Self-Care for Parents: It Isn't A Luxury - It's A Necessity

Welcome to the rollercoaster ride of parenthood! It is a wild journey that know one can quite prepare you for. It is filled with ups and downs, with more twists and turns than a Dr. Suess bedtime story. Many parents have a dreamy vision of pregnancy – the glowing skin, a picture perfect baby bump, birth plan going as prepared for, and instant baby bonding bliss. But as new parents quickly discover – this reality often looks a little different. With the joy of welcoming a new baby, there can also be a whirlwind of emotions, grief, uncertainty, and transformation – all of which can literally happen over night. 

Once the baby arrives, it is easy to get sucked down the rabbit hole of tracking wake windows, feeding schedules, and developmental milestones, while constantly researching the best developmental toys or products (why are there SO MANY to choose from?!). Next, cue the inner critic with all the “shoulds” – our house should be cleaner, we should have these people over to meet the baby, I should know what to do, I should be back to my pre-baby weight already, I should be enjoying this time more – everyone says it goes by so fast! Moreover, parents can feel touched out from consistent close proximity to the baby, so touched out that it reduces intimacy between you and your partner. Parents can feel unable to make simple decisions because of being burnt out from constantly putting your whole heart into making informed choices for your child’s well-being. 

Now, let’s talk about grief. Grief can present itself in many different ways. It is most common to relate grief to the experience of a loss of a loved one. However, there are numerous ways grief can present itself in parenthood including: grieving the loss of who you were before children, grieving the pregnancy you dreamed of or the birth plan you prepared for that didn’t go as planned. Or grieving the relationship you had with your partner prior to having children. Missing your pre-child life is common. This can include feeling a loss of control of a life that was once filled with socializing, traveling, spontaneity, and a schedule that revolves around one person. All that being said, it is 100% possible to feel all those things, while still loving your children fiercely. 

Here’s the truth: It is ok to feel a jumble of emotions and it is ok when things don’t go as planned. It is ok to have boundaries. All of this can really take a toll on a person. While this is a time to embrace and bond with your baby, your beautiful growing family – it is also crucial to remember that taking care of yourself isn’t selfish. In fact, it is essential for your family’s well being. 

Taking the time to take care of yourself and your partnership during this time is one of the most important things you can do for your family. In an airplane, we are instructed to put our oxygen mask on first before you help those around you. We can do the most good when we are recharged and healthy ourselves. When we burn out, it is harder to show up for our children as our best selves. 

Here are 6 ways to reconnect with yourself amidst all these changes. Research shows that making small, attainable goals is the best way to make long lasting change. How can you add one of these into your life? 

Ask for help: Asking for help is HARD. By asking for help, many of us feel that we are presenting as incapable or not dedicated enough to our children and family. We might really need the help, but the fear of being judged steers us away from actually asking for help from others. Additionally, parents can also feel guilty for being away from their children or lack of control of what will happen while they are in the care of another. Let’s support normalizing and cultivating a safe space for parents to ask for help! Additionally, you may notice that people do offer help, but we so rarely take them up on it. It’s important to remember that when people offer their help, they mean it. Take them up on it. Don’t feel guilty saying “yes, I do need help”. By asking family or friends for help, this time away can support you in reconnecting with YOU – not Mom or Dad you, get the kids to school you, or tissue that your child wipes their face on you. But deep down in your core YOU. This will support you in recharging and showing up for your family as an energized, happy, and sturdy leader. 

Keep the fire burning: Date night? As a parent??? YES! This doesn’t have to be a myth! Take the time to stay connected with your partner by going out or doing an at home date night. Excitement and novelty help support keeping that spark alight in a relationship. Get out and try something new together. Or stay in and order a yummy dinner delivery after the kids go to sleep or cook something special. Get creative with a painting challenge or put on your favorite album, light some candles and play a questions game to go deep with your partner. Engage in a dual spa treatment with each other! Ways to keep the ideas flowing is to write date night ideas on a piece of paper and place them in a jar. Every week or every other week pull one out to enjoy together! 

Follow your bliss: How can you add more of what you love into your life? This could be putting baby in a stroller and getting outside, incorporating art and creativity into your daily rhythm with your children, reading one chapter of a book at night before bed, asking your partner to cover for you while you get out to spend time with a friend or carve out time for your personal hobbies. 

WHAT LIGHTS YOU UP MATTERS! YOU ARE IMPORTANT! The best way that children learn is through modeling. By modeling that you prioritize your well-being, you are teaching them to value self-care. 

Mindfulness: It can be hard to make time for yourself every day. However the beauty of mindfulness is that it can be as big or as small of a practice that you want it to be. And with consistency, it provides a profound impact on well-being. This can be done by carving out 1-10 minutes a day for a guided meditation, or even being intentional and mindful while doing day-to-day tasks such as taking a shower or doing the dishes. 

Communication: Now it is time to pump up your communication game with your partner and those around you. If you need a break from washing bottles or doing laundry – communicate your needs. Open yourself up to hearing the needs of your partner to support you both in reducing burn out. “I” Statements can work beautifully to support assertive communication. The formula for this is stating “I feel – – -, when you – – -. Please – – -.” 

Be kind to yourself: Remind yourself that it is ok that your house is messy, that you have permission to go to sleep when there are dishes in the sink and toys spread out throughout the house, it is ok to stop folding laundry and scroll on your phone or watch that TV show you’ve been wanting to binge! You are still a good parent if you turn on the TV and watch Bluey with your children or duck out to lay down while your child uses screen time. Life is about balance! 

The birth of a child is a precious, joyful time when your heart could just burst with all the love you feel for this human that you created. Amidst the chaos, the tears, the self-doubt – something beautiful is truly happening. As your baby grows, so do you. Every sleepless night and diaper change is molding you into the remarkable parent you were meant to be. Remember, when a baby is born, so is a parent. 

In case no one has told you this today: you are an incredible parent, in fact – you are the best one on this planet for your child. They are so lucky to have you! Parenthood is a wild ride, but it is a beautiful journey of unconditional love and self-discovery. You’ve got this.

Ella Sword Therapist Sacramento CA

Hi, I’m Ella Sword, therapist for individuals and couples at Love Heal Grow Counseling.

I help parents overcome relationship conflicts, navigate the complexities of parenting and address personal struggles, I am committed to walking alongside my clients every step of the way. You can experience more fulfillment in your life and relationships! I’m here to support you.

You can read more about me or schedule an appointment here: About Ella

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