As a parent, when you’re having a good day, your kids feel it. You’re probably more patient, understanding, and maybe even a little bit more fun. On the other hand, when you’re having a not-so-great day, your kids pick up on that too. They may feel rushed and perceive you as being short-tempered, overly anxious, or overwhelmed and unable to tolerate the multitude of issues thrown at you.
Here’s the simple fact: Your well-being impacts your child.
I understand that this reality can feel like a punch in the gut, especially if you know that you’re exhausted or depleted and don’t see a way to change your situation.
This reality check is not meant to add guilt to the list of things you need to deal with. Guilt is overrated. It wastes your time and definitely doesn’t help you move toward a feel-good state of mind (at least in my experience).
I want to bring this concept of trickle-down emotional economics to your attention so that you can feel empowered, take steps (even very small ones) towards figuring out what makes you feel good, and try to build those things into your everyday life.
How can you make this happen? To pinpoint what you need more or less of in order to move toward feeling even, balanced, and generally okay, ask yourself these three questions:
What would I like more of?
I know that an extra hour in the day or an extra day in the week would be fantastic, but there are also practical, doable things that will improve your quality of life.
What would you do with that extra hour or day? What would you do if you had even ten uninterrupted minutes to yourself? Is there an activity, relationship, or experience that you know would make you feel good?
What do I want less of?
This concept of pruning and preening is often overlooked when parents think of self-care. Why? Because it’s easy to crave a massage or a relaxing bath, but much harder to toss old stuff, say no and risk disappointing people, or set limits on your time and energy even when it might upset others.
Fight the urge to skip this step and be brutally honest with yourself. Is there “stuff” that overwhelms you, like a junk drawer, toy room, or cabinet? Do you spend time and energy on commitments, activities, or relationships that you know are draining you and that you have some control over? If so, it may be time to thoughtfully and systematically purge.
What will it take to make these things happen?
This is the step where things usually fall apart. Making a mental list of things to do away with and things that would make life feel a little better is the easy part. Let’s be honest, taking action to actually get more of what you want and setting limits to give up what you need less of is hard.
Why is it so difficult to take care of yourself and meet your needs as a parent and as a human being? Because you also have to take care of your kids, who are probably very good at making their needs and wants known and who tend to persist, often relentlessly, if some perceived need is overlooked.When was the last time you had a fit because your favorite shirt wasn’t clean or because all of your favorite snacks were gone?
It’s very hard to put your kids’ needs on the shelf to deal with at a later time, and it’s all too easy to place your needs on that very same shelf where they collect dust and become unrecognizable.
Now that you’ve taken a look up on that shelf and found what you want or need, commit to choosing just one thing and making it happen over the next week or two. How? Remind yourself that it’s just as important as all the things you do to take care of your kids every day.
When you make it a priority to meet your own needs and start to fell better about yourself, that positive trend trickles down to your kids and has a powerful impact on your entire family. You’ll be better able to manage whatever comes your way, and your kids will appreciate your upgraded attitude more than you know.
For more practical self-care inspiration, check out Chapter 7 of "Parenting in the Real World" here:
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