You might think: “What does self care have to do with parenting skills” ? Well it has everything to do with it. As I’ve mentioned probably several times by now, we teach our children mainly by what we do, more than by what we say. If you want your kids to take good care of themselves in your absence, you need to do it for yourself as well.
If they see you always prioritizing other people’s needs before your own, you are teaching them to place others’ needs first at the expense of their own…. People pleasing, does that ring a bell (read more)?
Our unhealed wounds are passed down from one generation to the next, when we live and parent unconsciously. All too common are women raised with the principle that putting their needs first equals being selfish. Other childhood or past wounds lead to lack of proper self care. And if you struggle with this, delve deeper into your issues, and work through them. This will greatly change the way you parent your child, for the better.
Adequate self care starts with setting healthy boundaries, which goes hand in hand with self respect, and self respect fosters healthy self-esteem. If your self esteem is healthy, the greater the chances your child will develop a healthy self esteem as well (read more and here).
In the midst of attachment parenting and conscious parenting, there is still space to take good care of yourself. How will your child learn self love if you don’t have love for yourself. You teach people how to treat you, and it starts with your family. If you send conflicting messages between your actions and your words, trust me, your children will follow your actions.
I have seen it too many times in my practice, parents asking me to heal their child of an ailment which is only a mirror image of their own suffering. But like most moms, and I have been guilty of this on many occasions, sometimes we show more love and dedication to our children than we do to ourselves.
We always put them first, at the expense of our own health and wellbeing. But I learned the hard way that if I did not heal or take care of myself first, then I am not a good teacher to my daughter.
It is important that you create for yourself rituals of self care, set clear boundaries for respect of mommy time: practice your favourite hobby, socialize with your friends, have date nights with your husband or partner, workout, do yoga, meditate, read, etc. Whatever brings you joy and peace. It is important that you have time for yourself only.
Step 1: Do make a point to make yourself happy once a day for the easy doable things, and regularly for bigger ticket items. Here are a few examples of what I like to do for myself on a daily basis : read a book at bedtime, meditate, yoga, write my book, listen to my favourite radio station when I cook or walk the dog or drive. Here are examples of things I like to do for myself on a weekly basis : meet with a good friend, go out for tea or coffee in my favourite café and write, have a nice long walk with the dog, take a nice bath with candles, work on an art project, take time alone in my healing room, light a few candles, put soft music, and read special passages in various books (or inspirational cards) that I have, or just sit there in silence and gratitude.
Step 2: Create a special space in your house or apartment for yourself. It can be a whole room or a section of a room. If your space is small you can use a divider or the architecture to create an illusion of a separate space. You can create a non-religious altar where you keep special items in that area (on a table or bookshelf). It can have pictures of people you love, special stones, books, candles, crystals, incense, essential oil diffuser, a Himalayan salt lamp, or any inspirational object that has special meaning to you (example 1 of altar, example 2 of altar; beautiful pictures of altars) . You can add a comfortable chair or cushions to sit on, a music player to relax the senses, etc. Your space can have a theme, a colour, special decorative items, etc. The sky is the limit when it comes to deciding what you make of that space. The important part is that when you enter that space, immediately it shifts you into a positive state of mind, and thus will relax you and help you disconnect or unwind, and bring you peace and joy. I recommend that you give that space a name. I call mine the “healing room”. Retreat to that space in those moments of self care.
Step 3: Self love and self care involve loving your imperfections and doing so out loud. Show your kids that it’s OK to not be perfect and to make mistakes. Forgive yourself and be kind to yourself. Don’t be so hard on yourself and such a perfectionist, as this is what you are teaching your kids to be. Instead of paying attention to your perceived flaws, pay attention to your strengths and assets, and highlight them and be proud of them. Teach the same to your kids. Even super models hate parts of themselves, no one is perfect! If you catch yourself berating yourself or your appearance, correct yourself as you would correct your child. Tell that mind of yours to take a hike!
You need to embrace your mistakes and imperfections, they are gifts. If you don’t, your child will not only mirror them back to you, but how do you expect them to embrace their own imperfections ? Lead by example or you will be perceived as a fraud by your kids. Start by practicing this simple technique called “Mirror Work” as taught by Louise Hay (see here for instructions) and change the way you talk to yourself (more here). What you keep affirming becomes your reality. So make sure you affirm good thoughts in your life.
Step 4: Develop a gratitude practice. Once a day, at least, reflect on what you are grateful for (you can even write it in a beautiful journal). It is especially important to do this on difficult days as it will put things in perspective. Psychology research has shown the positive impact of keeping a gratitude journal (e.g., better sleep, better mood, fewer illness, more happiness – read more articles on the impact of gratitude). Read some tips on keeping a gratitude journal. Do this gratitude quiz to see how grateful you are :-), it will give you a great baseline measure. It is well known, that an attitude of gratitude leads to greater life satisfaction.
Step 5: If you have unhealed wounds, invest in a good therapist. YOU are worth it. As you heal your wounds, and take care of yourself, naturally your child will benefit. You will then parent more consciously and thus be more present emotionally to you child’s actual needs, and you won’t project your own issues on him or her (Watch videos here on being a conscious parent).
“When mama’s happy everyone is happy”. This saying bares so much truth. Take the time to pamper yourself, it’s well worth it.
Action Step: To practice self care and self love, requires a bit of introspection. Start by deciding what you value in life and what brings you joy, carefully ponder on this. It may take a few days. Look at your schedule and see how, on a daily, and weekly basis, you can make time for yourself. Develop those rituals that show how much you love yourself by working through the 5 steps mentioned above and start seeing positive changes in your life and your family’s life. Keep me posted below!
For more on self-care, read this good book by Cheryl Richardson (The Art of Extreme Self-Care). Designed to complete one chapter a month.