“Self care” is all over the Facebook groups, Instagram posts and articles that I follow and read. As someone who totally values the need to look after ones own mental health and emotional wellbeing, I get it. I know its value and I know you and I are worth it. It should be as acceptable to us as the air we breathe, shouldn’t it?
Yet, I can’t help feeling that within those mum, dad, parent or carer groups – it is missing 2 really important points. Granted, these “points” I refer to are really important to me, but I feel they they hold weight so please bear with me on this.
We wonderfully support and uplift one another to seek ways of accessing self care strategies; bubble baths, drinking gin, massage, mindfulness, yoga, talking things through, nights out, Costa Coffee’s…you name it, we encourage it.
But – and here is what is niggling me – it’s not just about us anymore as parents, we need to pull our kids into the equation. Self care helps us to be our better selves. In turn we are likely to be more patient & tolerant parents, better thinkers, more enjoyable to be around. So to my first point, when we look after ourselves (not at the expense of our children, of course), our little people will benefit in so many ways too.
Secondly, and here comes most of my ramble – we are our children’s most influential role models from a very early age.
They learn from what they see, what they hear and what they experience. What are we teaching them about self care?
If we thought self care was just about us, then think again. You are teaching your children so much about life, about their emotions, self worth and self love. You are modelling how to handle things the best you/they can when things are feeling tough. You are guiding them towards the value of their mental and emotional health during the good times, not just when things hit rock bottom. Helping them to see the value of sharing their load and the importance of choosing those around them wisely. You are taking them on a journey to build emotional resilience and skills for life.
Ever experienced “mum/parent guilt” for going on a night out? Prangs of unease because you are buying yourself a new top or outfit (even if on the bargain rail during your food shop at the local supermarket! ). Felt naughty for hiding away in the bathroom for an extra 5 minutes just to get some peace and quiet (at risk of your other half wondering if you have the runs…still worth it though!). I am sure some of you can relate along with a thousand other examples.
So lets flip it on its head. a) Your child sees you going out with friends that you value and you put effort into seeing, you have known them for years and they make you laugh, they support you and make you happy – not a bad self care strategy to model if you ask me. b) You work hard to raise your family, perhaps juggling paid employment also, so you treat yourself as recognition for what you achieve – showing your children how to be proud of your achievements, for being grateful for the clothes on your back, for setting goals and rewarding yourself when you reach them, in the value of feeling nice about how you look, that you are worthy to look and feel good. Pretty good life lessons, hey? c) Peace and quiet in the bathroom allowing you those moments to get your breathing back on track, slow life down a minute, give you some thinking space when you feel your emotions building and potentially getting in the way of logic or rational behaviour –children learning that it is ok to have some time alone and to feel comfortable in their own company is pretty powerful, even for the most sociable or needier of children.
To further strengthen these messages you could talk with them about what you are doing, why and the benefits you gain from your self care strategies. Be curious with them about what they may want to try – within reason of course, a 13 year old asking if they can have a G&T to help them “chill out” is not the best idea! They are never too young either, even a tiny baby is starting to learn about the world around them from you – even more reason to get into the swing of self care if you have not already.
I don’t aim to eradicate parental guilt by writing this, nor do I intend to highlight something new, as it isn’t. It is simply an opportunity to hopefully get some of you thinking about self care…albeit with an extra layer or two on top.