Hello Parents and Carers,
I’m Donna an Early Years Practitioner and part of my role is facilitating some of the parent and children groups at Lewisham Children & Family Centres.
I hope you enjoy reading our posts and finding the information helpful. I’d like to talk a little bit about why as parents we need to look after ourselves. Parenting is the easiest thing in the world to have an opinion on, and let’s face it most people do, whether it’s opinions from friends, neighbours, or relatives. Being a parent is one of the hardest things in the world and as parents we don’t always think about our own needs and well-being, but in order for us to look after others we need to look after ourselves and here’s why.
Why do I need to take are of myself?
Wellbeing is more than just physical health, it involves our social, emotional and mental health too.
Parenting is a demanding job and takes lots of physical and emotional energy, yet unlike a paid job, there are no scheduled breaks, lunch hours or holidays.
As parents it’s our job to care for all of our child’s needs, both physical, developmental and emotional. But, along with the many rewarding joys of parenting, comes lots of hard work, such as sleepless nights, challenging behaviour and tantrums to name but a few. Parenting takes energy, patience and resilience and when you are running around after children, it can leave you feeling tired and sometimes stressed. Being constantly on duty can take its toll on any parent, I’ve been there and I know how tiring looking after a child can be. That’s why responding and recognising the signs of stress and exhaustion in our self, both physically and mentally is an essential parenting skill. It can be easy to lose sight of the importance of looking after ourselves. The wellbeing of parents is often overlooked, and some parents feel uncomfortable, selfish or even guilty when they are encouraged to do something or take time for themselves, but no one can do a good job in any demanding role if they are exhausted.
Taking regular breaks and time out for yourself isn’t being selfish or a sign of failure. It’s being aware that you’re important too and deserve to be cared for just as much as anyone else in the family. Self-awareness means being in touch with our own feelings and needs, it doesn’t mean not caring about other people.
Sometimes we need to be kind to ourselves and give ourselves permission to relax, treat ourselves or just take a break. None of us are at our best without recharging our batteries. We cannot continue to give our time, energy and attention to our family if we are running on empty. Even small things we do for ourselves can help, like taking a coffee break, listening to some music, going for a walk or having a relaxing bath can make a huge difference to our feeling of wellbeing. Sometimes just adding a little bit of fun or relaxation in to our day to day parenting jobs can lift our mood. The benefits will be that we begin to relax, feel better about our self, feel better about life and are better able to cope with the challenges of being a parent.
When we feel recharged and better about our self it helps us to be the parent we want to be, a little parent self-care is good for us.
Imagine this, you have an imaginary giving box and every time you treat yourself or take time out of your day for you, you put something in your box, so that when your box is full you have something to give out to others. Ensuring that we try to eat a healthy balanced diet, take regular exercise and resting, give our body and mind what they need to keep us healthy. If we stop caring about us, it affects our ability to care for our children and others.
We are role models to our children and they learn from us, so if we show them that self-care and looking after ourselves is important to us, our children will grow up to be adults who look after themselves too. When we look after our own health, we are showing our children that it is important, helping them to grow a healthy mind-set that will stay with them into adulthood.
The Tinkergarten website have some great activity ideas that promote empathy and wellbeing that you could do together as a family.
As the great Maya Angelou said “If I am not good to myself, how can I expect anyone else to be good to me?” (Maya Angelou – American poet, singer, memoirist and civil rights activist 1928 – 2014)
Don’t be afraid to ask for or accept help or accept it if it’s offered. Many parents can sometimes find it hard to say they’re struggling, but family, friends or professionals, won’t know we need a little support if we don’t tell them. It can also be offered by friends and family who remember how they struggled at times and want to give you the support that they didn’t have. Asking for support or help is a sign of strength, not weakness and it’s a positive thing to admit that we can’t handle everything on our own, and that maybe we don’t have all the answers. Parenting doesn’t come with an instruction manual, we can read books that may help but the reality is that nothing ever really prepares us for parenthood. Asking for help does not make us a burden nor is it a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of humanness. Sometimes we need to be kind to our self and remind our self that we are doing the best we can as often as we can and that is all we can expect of ourselves. It doesn’t make us a bad parent.
Simple things can make a big difference for example;
- Asking your partner to bath your child(ren) whilst you tidy up after dinner so that you can then both sit down together once they are in bed.
- Having a relaxing bubble bath whilst your baby is having their nap in their cot.
- Finding time to read a magazine whilst the laundry is on.
- Talking to a friend or family member about how you’re feeling and asking how they managed a similar situation. You might find that they are struggling too and are so glad to have a chat.
- Taking up offers of help for practical things such as doing you a load of laundry or picking you up some shopping.
- If possible, getting a little time to yourself by may be taking your daily exercise on your own without your children once a week.
- Yoga, stretching and mindfulness can help our body release some tension, there are lots of apps and YouTube videos that you can access for free.
There is a diversity of help and support available for parents and carers at our Children’s Centre’s such as:
- Parenting support groups
- Family support
- Parent workshops such as Introducing Solid Foods, Tips on toilet training and Baby Brain Development.
- Sessions where parents and carers can go to and meet other parents and talk to an Early Years Practitioner and get support, advice and information on a range of childcare and baby development topics.
- Mindful Mums Courses run by Lewisham Mind.
Our Children’s Centres are also a great place to meet other parents and carers, make new friends and spend some positive time with your children. Check out our timetable for details of sessions that are currently running both in centres and online, check out details here.
If you are really struggling at the moment and would like to get some support there are lots of organisations that can help.
Please visit their websites and call them if you need to. They won’t judge but may be able to help;
- Lewisham Health Visiting Team https://myhv.lgt.nhs.uk/page/parental-mental-health/
- Mindful Mums https://blgmind.org.uk/mindful-mums/
- PANDA’s https://www.pandasfoundation.org.uk/
- Samaritans https://www.samaritans.org/
- Every Mind Matters https://www.nhs.uk/oneyou/every-mind-matters
You can also contact us via our enquiry form and we can support you to find the help and information you need.
Remember to take some time out of the day to take care of you, because you are the most important person in your child’s life, and they need you healthy and happy.
I hope you have found this blog helpful and I hope to see you at a session soon.