Why have selfies become a trend? And do we take a selfie only when we look our best? Probably not during a fight with your spouse or after a day of power struggles with your toddler or teen.
Could the preoccupation with Facebook along with snapping selfies and posting pictures on Snapchat be a sign of how invisible we feel to ourselves? Maybe, maybe not. But there is a form of invisibility to ourselves that often goes unnoticed—a lack of self-care.
Our lives as parents can fill up pretty fast leaving very little energy or time left for ourselves. With life's fullness and the unexpected twists or turns, it's vital that we take time for selfie care, especially as a parent. Whether you're parenting a newborn, a toddler or a teen, let's be honest, parenting demands a lot of love, energy, and attention. How often do you take time just for YOU?
A common anthem I hear from parents is "I don't have time. The needs of the children come first." A lack of time for self-care can be an easy buy-in for parents. After all, our children are dependent on us. There’s a never-ending list of to-dos with a flood of demands coming from every direction. And if you're a woman, add the fact that we're natural givers. Even when we’re exhausted, we’ll say “yes” one more time. Once we get into mommy mode, we may think that not having a life comes with the territory.
The Downside of Over-Giving to Your Children
Do you know how to stay calm under pressure, so you don't react to a preschooler's misguided but innocent and healthy exploration (i.e., a toy clogging the toilet or a haircut for a playmate)? When your teen talks back or misses curfew, do you go ballistic? (Not exactly the best way to teach emotional intelligence or model emotional control to your teenager!) Do you have knee-jerk reactions that you regret? Say things to your child that make you cringe?
Your ability to respond lovingly instead of reacting depends largely on how well you've taken care of yourself.
Not taking care of ourselves can create stress that sets the stage for yelling, melt-downs, spanking, and tech addiction—and feeling invisible.
The “all for my child, nothing for me” approach isn't sustainable or healthy. Over-giving may work for the short term, but in the long-term, it’s a recipe for stress and resentments that build up and explode when you least expect it. Then, of course, there's the guilt.
For example, when we're too tired at our child's bedtime to enjoy the ritual, but fall asleep instead, that raises a flag. Bedtime is a time when young children need to feel our love as they go off to slumberland. Nighttime is also a crucial time for preteens and teens to unravel their day with parents. But instead, are you zoning out in front of a Netflix series or getting that last load of laundry in the dryer?
Another common practice I see is parents texting or surfing on their phones at a soccer game or little league instead of being present. These are symptoms of our distracting technology and perhaps it's parents just trying to squeeze out needed time for themselves.
Unnecessary hurts, regrets, and disconnection with ourselves steal precious moments from our family. And besides, what are we modeling for our children when we put ourselves last? Certainly not self-care.
So I recommend replacing selflessness with "self-firstness" to enable you to give from a full and free place for others, but most of all, to your children.
Our first responsibility is to take care of our self otherwise we have little or nothing left to give.
Creating a schedule that allows you to develop interests, exercise, recreate, connect with friends, etc., is vitally important for your well-being. And to model self-care and setting boundaries for our children is pivotal as well. Not to mention how recharging ourselves nourishes our marriage, too! (If you have a small child, get ingenious and find a way to exercise or get out in nature with them.)
Simple Steps to Prioritize Self-Care
If we don't make self-care a priority, it won't happen. There are too many avalanches of responsibilities as a parent to engulf our time and energy. So first, set aside a half hour (or even 15 minutes)—yes, you can do this! Grab a pen and some paper, and begin:
STEP 1 Imagine and brainstorm your ideal family and life. Write down your big and little dreams. Jot down your ideals and values for your children; isolate what behaviors and actions support those values. Brainstorm hobbies that you enjoy, your favorite foods, things that are fun and activities that make you feel really good about yourself. No censoring. Don’t say, “That will never happen.” Just let your mind explore all the possibilities.
Related reading: "Visionary Parenting Is the Key to Capable and Happy Children."
STEP 2 Fine-tune. Review your list. Make sure your list includes all the basic things you know you need to do to stay balanced, healthy, and happy and to keep your sense of humor (enough sleep, regular and healthy meals, etc.).
STEP 3 Organize your ideas. Divide a clean sheet of paper into four columns: “Daily,” “Weekly,” “Monthly,” and “Yearly.” Plop the items from your list into the appropriate column. (Yes, include that NFL football game with your son or a spa vacation with girlfriends or a trip to Europe with your spouse! You may not be able to do everything this year, but you can dream and make it a long-term goal.)
STEP 4 Plan for practical action. If you use a planner or a calendar, start scheduling some of these things. Post your organized list in clear view as a reminder to take care of yourself. It will be a good source of ideas you can use when you feel your fuse getting short. Often when we're stressed, we can't even think of anything that would help so it's a good idea to have this personalized resource handy.
STEP 5 Just Do it!—as Nike's tagline says. Not because you have to but because you deserve it and need it! Do it for the fun of it. You’ll feel better—and you just might feel great!
It’s OK to start small, but start! If you make taking care of yourself a priority, you'll find yourself enjoying your children a lot more, too.
Family life will be a whole lot more fun when you take care of yourself! Keep checking with yourself as your children get older to discover new things to add to your self-firstness list. Keep life fresh.
Taking care of yourself sets the underpinning for a happy family life.