Self-Care: the Oxygen Mask for Parents!

If you’ve ever been on an airplane, you know what to do if oxygen levels drop. The little yellow masks will drop down, and you will be directed to put yours on before helping your children with theirs. Why? It’s hard to help your children breathe when you can’t breathe, yourself. The same message holds true in your life OFF the plane. It’s hard to take care of your children when you aren’t taking care of yourself.

Life can be so hectic! And just when you think you have the routine down, something happens to throw it off. You’re wondering just how you ever convinced yourself that having kids would be a good thing, and then you see a headline about the importance of self-care and you roll your eyes thinking, “Yeah, right, who’s got time for that?”

It’s important to find the time, though, even if it’s only 30 minutes a day. Here are some suggestions to consider:

  1. Make friends with other parents at your preschool, church, or through social media. Meetup.com, for instance, offers an abundance of possibilities for parents to connect. Start with play dates until you’re comfortable that your child will be safe in the other parent’s care, and then take turns watching each other’s children so both of you can take some down time.
  1. Hire a babysitter! If you’re feeling wobbly about trusting a teen, start by hiring them to play with your kids while you’re at home, so you get an impression of how well they can manage. Once you’re comfortable with their skills, you can venture out for some childless grocery shopping or even a movie date with your spouse!
  1. Agree with your spouse that each of you gets 30 minutes of quiet, private time three times a week, while the other one manages the kids.
  1. Set priorities, and make sure you’re at the top of the list! Yes, a clean house is lovely. But your kids won’t notice if the tables are dusty. They will notice if you’re crabby because you haven’t taken time to de-stress. Take the time you normally would to do a chore, and spend it doing something to recharge your batteries!
  1. As soon as they are capable, teach your children to do whatever they can to help with the workload. Don’t allow yourself to be swayed by the “it’s faster to do it myself” argument. In the long run, you’ll save yourself time because once the kids can do a couple of chores themselves, you’ll be able to do a yoga video in the other room without interruption!

Self-care really is a necessary part of every parent’s life. When you’re highly stressed and overwhelmed, you can’t be the parent you want to be and your family life will suffer. Set an example for life balance so that your children will learn that important skill from you, too. Reach for that “oxygen mask,” and put it on daily!

Eva Dwight is a parent, family and personal coach.  For more information, go to www.creativecoachingconversations.com.