Taking the time to focus on your own well-being is an essential part of parenting happy and well-adjusted children
Being a mom of two, I face my fair share of daily challenges. There are the organizational nightmares when my partner is away on business (which happens more often than we’d both like). There is the constant need to make sure that we eat a healthy, wholesome diet. And let’s not forget about the pressure to keep up with the laundry while organizing playdates, afterschool activities, and at-home entertainment that goes beyond mind-numbing screens.
Yet in the midst of this daily grind, there is one thing I never compromise on: my self-care.
I sometimes feel like I need to defend my self-care choices to certain friends and family members who hold onto antiquated ideas that by taking time for myself, I’m putting my children second. In reality, this couldn’t be farther away from the truth.
Growing up, I did not witness my parents taking good enough care of themselves. And research tells me I’m not alone. I make my self-care a priority because I truly believe that it’s important that I set this example for my children. Perhaps even more importantly, putting my own health first is a big step in allowing myself to be around for them for many years to come. If that comes off as selfish to anyone, well, the joke’s on them.
I’m not one of those hardcore women who went back to work two weeks after giving birth. To be honest, I’m surprised to learn that 25% of women in the US have had to return to work during this incredibly short period. These women are absolute legends. Queens. Heroines.
Instead, I had the luxury of staying home and taking care of both my babies (and myself) for a full 12 weeks. But seeing that I’m self-employed, even getting back to my daily pre-baby routine was made easier because I could show up at my office (just 15 feet from my bedroom) in my pajamas and work whenever I wanted.
Now that the babies are not babies anymore, I do implement a lot more structure in my work life — and I make sure my children know this.
They are aware that after I drop them off at school, I’m headed to work in my little office. They understand that when I have to nip away for a few hours during the weekend to finish up a project, they know not to disturb me. My partner and I also regularly talk to them about our professional lives, and why it’s important to be committed to and happy with what you do for a living.
I like to think I am establishing myself as a good professional role model for my children. I also make a clear effort to keep myself healthy.
In our household, we adhere to the ancient Mens sana in corpore sano philosophy. If your Latin is a bit rusty, that translates to “a healthy mind in a healthy body.” I try to teach my kids about the importance of eating well, exercising, limiting technology use, spending time outdoors, and participating in de-stressing activities such as reading, drawing, and learning. And the biggest way I contribute to them (hopefully) establishing positive habits is by setting a good example.
I try to take at least two yoga classes per week . If I can’t make it to a class, I work out at home and include my kids when possible. It’s not always as calm and challenging as I’d want it to be, but luckily they enjoy it enough to go along with it. In addition to this mobility work, I also try to fit in a couple of 20-minute morning runs, or a long weekend hike with the whole family.
In terms of nutrition, we try to eat at home as much as possible. Sometimes we cook together and make sure we include a lot of veggies in our meals. Completely cutting out sugar and junk food is one of our biggest struggles thanks to peer pressure and colorful packaging. One effective way we’ve found not to eat junk food has been experimenting with eating a paleo diet for a week at the time.
In addition to focusing on ourselves, my husband and I also try to teach our children the importance of spending time with those we love.
One way we prioritize healthy relationships is by eating breakfast together as a family. While eating nutritious food, we talk about the day ahead and the challenges we’re yet to face. After dinner, we talk, read, play music, or participate in a little bit of family competition by taking out a board game.
Once the kids have gone to bed, it’s mommy and daddy time — one of the most valuable parts of my day. Whether we get a babysitter and go on a date or decide to stay home and just talk, these are the moments in our otherwise busy days when we can focus on ourselves and our relationship.
I’ve seen several friends who simply couldn’t keep their connection with their partner post-baby, so we make a conscious effort to stay connected. We also go to couple’s therapy once a month to helps us address any issues we may have in a timely manner, without allowing them to get out of control.
By keeping ourselves engaged and grounded in our relationship, my husband and I feel like we’re providing a more stable environment for our children. Furthermore, we’re hoping that one day, they too will prioritize partnerships that are based on trust, respect, and true friendship.
We also support each other’s passions.
My way of unwinding is to write; my children, on the other hand, aren’t that into pen and paper. Nonetheless, I make sure they know how much my passion means to me and how important it is for me to pursue it. Similarly, I try to encourage them to commit themselves to their passions — even when those include DIY-ing slime.
I’m happy to say that my older kid has finally found something he genuinely enjoys: karate lessons. While definitely not my cup of tea, I’m 100% behind him pursuing this passion for as long as it makes him feel fulfilled. After all, nothing makes me as happy as knowing that my children are finding their own way in the world.
I realize that I’m very lucky to have my support system. But I also know that I have the support I do because I am committed to being my own advocate.
The best way to take good care of others is to take equally good care of yourself. At the end of the day, it’s not selfish for a parent to focus on themselves; it’s necessary.
You may also enjoy reading The Secret to Successful Motherhood (That Took Me 21 Years to Learn), by Rebekah Borucki