As human beings, we all have a deep desire to take care of the people we love. It’s fundamental to who we are and what makes us so special as a species. But for many of us, that often means putting the needs of our own family before the needs of our own. I get it, when you’ve got a screaming child, dinner to make, work deadlines coming out of your ears, and a pile of washing taller than you, it can be somewhat of a difficulty (read: near on impossible) to say, “hold the phone whilst I slip into shavasana” and have a whole hot minute for yourself.
However, it's important to remember that taking care of your own wellbeing is just as essential as taking care of your family's wellbeing. It might just be that it now looks a little bit different to what self-care looked like before having children, and that’s okay.
I think when we’re able to adjust our expectations to the current reality of our circumstances, we often don’t end up feeling as bad about a lack of self care as we once knew it, or perhaps we don’t perceive how other people are dedicating time and energy to taking care of themselves in the same lens of self comparison quite as much; whether that’s in real life (or IRL for the cool kids, you know who you are) or on the scrolling screens amongst the filters and #livingmybestlife hashtags.
When you flow with the fluidity of “what is” then you’ll probably find that you’ll feel better about yourself for the small incremental and subtle changes that you can apply in the ebbs and flow of dirty nappies, bedtime stories and broccoli rubbed into the carpet. AKA, it gives you back some semblance of control, and I’m here for it.
Here’s the thing, we live in an information age, and for the most part, most of us know what we “should” be doing to improve our overall health and wellbeing. But if that were enough, we’d all be able to meet those goals on the daily, and none of us would ever fall short, right? So there must be something deeper at play here.
We all know logically, that by prioritising our own health and wellness, that we’ll be a better parent, sibling, friend, employee, business owner (insert whatever hat you’re wearing as you’re reading this) - it’s got to be good not only for ourselves but for those around us. By taking care of ourselves, we are also ensuring that we have the energy and mental clarity to meet our family’s needs too, to create a happier, healthier home environment for everyone, and to model good habits for our children. Which in itself, is perhaps one of the biggest gifts that we can give them, so that they then don’t spend a lifetime not prioritising their own needs.
The Importance of Self-Care
OR shall we call it “A Practical Guide to Self-Care on A Shoestring for Parents” …it’s a bit like a travel guide when you’re a poor student, but this time we’re time poor (and maybe poor poor if you’ve found yourself succumbing and following the latest fads, phases and trends of every children’s TV character under the sun!...that stuff’s expensive!)
Self-care can take many forms, depending on your individual needs and preferences. Yes, it might look like deluxe spas, couples massages and candlelit gong baths, if you’re lucky, but it might involve the more “basic” or fundamentals of getting enough sleep, eating a diet that doesn’t just resemble your kids leftovers, engaging in regular physical activity, even if that’s just being able to chase after your kids or doing something for yourself that you enjoy, practicing mindfulness or meditation as you put the toys away for the 100th time today, or taking time to pursue hobbies or interests that bring you joy (read: catching up on Bridgerton or MAFS when the kids are finally asleep). Whatever form it takes, these small snippets of “you” is the difference between burning out, a nervous breakdown, and being the you, that you enjoy and is good for others too.
When we neglect our own wellbeing, we can quickly become exhausted, irritable, and overwhelmed. Which we all know can make it more difficult to be patient and compassionate in the moment with our loved ones, especially little brains, which are not yet fully developed and can’t understand that we may need 5 minutes without being a human trampoline or surrounded by constant noise stimulation. By taking care of our own needs, even if it feels as though on the surface that it’s a selfish act, we actually reduce our stress levels, boost our energy, and improve our mood, making it easier to be present and more engaged with our family. Everybody wins.
Modelling Good Habits
Children learn by observing the behaviour of the adults around them. By advocating for your own wellbeing and modelling good self-care habits, you teach your children to value and prioritise their own health and wellness, even from an early age. I know that it might not feel like it in the moment when you’re desperate for a shower and your partner has to peel a crying toddler off from you who just can’t understand why mummy needs to have a wash. Cognitively and rationally knowing something is one thing, but to put this into action in the heat of the moment on the front line, is another altogether. And it takes real strength and all of your reserves some days to put this into action, which is why it’s important to have as many reserves in the tank as possible.
Here’s the thing, if your children see you making time to exercise regularly, they are more likely to view physical activity as a natural and important part of daily life. If they see you taking time to meditate or practice mindfulness, they may be more likely to develop these skills themselves, which can be a powerful tool for reducing stress and improving mental health. By modelling good habits, you can help your children to develop a positive relationship with self-care and set them up for a lifetime of health and happiness. So if ever you needed a permission slip, then consider this, that.
Creating a Happy, Healthy Home Environment
Taking care of your own wellbeing can help to create a happier, healthier home environment for everyone. How? Keep on reading my skeptical friend, keep reading…When we take care of ourselves, we are better equipped to handle the demands of daily life, including the challenges that come with parenting and running a household. We are more patient, more resilient, and better able to find joy in the small moments of daily life.
Some days it works and everyone wins, you get your self care box ticked, feel smug and wonder why some days you’ve not managed this before, and other days, no matter how hard you try, things just don’t go or flow the way you want them to.
When we let go of the need to constantly control the outcome, it can actually help us to feel better in the long run - so that on the days where things just don’t flow, and you don’t get a minute to yourself, you still haven’t showered, and you’re just trying to send a quick work email but all hell has broken loose, you’re able to breathe through it without becoming completely dysregulated and losing it, which only ever leaves you feeling awful and guilty for after anyway. Those small snippets of you in the week, are what keeps you from the edge in those harder moments. We really should celebrate those small snippets.
When we include our own wellbeing as a non-negotiable, we are more likely to create a home environment that reflects those values and priorities. This might mean creating a calm and peaceful home environment, where everyone feels safe and comfortable. It might mean fostering a love of nature and spending time outdoors as a family. Those values and priorities are then what supports the health and happiness of everyone in the family.
So, the bottom line is to make sure you take care of you, not just for your own sake, but for the sake of your family as well. Now, hand me another biscuit whilst I lie in shavasana…
If you're keen to learn more about improving your own wellbeing then why not register for next week's free show on parental and child wellbeing.
In need of a parenting style that advocates eat, sleep, play, love?
Then, join us as we delve into the themes of "Eat, Sleep, Play, Love" written by Dr Preeya Alexander - an evidence-based, non-judgemental, and refreshingly honest guide to your child's first two years.
In this cuppa, we'll explore the fundamental pillars of wellness - eating, sleeping, and mindfulness - and how they impact the health and happiness of both parent and child. Drawing on her extensive medical knowledge and personal experience as a mother, Dr Alexander offers practical tips and guidance on everything from breastfeeding and sleep training to managing parental anxiety.
Whether you're a first-time parent or a seasoned pro, this cuppa is not to be missed. Come along with your questions, and learn from the expertise of Dr Preeya Alexander.
When: Tuesday 16th May at 8:30am (AEST)