Why is Self-Care so Important for Parents?

When was the last time you did something for yourself? Think about the last time you enjoyed a quiet bath alone (or with your partner).   How long has it been since you felt relaxed and present in the moment? Like most parents, chances are it’s been a while. Sometimes taking time away from the kids can feel strange, and may make you feel guilty or selfish. However, it’s actually healthy and necessary to set aside time for experiences that rejuvenate and restore your energy, especially during times of busyness and high stress.

Self-care can be a foreign concept for those who don’t practice it regularly. If you’re unsure of what self-care is, or don’t understand why it’s useful, imagine you’re holding an empty water bucket. Since there is no water in the bucket, you cannot drink from it. However, if the bucket is full, you have plenty of water to drink and you have a wealth of resources!

What Kind of Bucket Are You Holding?

Full Bucket:

If it is full, you probably feel content and relaxed because you have restored your supply.

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Empty Bucket:

If your bucket is empty, you might feel lonely or anxious; all of your resources are exhausted. This may be especially apparent after a busy time or during times of high-stress… but it is also the result of normal life without taking that time to replenish your supply.

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Leaky Bucket:

It’s possible that you might be holding what we call a ‘leaky’ bucket. If your bucket is leaking, it means there are holes caused by stress or painful circumstances that need attention. Until these holes are fixed, you may very well feel more irritable and drained no matter how much water you put in.

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Here’s a way to do a regular self-assessment to check in, get in touch with your body and see if you’re in need of some self-care.

Take a long, slow breath and count to 5 in your mind. Hold that breath for 2 seconds before releasing it slowly, counting down from 5. Now try it a couple more times with your eyes closed. Taking just a few seconds out of the day to slow down and just breath is one of the many ways of filling your bucket. Think about how this exercise affects your body and mind––are you relaxed? Be honest with your emotions.

In the busy life of parenting, there is no end to the things you need and want to do for your children. It’s easy to feel like it is impossible or even neglectful to take time for yourself. However, setting aside some time to regain your energy will make a world of difference for you and your little ones. Have you ever had to tell your child you couldn’t play because you were simply too tired? This is one of many experiences that can be reduced by taking a little time to yourself. If it’s been awhile since you’ve had some downtime, we have some suggestions on where to start.

Try This: Make a list of activities you like to do and note the amount of time each one would take. Next time you need to refill your bucket, you’ll have a list of rejuvenating experiences and can easily choose the one that fits into the amount of time you have.

For Example:

  • Running (10-30 mins)
  • Reading (30 mins)
  • Watch a Movie (1 hr 30 mins)
  • Writing in a Journal (15 mins)
  • Dancing (20 mins)
  • Puzzles (10 mins)
  • Call friends (45 mins)
  • Going out for dinner (3 hrs)

If you think you are holding a leaky bucket, you’ll need to take some additional steps to repair those holes. Self-care is crucial, and you may also benefit from talking to a therapist about your stress levels and/or past hurts or traumas.  Please note that while self care is beneficial, it is not a replacement to treat any pre-existing or undiagnosed medical or mental health diagnosis. Please consult your primary care physician, psychiatrist, therapist, etc. if symptoms worsen or persist.  In the event of a psychiatric or medical emergency, please visit your nearest emergency room.

It’s common for parents to feel selfish or guilty when they take time for themselves, but it’s important to remember that self-care is a healthy practice that will positively affect your children as well as your own well-being. If you are mentally or physically exhausted, it is much harder to take care of your little ones. However, when you’re happy and feeling refreshed, everyday life will be much more enjoyable––and the kids will notice, too!