Quite often as a parent we put our needs last. And have a to-do list that never seems to end. So we push and push ourselves, often declining any help, and then we get tired. We ignore being tired. And then it can lead to burnout, and at times a little meltdown.
When we burnout it’s much harder to help others.
We could be the parent who stays home the most with the children, the parent who supports the family financially, or a combination of both. Either way, we need to take care of ourselves.
I’m sure fellow parents can relate to a time when you felt so sick you could barely move, but staying in bed to rest wasn’t an option. Little ones were waiting with hungry tummies and needed to be driven to school. So you drag yourself out of bed, dizzy spells and all to do what needs to be done.
It’s especially hard now that many of us live afar from family. Or we feel ashamed to ask for help. We tend to rely on no one but ourselves, and our health can suffer for it.
But taking care of ourselves is so important. And while it might seem selfish, it’s what has to happen if we are to be the strength that our family needs.
I know myself when I reach burnout. It usually first shows as a flair of my autoimmune disease, followed by a little meltdown, and then soon after a sickness of some kind. And while it’s hard to do, and I’m stubborn at that, I know it’s time to slow things down.
So how to do you take care of yourself as a parent, when you are so relied upon?
Recognise that you are getting progressively more tired
It’s important to notice when you are feeling fatigued. And equally important to do something about it - like taking yourself to bed an hour earlier than usual. Putting off the early morning workout for a day or so. And not scheduling so much activity into your week if possible.
We often push through, but noticing the early signs of being more tired than normal are important.
Give your mental self and body a little attention. Find time to sit in nature and be still. Or push a stroller slowly if sitting on your own isn’t possible. Look at your surrounding. Notice the feeling of moving slowly.
Take a bath, give yourself a facial, or simply enjoy slathering yourself in a beautiful body cream. Notice how it feels on your skin, the beautiful scent and enjoy the little moment while you can. Being mindful of an experience can help calm and slow us down.
Or like I just did (after 5 months!), go get your hair cut and tidied. When we are busy we tend to let taking care of our appearance slide. But caring about our appearance will help us feel confident within ourselves. And the feeling that we are coping and not letting ourselves go.
This one is tricky, as when we are tired we are more tempted to indulge on innutritious foods and overeat. But it’s so important that we nourish ourselves when tired. Even if it’s one meal a day - make it nutritious.
Start the day with a low sugar granola or muesli loaded with nuts, or make yourself a green salad for lunch. Choose one meal and make it healthy. And forgive yourself if you’re not eating so well rather than berate yourself. Often a gentle awareness of it will help us turn things around again.
Let something go
Is there something that you can let go of for a while? An errand or household chore, a work task that can wait, or an activity for your child? Your child will benefit just as much by having quiet time to play at home. Quite often when we feel overwhelmed simplifying a daily process or eliminating something not entirely necessary can do wonders.
Accept that you are just not able to give everything in your life 100% of your time and attention. I found this one difficult. But as time goes on I’m accepting that I just can’t give each of my children 100% of my attention all the time. They soon learn that it’s just what happens - that Mum or Dad is doing something that needs to be done at the moment - and they begin to entertain themselves. Which really, isn’t such a bad thing. As a parent we are to provide love, support, and give quality attention when able, but we are also to help our children become independent. And for that they need some independent play.
Ask for help
I talk about this one as something I’m still practising. I’m a ‘do it myself’ type of person. And very rarely ask for help. But most of us have a family member or friend who would be more than happy to be asked for help. We simply need to ask. And it doesn’t mean that we are failing.
Think slow. Slow movement, slow breathing, slow down our thoughts.
It’s also important to have empathy for your partner.
When we are a parent and we are tired it’s tempting to lash out at our partner. We often compare the amount that we are doing to the other, and it can result in bickering. But it’s so important to learn how to be empathetic towards one another. It’s tough for both the one staying home with the children and the one out working to keep everyone fed. It’s tough when exhausted ourselves. Parenting in general can be tough. But pausing to think about the other before we lash out can help calm a potential outburst.
Our wellbeing as a parent is so important. And we need to remember that we need care too. Our happiness impacts those around us and our little ones learn from us and watch how we handle difficulties. Children want us to be happy, not sad, as do our partners. We deserve to be happy in life and thrive ourselves.