I have just reached six years of being a father. I have 2 wonderful daughters who I dearly love. It has been a chaotic and beautiful journey and an endless teacher of life. I wanted to take a moment to explore the importance of consciously, and I mean “in your face” consciously, caring for yourself.
Woohoo, Parenthood is Awesome
Being a parent is truly a gift. But problems come when you lose control of your role in the family or in your life. This takes the form of parent burnout, work burnout, ugly and longstanding disagreements with your beloved, when you feel the kids don’t ever listen and your stressed about it, and a whole host of other troubles you just want to be over.
I’ve been there and likely will be there again next week. This culture of ours doesn’t make it easy to be a wonderful parent and it is our responsibility to work through this and be one despite the challenge. That’s where parent self care comes into the fold.
Self care isn’t always easy
Do not fool yourself into believing self care is this glamorous concept all of the time. It isn’t. Like other “fun” areas of life, we have to work at it. Ask yourself these questions
What is my personal definition of self care and what are the activities I enjoy doing?
Am I currently connected with the activities that help me?
What can I do for myself right now or the next day?
What needs to be sacrificed for the greater good of my mental health?
I have to be honest here. I fail pretty hard at self care and I cringe when I ask these questions to myself. This, in turn, leads to me letting down my loved ones at times. The important thing to remember is circling back to self care. There are going to be days when nothing goes right and that’s when these important questions come to the fore. Here’s an example of how I would answer them.
Self care is a process of doing activities for myself that helps to relive my often abundant level of stress. For me this includes going for walks, reading memoirs or fiction, meditating, studying therapy, and other forms of various media such as shows, movies, games. Also, sleep. Although, I am often a night owl and I enjoy the house when its quiet.
I am not currently doing many of the activities listed above. Especially sleep. I have been missing out on a ton of it unfortunately and its my own fault. Just being honest with myself. I have been watching shows alone but this tends to keep me up later and awake longer when trying to fall asleep. I really miss reading. I just feel so distracted and busy.
Sleep. I need to go bed at a decent time. Also, instead of going on social media at night, I need to catch up with my newest book from Yalom. I think I need to spend the next week prioritizing and early bed time and reading at night. Also, I should try to meditate just before bed. Regardless, I need sleep tonight, I need to read my book tonight, and I need to meditate.
My sacrifices to accomplish this self-care plan are many. I am a night owl and do my best thinking at night. Plus it’s my only alone time after working until 5p or 5:30p, spending time with the girls until about 8p, and watching shows with my wife until 9p. I will have less alone time that I need to unwind. However, I will have some alone time.
You get the drift. The 4th question on sacrifice helps you to be conscious of what your self care plan will interfere with so you are not blind-sighted by it and can plan accordingly. For me, I may want to ask my wife for us to do our own thing at 8p instead of spending time together for a night. Another idea is I could ask for an hour after work to relax while giving her an hour, after or before, to balance it out before the girls go to sleep.
Is that all…?
Planning out self care can be a stressful task but following through with the plan is where rewards are gained Also, it is important to put it out there that certain circumstances will happen in life making self care extremely difficult to come by. These occur typically when major life transitions happen such as the birth of a child, a new job, the loss of a loved one, or crippling medical or mental health symptoms. The important thing to remember is not to feel guilty about not taking adequate care of yourself but to COME BACK to self care. It will always be calling your name so listen for it.