Self-Care for Moms and Dads

The very best reason I can think of for investing time, energy, and money into self-care is that adult mindset and behaviour has a huge influence on the young people nearby. It is difficult to take care of ourselves the way we would like to because the demands of the world outside us never stop screaming. However, kids don’t have the ability to tend their own mental and emotional landscapes, so our support is crucial. Do you remember the advice about putting on your own oxygen mask first?   

It’s a nice idea to care for ourselves in the ways we deserve and probably never got when we were children. Now that WE are the grownups, the option to leave town, sleep in, or celebrate a win might be only a decision away. Yet in all honesty, I was crap at looking after my own needs for too many years. Something my son said to me when he was five highlighted that I needed to shift my perspective. I was saying I loved him more than anyone else in the whole world – a common declaration for moms to make – and he replied, “You should love yourself the most because you are the person you spend all your time with.” 

Parents matter too
I deeply considered the observation my son shared. The idea of truly caring for myself seemed like it would be hard to execute, however I understood that I had to be my best self in order to parent the way I yearned to. Said another way, I had lofty parenting goals, but like an athlete with specific performance goals, I would have to train and practice the skills I wanted to be able to draw on at a moment’s notice. Athletes look after their minds and bodies in order to perform at a high level; I would have to do the same. 

We know that mastering the basics like getting enough water, cutting down on sugar and caffeine, and getting regular exercise are requirements on the self-care journey. Can moms and dads learn to treat ourselves with the same degree of TLC that we shower on our kids? We have seen that practices like journaling, meditation, and volunteering can make a difference. At some point, it’s necessary to go deeper and uncover the old patterns that make us forget WE matter too. 

We all know
If you have not heard the message that mental health matters, you may have been in the backcountry for too long. Every person I know has been touched in some way by things like stress, sleep problems, substance use, anxiety, and depression. Even though those problems confuse and discourage us, it helps that people talk more openly about them now. It can still be like moving a mountain to address emotional issues, but at least others have begun to pave paths out of the wilderness. 

Sexist programming
Boys and girls get treated differently from right after the time they are born, and pressured to conform to society’s ideas of what makes a ‘good woman’ or the ‘right kind of man.’ These messages are hard to escape, but once you see them they are everywhere. And seeing is the first step required to make change. 

Females often acquire unconscious training to look after others first. There can be an expectation that women sacrifice their own well-being for that of their children, their families, and their own parents. In both the paid and unpaid labour fields women perform the vast majority of personal caretaking like cooking and looking after the physical needs of children and elders. 

This work is necessary! However, women should not have to take it on exclusively. 

Men are targeted with cruel expectations of being unfeeling, stoic, and managing the world. We hold up the idea that strong, competent, independent males are the standard. We are all given the message that men should not need personal or emotional help. 

Can you see why it might be hard for all kinds of parents to commit to self-care?

These old-fashioned perspectives are dying off, which makes me very happy. I hope every kind of parent gets a glimpse of how truly valuable you all are.