You Do You … Self-Care for You as a Parent

Parenting in the 21stcentury, whilst one of the most rewarding in life, brings with it many challenges compared to earlier times – I grew up in a family of 5 children, with a mum that stayed home whilst dad worked. We walked to school from the day we started without parental supervision, (1.5km, all weather, crossed a railway line and the main road into the town twice) extended families lived in the same area and were always on hand, groceries and meat orders were delivered to the house. Life seemed less hurried, and my mum, although an early riser, took a daily ‘nap’ after lunch, a leisurely bath in the evening and was usually tucked up in bed by 8.00pm, reading a book. Parents of today rarely have the luxury of such time to themselves. So how, in all the busyness of today’s society, do we manage to find the time to ‘indulge’ ourselves in self-care?

Let us pause for a moment and honestly think back to when you last had YOU TIME – time away from your role as a parent, time to engage in whatever YOUfelt like doing. For some, this may be a walk, curled up reading, catching a movie, meeting up with friends, bushwalking, gym, soaking in a lovely tub … whatever it is, it is important that you do it regularly…and guilt free. Looking after yourself, whether it be physically, mentally, or emotionally is one a key factor in your parenting role. Self-careought to be planned regularly, rather than just happening…so take time for YOU. How do you take care of yourselfphysically– diet, exercise, and rest, mentally– time to indulge in activities that you find relaxing, and emotionally – connecting with our emotions. Practising mindfulness – and consciously taking time to be mindful (aware and present and having a heart and mind that is filled with gratitude and positivity) gives you greater control over your emotions and how you manage stressful moments. Pay attention to the way you speak to yourself – if you sometimes find yourself engaging in negative self-talk it is time to replace that with positive words that are loving and kind.

Many parents tend to relegate their needs to the end of the list of others… and by the time they get to the end of the list, there is little, or no time left for self-care. The regular denial, for whatever reason, of self-care can then see the parenting role becoming less effective. Have you witnessed a parent in the shopping mall struggling with an uncooperative child, and felt glad that it wasn’t you (this time)? Have you been in this situation yourself, wondering what others may be thinking of you, hoping that someone would come and ask if you would like some help?

Whilst self-awareness/self-care is essential for your own health, it is also a strategy that is important to model for all your family, so that they too develop an understanding of how to listen to their bodies needs and re-charge their batteries. We tend to recognise that feelings of being stressed or exhausted leads to poor performances, yet do we allow time to nurture ourselves?It is perfectly normal to feel stressed from time to time.

Brene Brown, a research professor at the University of Houstonhas spent the past two decades studying courage, vulnerability, shame, and empathy. Brene is the author of five #1 New York Times bestsellers: The Gifts of ImperfectionDaring GreatlyRising StrongBraving the Wilderness, and Dare to Lead. See the links below to some of Brene’s work.

Brene talks about the fact that western society links self-worth to productivity which is not healthy because to be productive we tend to sacrifice rest and playtime and our wellbeing. According to Brene, work and play (self-care) time do not sit on opposite sides of the bank, in fact the opposite of play is depression. What is play time? – Time without goals, to have self-chosen fun. If we do not value play time, it affects our happiness and well-being.

“Our children learn how to be self-compassionate by watching us, and the people around us feel free to be authentic and connected,” (Brene Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection, pg. 61).

Australian author, Sandi Phoenix, co-founder of Phoenix Support has developed a framework ‘The Phoenix Cups.’ According to Sandi, “As human beings, we all have needs that need to be met. When they are not met, life does not function the way it should. our behaviour changes, our mood is affected, and we often feel empty and lost. The Phoenix Cups Framework will help you understand how to meet your most important life needs, and the needs of those around you, by discovering what Cups you need to keep full, how they influence behaviours and how you can use them to build relationships in all aspects of life.”

‘Phoenix Cups represent your basic human life needs and the cups are mastery, freedom, safety, fun, and connection. We all have those five cups, and when they are full, we have a strong sense of wellbeing. However, when the cups are emptying or empty, it impacts quite severely on our sense of wellbeing and self-esteem.” Sandi says it is important to fill your own cups first, that is, know your own needs. Once you start to understand your basic life needs, you will begin to understand the meanings of your behaviours (and that of your children, too). It is the same for adults, and we can catch ourselves choosing behaviours to desperately fill up whichever cup is empty. By having fuller cups, yourself, you’ll have more to give your children.’

Check out Sandi’s website for more information on Cup Filling and her book The Phoenix Cups: A Cup Filling Story

Looking after yourself by extra getting support

Did you know that you can get free parenting advice by calling a parenting hotline. There are also many services and support options that can help you.

So how will you do YOU TIME?

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