Many parents (myself included) are under the impression that the moment we are born into the world of parenting, our own needs and desires become secondary. That is true to an extent: parents do not make up the bulk of the nightlife scene, we often have to yield the bathroom to littler bodies, and we have less time to leisurely read the newspaper or go backpacking when children are around.
But sharing our time and space with children does not mean that we have been forced into a life of martyrdom. We have our own needs, and we need to take care of ourselves in order to parent effectively. I recently wrote a guest post on dealing with mama guilt; the first suggestion in that article was to take care of yourself.
Mothers who are stretched too thin – who run from work to their kids’ activities, who volunteer and organize, who cook and clean – without also doing something to make themselves happy, are apt to burn out. There are several reasons this is not ideal, not the least of which is that a burnt out mama is not functioning at her best.
Nor is a completely selfless mother the best role model. She is passively teaching her children that her needs are not important. Consequently, her children will not consider her thoughts and feelings either. She is also influencing her children’s future relationships. Her child may learn to always bow to the will of others, or he may never stop to think about the feelings and needs of his friends and family. Neither is a desirable outcome.
Take Care of Number One
Here are a few things I have tried to do lately to take care of myself:
- Leaving the house for an hour or two: This gives my husband and son the chance to play uninterrupted. I can run an errand or surf the Internet alone, and my son learns that papa takes care of him just as well as mama does.
- Stashing a special treat away: Not only does sneaking a treat give me a little chocolate “ahhhh” moment, but it has the added benefit of detracting from any potential mama guilt for letting my son eat too much sugar.
- Indulging my vanity: I used to care what I looked like when I left the house; not so much anymore. I’m lucky if my clothes match, and I rarely do anything beyond washing my hair. But once or twice a year I have someone cut my hair. And once in awhile I color my hair from a box (I used to pay someone to do that, but I’ve discovered that’s not necessary at this point in my life). And I insist on my favorite shampoo (one big reason I’ve been hesitant to go no ‘poo).
What do you do to take care of yourself, and how often do you consciously do so?
What effects can you feel if you neglect your own needs?
Photo credit: costi