To continue on with my previous “take care of yourself” rant, I wanted to add a new dimension. This time directed at parents. Why? Because when people become parents, nothing matters more than taking excellent care of the newborn.
Today’s culture demands that we be completely absorbed in our children. After baby is born, and often during pregnancy too, the only person that matters is that child. You are dirt to society. Unfortunately, that mind set has paved the way for Little Emperor Syndrome, and for children who fail to launch—unheard of in developing countries where kids are treated with a kind of benign neglect.
While ignoring our kids certainly isn’t the right answer, neither is ignoring ourselves. Make time for yourself as a parent, and give yourself these small dignities:
Love yourself first
Parenting is hard work at the best of times. With children those times can quickly go for merely challenging to outright frustrating. To help ease that frustration, set a little time aside for yourself and enforce that time. It could be that morning cup of coffee where children toddler age and up are not allowed in the room you’ve holed up in, or a hot shower while the other half looks after their needs. (Lock the door.)
To be the best parent you can be you have to make time for yourself, and use that time. You have to make sure you take care of you so that you stay healthy and sane enough to take care of them.
Children need boundaries. They want them and they will push until they find them. This is why if yuou have ever even once said yes to candy in the grocery line, they will now ask every time for the rest of their lives. The word “no” isn’t always easy when that cute toddler is looking up at you wanting you to entertain her instead of doing the dishes. It’s hard when your little boy is pointing to the cookie jar for his third cookie (Oops.) However, she can learn to entertain herself and even if your kid thinks he needs enough sugar power to walk on the walls, you probably don’t need that in your life.
“Yes” can be hard as well. Yes, you do have to go to bed on time. Yes, you do have to do your homework, finish your chores or clean your room. These boundaries are needed by both you and them.
No parenting on the toilet
Yes, children can get into trouble fast but that doesn’t mean they should follow you into the bathroom. You should be able to pee without having to mediate between your children. If you need to use the bathroom, lock the door. Chances are good the first 756 times you do it they’ll stand there and pound on the door, but this is a boundary that is incredibly important. After all, what happens when they are in school and think it’s okay to walk in on another child? Parents are people, too and privacy is important.
Everybody needs time off. Going out without the kids is imperative. You may make a solo trip to the coffee shop, go out with the girls (or boys) or even have a date. Doing grown up things, having conversations that use words of more than two syllables and just relaxing will make you a better parent.
Going out the first time may be scary. What if something happens while you’re gone? Will the babysitter know what to do? What if the sitter is mean? This can lead to you checking in every half hour. If it makes you feel better, do it, but try to find someone to watch the kids that makes you feel comfortable enough to relax and be an adult again.
If you’ve ever lost a child, leaving them can feel impossible, even for a few minutes. There are several wonderful tools you can use to make this easier. Consider getting an Owlet to track newborns, or a nanny cam so you can peek whenever you want to. The relief can be just what you need to truly relax.
Get enough rest
This can be a hard one with kids. You may have to tell your child that they have to forfeit their bedtime story because they stalled so long in the bathroom. It’s possible that the dinner dishes will have to stay in the sink overnight or that the extra load of laundry your kids created by dumping everything on the floor will have to wait until the morning.
This is more than just about not being a zombie the next day. Studies show that those who don’t get enough sleep have lower immunity and can develop significant health problems. If you want to be around to spoil your grandchildren, you need to rest.
Communicate with your partner
For those who aren’t single parents, talking to your partner about balancing childcare duties is a good idea. You can trade off carpooling, who gets up in the middle of the night and who has to be the bad cop.
You also need to be on the same page about rules and boundaries. Your partner can’t help you have the kids in bed by eight p.m. if bedtimes are a mystery. You can’t have backup for the ‘no third cookie’ policy if it isn’t known. It’s also a lot easier to get in that leisurely bubble bath if you know someone is keeping an eye on the kids. Who knows, you might even get to break out the bath set and use that fancy scrubber.
You have to love yourself and take care of yourself so you can take care of your children. They need you to do that. They’ll grow up happier and healthier. They’ll also learn from you that they have to love themselves.