Parents today are being pulled in every direction. Our society seems to glorify being busy like it’s some sort of social status. The less you care for yourself seems to prove something. If you are too busy to care for yourself you appear more important or highly successful. This, however, is the farthest thing from the truth. Not only is it bad for our own health and setting a bad example for our children, not caring for ourselves greatly hinders our ability to care for others.
Imagine for a minute you are on a jet, about ready to take off. The flight crew is giving their safety briefing. One of the things mentioned is to put your oxygen mask on FIRST before you help small children. For most parents, this is a difficult concept to grasp. Help myself, before my child? What kind of parent would that make me? A smart one. We can’t help our children if we can’t breathe ourselves. So put on that oxygen mask.
But what does it look like to put on our oxygen mask first? A bubble bath? A glass of wine and some chocolate? A Mom’s night out or a trip to vegas? Contrary to what you hear in most social circles, no, this is not self-care. . . This is self-soothing. It’s making a temporary moment seem better by indulging in something you lust. True self-care is not always glamorous. It’s doing what we need to do, however small, to live our best life.
It takes vulnerability and courage to put your true self-care in place. Brene Brown’s shame resilience research shows that the concepts of scarcity and comparison are evil twins of self-care disaster. It is scarcity that leads us to put ourselves second, to spiral into negative thoughts, and increase our shame self talk. It is comparisons that drive us to not believe in ourselves and our own unique strengths. It takes courage over comfort, to choose to put yourself first. To know that we must place ourselves first before anyone else in our overall wellness.
There are eight dimensions of wellness: Emotional, Financial, Environmental, Intellectual, Social, Occupational, Physical, and Spiritual. Living your best life means that all eight of these dimensions are in a healthy state. If even one dimension is struggling it can affect your entire well-being. True self care is taking care of these eight dimensions. This might mean that self-care, for you, is putting money in savings every month so that you have a security blanket to fall back on if you have a medical emergency. It might mean saying no to that friend who wants to go out Friday night who always talks negatively or encourages you to make poor decisions. It might mean making sure you actually get eight full hours of sleep every night so that you can be your best self for your children and your spouse, or it might mean waking up at 5 AM three times a week so that you can get a run in before your busy day begins.
“Wholehearted living is about engaging in our lives for a place of worthiness. It means cultivating the courage, compassion, and connection to wake up in the morning and think no matter what gets done and how much I left undone, I am enough.”
- Brené Brown
As parents, we set the example. Our children look to us, they see our behavior and they mirror it. If we are running ourselves into the ground, our children will learn to do the same. We need to teach them boundaries and limits - that it’s okay to say “no.” We need to teach them to take care of their physical body as well as their mental health and spiritual self. If we drown our feelings and emotions in chocolate and wine, they will learn this self-soothing technique as well. They will learn to avoid their big feelings and instead, seek comfort in food. We need to teach our children a healthy way to cope and manage big emotions, and the best way to do this is by modeling it ourselves. Daily practice is where we develop healthy habits.
“Love yourself enough to set boundaries. Your time and energy are precious. You get to choose how you use it. You teach people how to treat you by deciding what you will and won’t accept.”– Anna Taylor
Finding ways to have healthy connections and set healthy boundaries takes awareness. Morning and nighttime routines are a great time for parents to set the example of self care. If you are pushing the snooze button, skipping breakfast, and rushing to get everyone out the door . . . you are creating anxiety that doesn’t need to be there. Take charge and make changes so that your mornings and evenings with your family can be more relaxed, organized, and enjoyable. This might be as simple as getting rid of distractions like television or video games. Or it might mean everyone getting to bed earlier so that you can wake up on time. . . which might mean that dinner needs to be started sooner or meals need to be planned ahead of time. Whatever it means for your family, take the time to figure it out. The return will be worth it and you will be glad you did.
“Worthiness doesn’t just happen it’s cultivated, its choices and daily practices.”
Today’s world is full of societal pressures that make us feel like we should be able to do it all and have every member of our family look beautiful while we do it.
This just isn’t true.
Life is messy.
Learning to put ourselves first, to care for our whole self, and to practice it everyday is Self-Care.