I know what you’re thinking: “Oh no, another article telling me I need to be a better parent. I’m just dying to see what else I’m failing at.” Chances are you’re already spread thin by doing so much for your family.
Here are some tips that might make your job easier and don’t take a ton of effort.
1. Fill your own cup first
As a parent, you are always taking care of other people. The whirlwind of worry, cooking, feeding, diaper changing, snotty nose wiping, cleaning, scheduling, shopping, working, and sleepless nights leaves you feeling frazzled and drained. This cycle of constantly tending to others’ needs leaves no time for your own.
But you can’t pour from an empty cup. Quit being such a martyr — you’re not impressing anyone and are, in fact, setting an example that you probably don’t want your kids to adopt as adults. Running yourself ragged all the time contributes to increased stress, sick time and health problems, and hinders your ability to function overall.
In reality, serving yourself first will allow you to best serve others. It’s not selfish; it’s just basic self-respect. Something you want your kids to learn, right? So find a way to make self-care a priority. The world can wait (and someone else can watch the kids) while you take a little break to go for a walk, read a book, pursue a hobby you enjoy, do some yoga, prep healthy meals, or even take a fantastic nap.
On a personal note, one thing I absolutely need to do is get up a little earlier (nothing crazy, only 15 minutes or so) before my three boys wake up so I have time to drink my much-needed coffee in relative peace and start the day on the right foot — literally filling my cup first. And everyone wins since I’m not a raging, mean momma bear at first sight.
2. Get moving
One of the single most important ways to implement self-care is to exercise. I know, I know, you’ve heard this one a million times. “But I don’t have the energy or time… it’s too hard… it’s boring… blah blah blah.”
Stop overcomplicating it. You don’t have to spend hours a day, buy expensive equipment, punish yourself boot camp-style, or go to the gym (unless that’s your thing, of course). Just get your body moving! Find something that you actually enjoy. Walk, jog, hike, dance, or find workout videos on YouTube you can do in your living room. You’ll find it invigorating and will be surprised at all the wonderful effects it will have on your life, like boosting energy and immunity, improving sleep, clearing brain fog, and helping you lose those extra pounds — not to mention you’ll be setting a healthy example for your kids to follow.
3. Let boredom ring
Two little words every parent dreads hearing. That phrase sends us into a frenzy of Googling activities to do, Pinterest-y snacks to make, local events to attend, and crafts to make out of toilet paper tubes. Then when our ungrateful offspring decide none of this stuff is exciting, we throw up our hands and just give them more screen time.
Why do we think we need to entertain them at all times? Let them be bored.
Boredom, in fact, fosters creativity. When a child hits that state of nothing left to do, their brain starts really firing. Bored thoughts lead to innovative thoughts, which are a good thing.
I’m not saying ignore your children. It’s great to spend time with them, but it’s also okay and even beneficial to let them figure things out for themselves. Learning to amuse themselves helps develop problem-solving skills, motivation and interests of their own — all contributing to healthy psychological development and a clear sense of self.
Eventually, they will come up with something to do. If they really need help and you can’t tune out the whining, help them create a list of things to do that they can come back to in the future. If that doesn’t work, you can always make a list of chores or ask them to help you clean. Suddenly anything else becomes oh-so-fun.
4. Give yourself a time-out
Although you probably can’t take a daily nap or flee a frustrating situation, you can give yourself a little time-out when you need it at home. When your bratty brood is driving you crazy and you’re about to explode in anger, just go to another room and cool down for a few minutes. Breathe. You’ll likely be more reasonable and collected in dealing with them at that point and better able to remember that yelling, threatening and being aggressive helps no one.
Think it through before you threaten consequences upon which you know you won’t follow through, or do something you might regret.
5. Help yourself to some hygge
Hygge (pronounced hoo-gah) is a Danish term meaning “a quality of coziness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being.”
Just as adequate sleep is vital to overall health and functioning, a hygge-style mental rest can make you feel refreshed, full of joy and more productive, among other things.
Slow down to savor a refreshing glass of lemonade, enjoy family movie night, slip on some warm fuzzy slippers, listen to music, catch up on Netflix shows, go on a date night, get together with friends, bake cookies, relax on the beach — whatever makes you feel comforted and cozy. Try to make this a regular thing in your life. It’s a lifestyle, not just an occasional thing.
LJ is a writer, wife, mom of three and fitness trainer. She tries to keep her head on straight by working out, getting stuck in yoga poses…and hiding to eat all the chocolate. Originally published on parent.com. Reprinted with permission.