Self Care for Parents

Do you have your oxygen mask on?

We all have had those long days which leave us feeling totally drained. On such days, we just don’t have the energy to connect, play or chat with our children. We may lose our cool and scream harshly, taking out our resentment on our children, only to feel regretful once we calm down. And sometimes just feeling overwhelmed with our responsibilities makes us wish we could be transported to some far away land to get a break from it all! Why is this happening to us parents?

We parents give a lot of importance to taking care of the physical and emotional needs of our children and family. Meeting our own needs is so low on our priority list that we tend to forget that our needs exist, that they are important and deserve to be met.

Nothing in this world can be constantly giving without receiving something to replenish its resources. Just like a car can’t be running endlessly without refilling its tank, in the same way, parents can’t keep care giving without replenishing their tank. 

If we want to be a happy, contented member of our family we need to take care of our needs too. Many of us parents think that it is our duty to sacrifice our needs to take care of our family. We feel guilty to take some time out for ourselves. It is imperative for us to remember that unless we don’t invest time in ourselves, we can’t give our best to our families. 

Civil Rights activist Audre Londe said,’’I have come to believe that caring for myself is not self indulgent. Caring for myself is an act of survival.”

We all need to attend to our own well being and take care of ourselves. Self care includes any activity that helps us unwind and that recharges us. When was the last time you went out for a coffee with a friend, or took time out of your daily routine to go for a walk or to the gym or for yoga? Did you see the new movie which was released last week or the one which was aired on T.V. this weekend? It could be any of these things or even just leisurely having a cup of coffee, or reading the newspaper, meditating or taking a nap. 

Practising self care does not mean that we neglect our responsibilities to our children, home or office. We need to cultivate a mindset to nurture ourselves and also role model to our children about the importance of caring for self.

Changing our priorities to include self care takes some work. We could start by taking small pockets of time say 15-20 minutes to do something for ourselves. We might even need to ask for support from our spouse, family and friends. When we nurture ourselves, filling our cup till the brim, only then we can fill our children’s cups with care and love. 

Our children need happy parents who are not stressed out all the time. Happy parents raise happy children. When we are on a flight, the cabin crew runs us through the safety information and says that in case of emergency if the oxygen masks are deployed, the adult must always wear his/her mask first before putting the mask on the child. This is because we can help our children only when are safe and oriented.

So do YOU have your oxygen mask on?

Author: Prasanna Vasanadu is a certified parent educator with Parenting Matters, an organization which empowers parents to build deeper connection in families.