We’re all familiar with the idea that unless we look after ourselves as parents, we’re not gonna be the best we can be for our little ones. But is it realistic to simply order yourself a time out to ‘take time for you’, ‘take up a new hobby’ or ‘implement a luxurious nighttime skincare routine’?
In reality this is pretty impractical when your days are mostly a non-stop whirlwind of ‘please get your shoes on’ / ‘be kind to your brother’ / ‘no the cat doesn’t like it when you do that’ on repeat.
I have about as much chance of doing time out self care as I have of getting my four year old to eat toast I’ve cut into triangles when what he wanted was squares.
All this advice normally makes me feel worse. Which got me thinking. How can you care for yourself when time out is not an option?
The secret sauce? I think it’s all about mindset. Something we all have, unique to ourselves, and pretty much the only thing in our lives as parents that we have any bl**dy control over. Cos lets face it, those toast triangles aint getting eaten no matter what I say.
So here are some ways to care for yourself that don’t involve a lot of time, money or essential oils, that are all about healthy mindset, which is pretty much the only thing in our lives as parents that we have any bl**dy control over. Cos lets face it, those toast triangles ain’t getting eaten no matter what I say.
It’s ok to do nothing
Becoming a parent can put a serious dent in your productivity.
How can you feel so busy all day but get to the end and be unable to recall a single thing you’ve ‘achieved’? You’ve kept small people, and yourself, alive, sure. Personally I find it hard to find this low bar of running just to stay still very satisfying. So rather than trying to convince myself I’ve ‘done’ things, I’m getting ok with doing nothing.
Because I’m not doing nothing. I’m focusing on what’s in front of me in the moment, without agenda. I’m appreciating relationships, time spent with others and valuing relaxation. And that’s worth it.
Comparison is the thief of joy. Its fair to say we’re more savvy these days about not taking as rote truth everything we read from other people on social media, or believing how their lives are portrayed.
But we still happily compare ourselves with the person we want to be, or, worse, the person we feel we should be.
I should’ve been able to remember it was forest school today. I should’ve sent thank you cards by now. I should’ve planned our food shop and we wouldn’t be having crackers for tea. Again. Should should should should. It’s knackering, undermining, destructive and depressing. And so often applied to stuff that really doesn’t matter. So now it’s banned.
Instead, if I catch a ‘should’ creeping into my thoughts, I’ll try swapping it for a ‘could’. I could set an alarm for forest school. I could write the thank you cards tonight. I could write a meal plan next week.
Doesn’t mean I am automatically going to do any of these things, but I’m releasing myself from the cycle of self-beat up if it doesn’t happen. Y’know I could, I could not, whatevs.
Consider your own needs
If you’re in the process of raising tiny people, you’ve probably had a good few years’ practice at putting yourself last. There are a myriad of subtle, gradual, sub-conscious indicators that you experience day in day out which tell you that you are the bottom of the pile. Minimal private alone time. Normalised intrusion of your physical personal space. Getting frequently interrupted in whatever you are doing. Regular reminders that the universe laughs in the face of your attempts to make and stick to plans.
And don’t get me wrong I do all these things willingly and would make every single choice the same again, and will continue to put my children’s needs first in a practical sense. But this drip drip drip feed of mini ‘you don’t matter’ messages also tells us we shouldn’t have needs in the first place. We shouldn’t want things for ourselves, we shouldn’t value the things that we value. Like personal growth, a creative outlet, or the odd shower.
It’s one thing to put your children’s needs above your own. It’s something else entirely to deny your own needs’ existence.
Your needs are real, they are valid, and acknowledging them is not selfish, it is a core part of valuing yourself.
Meeting those needs, once identified, is a whole other ball game. But for me just acknowledging them and accepting that they are valid is big progress. And making space to meet them will be regular day to day micro changes, rather than any big gesture or time out sesh. Phoning a friend instead of helping with tea time (because I want to invest in my personal friendships), having a turn with ‘mummy’s music’ in the car (because I miss this creative aspect of myself), letting the kids wait if I’m in the middle of something (can’t say I’m not ambitious right?).
But more than anything I’m looking forward to the kids seeing some changes. For them to understand that Mummy and Daddy are individual human people in their own right (not just their serfs). Unless we model for them that other people have needs that sometimes are at odds with their own, how can we teach them that empathy, compromise and give and take are key to happy relationships?
And, how would I ever get to the gym ever again?