By Danielle Peters,
Marriage and Family Therapist
June 26, 2021
The Importance of Parents Getting Time for Self Care
When we become parents, we don’t realize how involved it will be and how the weight of it is on your shoulders 24 hours a day. Even when you’re at work or your child is at school there’s still a part of you that is thinking about your child and aware of your role as their parent. They tell you it is a full time job but no one warns you that even with a partner there is still very little downtime and when you do start to get some physical space for yourself, emotional down time can become even harder to find.
No matter the age of your child or whether you’re a mother or father, whether you stay at home or work full time there is so much to do that time for self care is pretty scarce. This has gotten even worse over the past year with the pandemic and the lack of childcare that has come with it.
“The problem is…you can’t be at your best without some self care”
The problem with this lack of time for self care is that as a parent you have a lot of people that depend on you and that need you to be your best. You can’t be at your best without some self care time here and there. You need that self care time to have the patience and energy to feel good about being a parent. When you have children it can be really hard to take care of the basics for yourself like sleeping and eating and it can feel almost impossible to get the self care activities that are seen as optional like getting a pedicure or seeing your friends.
Both emotional and physical self care become more important as a parent than they were before even though they are harder to get. You need your energy and you need to be able to be patient and present with your child.
Signs That You Aren’t Getting Enough Self Care
A lot of parents find themselves really struggling when they aren’t getting enough self care. They lose their temper more than they would otherwise and find themselves doing things like getting lost on social media or in a video game. It’s easy to find things that feel more important than your child when you aren’t feeling your best or getting enough emotional self-care.
You find yourself getting overwhelmed easily and things that normally would not annoy you become very irritating. Things like making dinner or getting your kids to and from school that you’re usually easily able to finish take forever and feel like they are never ending. You find that you don’t have the energy to set the boundaries and routines you would normally find important. Because of all of this, your child feeds off of your energy and lack of structure and things get even harder for both of you. The way to take control of this again and improve the situation is to do what you can to make sure that you get enough self care.
First, take care of the basics: sleep and food
Start with the basics and make sure that you’re taking care of your body. Make it a goal to do what you can to get a full eight hours of sleep every night (even when this seems impossible). If your child is in a stage where they aren’t sleeping much, try to set up some support once or twice a week to help you get uninterrupted sleep.
If you don’t get enough sleep because you stay up too late once the kids are in bed this might be a sign that you need to engage some help to get time to yourself during the day. Even just a few more minutes a day can make a big difference in your overall feelings of wellbeing. Also trying to make sure that you’re regularly eating meals and that they include nutrient dense food. You can’t take care of everyone else if you don’t have any energy.
Then, move on to emotional self care: get some help
Once you get the basics taken care of it’s time to work on getting some emotional self-care in:
- Tag team with your spouse so that you each have some time to yourself
- If you don’t have a partner or your partner isn’t interested, the next option is to find some support. You can trade childcare with a friend or work on finding someone you trust to watch your child so that you can have a chance to get self care.
When getting help is not an option…
At the same time, sometimes this just isn’t possible or you need some self care now and getting those things together may take a lot more time than you think.
Some ways to get self care in these situations are:
- Create a peaceful space that is just for you and find some activities to distract your child so you can sit for a while every day.
- Get your child involved in your self-care
- Model mommy’s (or daddy’s) time out when you feel yourself getting frustrated
- Have your child hang out with you while you soak your feet and give yourself a pedicure
- Involve them in any hobbies that you have missed engaging in since you became a parent (like reading time or crafts)
- Take them with you when you exercise whether it is in a jogging stroller or having them ride their bike while you run or walk.
Another way to get some self care is by finding a support network. For a lot of people the pandemic has resulted in a restriction of their support network and we’ve had to carry the burden on our own. But this is too much for the longer term. Try to think back to what you did before the pandemic and if you’re feeling safe try to reach out to the people you used to spend time with. The support system that we used to have really helped relieve our stress because we didn’t feel like we were doing this all alone and you had someone to count on if something happened. I’m sure the people you depended on before the pandemic would help now and spending time with them helps to remind you that you’re not alone.
Signs That There is a More Serious Problem
Sometimes the day to day stress becomes more than that. Things stop getting done and you can’t seem to focus the way that you used to. You start to have a hard time getting out of bed or it becomes impossible to sleep. You recognize that you are gaining or losing a lot of weight and the coping skills that helped before aren’t helping anymore. You’re feeling stuck and can’t seem to get past anxious thoughts or sad feelings the way that you used to. These can all be signs that you may be dealing with more than everyday stress and it might be time to find a professional to talk to about what is going on with you.
Immediate Help: A Guide to Calming Down Quickly
Click here to download a guide on how to calm down quickly as a busy mom so that you can feel more peaceful and confident about your parenting. You’ll also learn about groups and other resources that can support you.
About the Author
Danielle Peters is a Licensed Marriage Therapist in Roseville who helps parents of kids with special needs in her (mostly) online practice so that they can enjoy their life and be present with their child. She helps parents find confidence and joy even when things are different and harder than you thought they would be. For more information on how to get support from Danielle, go to www.DanielleLMFT.com.
Are you or someone you know struggling with issues related to being new parents, parenting, or stress? If so, check out our listings for therapists in the Sacramento area who specialize in helping people with those concerns.