspects of your life.

Exercise is particularly fundamental. You will have more energy if you workout regularly. It’s especially healthy and productive if you spend time outdoors. We can spend time as a family, and it can be time spent learning! Taking a hike or a bike ride is the perfect way to bond, stay healthy, and teach your children about themselves and the world. Exercising every day will make you healthier and it sets a fantastic example for our kids, helping them appreciate what they can do with their bodies and learn about the outdoors!

Intellectual Self-care

Interacting with small children can take a toll on many parents. Parenting also invades our interactions with other parents. Many parents long to talk with other adults about anything other than diapers, preschool, or kid-related things. It is vital to stay engaged and excited about life. That’s why you should care for yourself intellectually. Consider joining a book club or even taking a continuing education class. These types of activities help parents expand their intellectual horizons while interacting with other adults. Other activities that might boost how we feel intellectually include journaling, blogging, or spending time putting together a vision board for a family vacation or future event.

Emotional Self-care

Parents spend so much time caring for others, it can be easy to lose sight of how much care we receive on the other end. When you need to recharge, one of the most effective tools to employ is gratitude. As cliche as that sounds, looking for and counting our blessings, finding the good things in our lives and people who help us feel good and cut back on the stress of our lives are extremely vital to living a good life. You need to surround yourself with people who care for you emotionally. 

Furthermore, it helps us see an overall balance and helps us look outside of ourselves to see the bigger picture. Some people choose simply to meditate on gratitude. Others like to use a daily gratitude journal to reinforce the positive aspects every day and keep themselves more upbeat and optimistic.

If gratitude, listening to favorite music, journaling, talking to friends and family, or meditating aren’t affecting changes, there could be biochemical changes in our brains doctors need to address. Depression, especially postpartum depression, is a condition that affects many women. Anyone can experience clinical depression, too. Just like diabetes or hypothyroidism, we need medical intervention to help us back to a place of health. It’s not about weakness of character; it’s a body dysfunction we can’t control — so if you can’t get out of depression, consult a doctor and know you’re not alone.

For some, parenting can be the single, most fulfilling life activity they perform and how they define themselves. Others may see it as an integral part of who they are, but not a defining role. Regardless, the act itself takes a tremendous amount of energy, ingenuity, love, creativity, and care. It can become overwhelming at times to be a parent. Just know non-judgmental help is always available, 24/7, through hotlines like Parents Helping Parents and the Parenting Stress Helpline.

As parents, it’s important to take the best care of ourselves we can. It’s crucial to stay healthy and happy not just for ourselves, but for our children. You will be no good to anyone if you aren’t taking care of yourself. Caring for your body, your mind, and your soul is necessary to live a productive and fulfilling life. If you aren’t feeling happy, neither will your children. When you take the time to care for yourself and your well-being, you are doing the right thing. Only when you’re 100% can you be the best parents that you can be. Start caring for yourself today!

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