Tag Archives: mom

Finding Time to Take Care of Your Own Needs

As the New Year is about to begin, let’s take a moment to look at ways to make time and space for meeting your own needs….

Giving Yourself Permission to Take Care of Your Needs

The first big step is to acknowledge that you have your own individual needs and that you have the right to sometimes be “selfish” and put your own needs first. Doing this will make you a happier, relaxed, more energized parent, which will lead to happier kids. It’s like when you’re on the airplane, and they say “if the oxygen mask drops down, first put on your own mask, and then assist small children.”

Working with Your Child’s Schedule and Needs

Sometimes you can fit in self care while caring for your child. What distracts your child enough that you can get a moment to yourself? Will they play happily in the bathtub while you sit on the floor nearby watching a movie on a laptop, or giving yourself a manicure? Can they play in a playground while you read a great book? Can you take them for a walk, while you listen to a podcast or call a friend? Can you take them to a swimming pool with floaties on and do water exercise while they splash around? Can you have a mostly uninterrupted lunch with a friend if you let your child watch a video while you do so?

Make a list of “5 minute self care ideas” – little things you can do for yourself when you have a moment.

Prioritizing

Is there something you would love to do, but just can’t figure out how to make it happen? If so, start making a plan. First, it’s good to figure out why you want it, and what part of it is most important to you (e.g. if you find yourself longing for a movie, figure out: is it getting caught up in a story that matters – if so, watch videos at home after you child is in bed. Is it being out in a theater that matters – if so, take your toddler to a daytime matinee of a kids’ movie, or find a sitter so you can see a grown-up movie. Is it really just important to have two hours of uninterrupted time where you’re responsible for nothing? Well, then the goal is to be child-free, and it doesn’t matter much what you do!)

Contingency Planning

Once you’ve made a plan, then have a plan for contingencies: if X happens, what will I do? If Y happens, who will deal with it? Think: what’s the worst thing that could happen? When would I know it was time to give up, and try again some other day? Have alternatives planned. Even if the plan fails, you will have accomplished one very important thing. You will have demonstrated that your own needs are important, and placed a priority on nurturing you. Celebrate that!!  And have a plan to try again.

Asking for Help

Ask other people (friends, families, or paid professionals) to help out. In addition to asking for help with taking care of your child(ren), ask them to help you take care of yourself! Often parents will get their partner to take care of the child, or hire babysitters so they can do the things they have to do, like grocery shopping or doctor’s appointments, but they feel guilty asking for help so they can do something “selfish” that they want to do, like meeting a friend for coffee, or just taking a morning off. It’s OK to ask for help getting your desires met as well as your needs. And if the first person you ask says no, find someone else to ask!

Parent Educators: here’s a free printable handout on self care for parents, which includes all these tips.

Self Care for Parents

Any time you travel on an airplane, the flight attendants announce that if the oxygen masks drop down, you should first put on your own mask, and ‘then assist small children.’ This is good advice for parenting in general. Yes, our children have many needs that have to be met, and many more desires they would like fulfilled. But in order to have the energy to care for them, you need to make sure that you’re also taking care of yourself! Take a few whiffs of parenting “oxygen” now and then to rejuvenate yourself.

Here are some tips for what to do when you’re running on empty.

Ideas for meeting your physical needs:

  • Exercise, on your own and as a family
  • Sleep (as much as  you can), and nap when your child naps
  • Eat right: food affects mood, so try to cut down on sugars and processed foods
  • Get or give a massage. Cuddle, kiss, or make love with your partner
  • Take a hot shower, or a long bath (add a little lavender oil to increase relaxation)
  • Have a cup of chamomile tea or warm milk (or hot chocolate with marshmallows!)
  • Go for a long walk outdoors – on your own, or with your child

Ideas for meeting your emotional and social needs:

  • Spend time with friends each week. Spend time alone each day
  • Prioritize the activities that make you happy
  • Be creative / flexible about social activities you can work around your child’s needs
  • Schedule time each day to talk to another adult
  • Allow yourself to cry. Find things that make you laugh
  • Find a way to have a weekly date with your partner
  • Say no to extra responsibilities

Ideas for meeting intellectual needs:

  • Take your child to the library, but pick up a book or video for yourself while  you’re there
  • Listen to radio shows, audio books, or podcasts while you drive or work around the house
  • If your child is doing an art project, sit down and create your own art!
  • Write – stories, a blog, a journal – get your thoughts out on paper or screen
  • Watch documentaries on TV, or on DVD from the library or Netflix
  • Return to old hobbies you may not have pursued since your child’s birth

Ideas for meeting spiritual needs:

  • Go to religious services (or listen / view online)
  • Meditate or pray each morning, or each evening
  • Do volunteer work or help out others spontaneously
  • Contribute to causes you believe in
  • Spend time outdoors
  • Write in a journal – reflect on your new life
  • Be open to inspiration and awe

Every morning when your alarm goes off, or shortly after your child wakes you, spend one minute in bed deciding what you are going to do for yourself that day. Start small – promise yourself just 15 minutes a day. You’ll soon see the rewards (for yourself, and your family) of a little bit of “me time.”