You wake up in the morning, and your first thought is something along the lines of, “I need to get up and move in order to get the kids up so they’re on time for school,” “I have to pack them lunches and snacks,” or, “I need to make them breakfast.” During the day, whether you’re working or running errands, you might be thinking something like, “The kids have practice at 6 p.m. in preparation for the game on Saturday, so I need to make sure their jerseys are washed,” or, “There’s an after school meeting with the teacher I have to go to.” Maybe you’re multitasking while you’re cooking or cleaning by scheduling dentist or doctor’s appointments. Finally, as you get ready to go to sleep, you ensure that your kids are sleeping and everything is settled for the night, thinking about what you have to keep track of for the next day– and it all repeats, again and again.
This is all, of course, understandable. It would be unreasonable to expect one’s life to not change significantly after having a child and for much of its structure being based on your child’s needs. However, what is a concerning issue among parents is the tendency to lose yourself in the busyness that comes with parenting. Making sure that they are eating and sleeping well, have proper schedules for their school and leisure time, and that they’re happy and healthy requires a lot of time, energy, effort, and attention. Days get busier, and there’s more that needs to be done, resulting in some things that are considered “less of priority,” such as taking the time out to relax or engage in something that is personally fulfilling, being pushed to the side.
Thus, parents sometimes become susceptible to forgetting about their own wellbeing when their heads are full of so many responsibilities– which can lead to disastrous consequences for their mental health. It’s important to note that children who grow up with parents with poor mental health experience greater levels of distress in adulthood. In other words, one of the best ways you can support your child and the quality of their mental health is by supporting your own mental health.
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Think of it this way: young children are like sponges. As they grow, they absorb the world and information around them and demonstrate what they learn all throughout their lives, even if they may not later remember the event that will influence their behavior as they age. The first thing they are exposed to are their parents, meaning that much of what they reflect begins right at home. Young kids will unintentionally notice the kinds of self-care tactics and positive self-talk that you engage in at home, which will serve them well and give them a great foundation for coping skills later on in life.
Additionally, an added benefit of taking out time to care for yourself and your mental state is that you rejuvenate your ability to complete all those necessary daily tasks that must be completed. For example, while waking up may always be hard, by participating in self-care, you may not feel as exhausted when you have to haul yourself out of bed in order to haul everyone else out of bed. The to-do list on your planner might not seem as intimidating and impenetrable. The secret is that tasks become more difficult the more burnt out you are. While it’s easy to say, “Let me just finish this one thing first,” (on repeat forever), the most healthy approach in the long haul is by ensuring that your health and energy levels stay high. You will likely find that your productivity will reflect that.
Finally, please know that people are rarely perfect when it comes to taking care of their mental health and practicing self-care. It’s an unfortunate reality of the world we live in and our own existence as humans. So, if you find yourself feeling as if you’re not “doing self-care” correctly, try to expel that thought. Self-care is only self-care if you’re caring for yourself, and negative self-talk is the opposite of that!
So, read that book you’ve been meaning to get to but you’ve been pushing to the side because you “have so much you need to do,” grab yourself the all-frills-and-added-sugar coffee once in a while, take a nap, or do whatever makes you happy, relaxed, or fulfilled. Your mind and your kids will thank you for it.
Chloe Kukuk, a junior majoring in public relations and English at Oakland University, is an editorial and marketing intern at the Cardinal Rule Press. When she’s not studying or working, she loves taking trips to the bookstore and lazing around the house with her three wonderful cats.