Being a parent can sometimes feel like having to juggle a collection of overwhelming tasks whilst running on a treadmill sleep deprived. It’s stressful, demanding, pressurising, and a little bit soul destroying, whilst getting very little thanks for keeping those colourful balls in the air.
I am not disputing the wonderful and incredibly beautiful moments (or even glimpses) that come with parenthood, but let’s not discount the difficulties; the times when you have to break-up your children from beating each other up because one of them walked to close to the other or ushering your worried child through the school gates, whilst running late for work. Raising children is a full-time job and due to their constant needs, it can leave parents feeling consistently drained and exhausted, especially if they do not attend to their own needs.
I remember within my doctorate training, the lecturers and my supervisors spoke about the importance of balance, boundaries, and self-care, because without this, a therapist would not be able to effectively support their clients. The same principle applies to parenting.
Setting boundaries to recharge your batteries is a must, otherwise you run the risk of becoming worn out and the whole aspect of parenting becomes a joyless task. However, I understand it is not easy to take time out to solely focus on yourself, because of the dreaded mum guilt. The internal chitter-chatter that harshly judges you, highlights your imperfections as a mother and encourages you to feel guilty over the slightest parenting mistake, and this dreadful voice usually raises its ugly head the very moment you start to focus on yourself.
However, remembering the following points can make it feel easier:
1. You need a break. Full stop. An employer wouldn’t expect you to work without any breaks or without never taking a holiday. What happens to an employee that never has a break….. they burn out! (p.s. if your employer expects you to work through breaks…it's definitely time to leave).
2. Children are unaware of the need for balance: They are not developmentally capable of understanding the limits of your energy and focus. They view you as a real-life Superwoman, with an unlimited supply of energy. This is the reason why you need to implement boundaries and self-care, otherwise they will take and take and when all you do is give, give, give, you don’t have a chance to recharge your own batteries. This can lead to becoming run down, resentful or bitter, which makes for a very grumpy mummy (and that’s putting it politely!!).
3. Self-care can help increase positivity and emotional wellbeing. When you take time out to engage in the activities you enjoy, it can replenish your energy, invoke positive feelings and increase motivation. Furthermore, all this good ‘stuff’ will be filtered through to your children, in return they will receive a mummy that is happier, calmer, more resilient, less overwhelmed, and more energised.
Remember looking after yourself and setting time aside to attend to your own needs, is less about self-indulgence and more about self-preservation. Looking after yourself is a necessity in order to protect, maintain and improve your physical and emotional wellbeing.
Wishing you all the best of luck
Dr Rachel Graham
Chartered Counselling psychologist
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