Let go of the guilt and openly practice good self-care, while setting a lifetime example for your children.
I was converted as a young mother to the importance of good self-care; or spending a little time each day investing in your physical mental and spiritual well-being. For years I made time to exercise, meditate on something spiritual, pray, shower and dress nicely before my kids even got out of bed. I made sure my husband was in charge, even if asleep. I set the alarm for 5 a.m. and, in the dark, I ran alone, prayed alone and meditated alone. True, it was peaceful and wonderful, but I was missing a key benefit of parental self-care. My children were not able to watch and learn from my example.
I was treating my self-care almost like a hidden addiction, or something to be ashamed of. It took a back seat to everything. Then I became a single mother for a short time. Self-care went from a luxury to a necessity to maintain my sanity.
During that time, I had no other option but to hire a sitter and go running during the day, read scriptures with my children and teach my children to respect my space while I was painting, writing or doing creative meditation.
An amazing thing happened. My children came running with me on bicycles because they wanted to. My daughter began to paint because she watched me paint. They all began to want their own scriptures and the girls began seeing taking a shower and dressing up as a treat.
I realized something international researchers have proven, self-care is contagious. For example if you like physical activity and take part in it, your children are more likely to participate in extra-curricular sports. We have no reason to feel guilty for caring for ourselves. Our actions are speaking louder to our children than anything we say. I want my children to practice good self-care and so I set that example.
What self-care is
There are many definitions of self-care. I like the definition by National Registry of Health Service Psychologists that includes taking care of our mind, body and spirit in connection with others and ourselves. Or in other words:
Participating in activities and eating a diet that leads to improved physical condition and health
For example, walking the stairs instead of taking an elevator or choosing to eat healthy foods.
Praying, meditating, attending church or studying in an effort to reduce stress, decrease anxiety, increase spirituality and mental clarity
For example, spending a little time each day meditating or reading something spiritual and important to you.
Participating in activities that encourage creativity like singing, writing or art
Creative activities lead to improved communication and personal understanding.
What self-care is not
Psychology Today reports that, "Self-care is not self-pampering- not that there's anything wrong with self-pampering
-pedicures, dark chocolates, and other luxuries. That is, as long as you can afford luxuries ... Popularly, the terms self-care and self-indulgenceare used interchangeably, as in 'Oh, go ahead, indulge. You deserve it.' ... We tell ourselves that the stresses of the day have drained our energy and that vegging on the sofa with a quart of ice cream or a six-pack of beer is all we can expect of ourselves. Rather than shouldering the hard work of self-care, we settle for temporary and largely symbolic fixes - some of which actually stress our systems further."
Reasons to practice good self-care
Your children are watching and will learn from your example
according to the International journal of behavioral medicine and physical activity.
When you are healthy, you are able to be the best parent you can be
Illness due to smoking, poor eating habits or obesity can interfere with your ability to play with your children, care for you family and be present as you grow old together.
Good self-care gives us a ready list of healthy ways to sooth ourselves when we are upset or suffering
If we do not regularly make good self-care choices during times of trial, we may choose harmful ways to cope with stress, according to author, Margarita Tartakovsky, M. S. of Psychology Central. She said, "Running yourself ragged can lead to unhealthy habits, because our needs can't go unmet for too long." When they do we may turn to quick unhealthy ways to sooth ourselves like alcohol or drugs. A sober parent is always a good thing.
Self-care does not need to take a long time
Self-care can be salt and peppered throughout your day. You can walk kids to school instead of drive. You can cook healthy nutritious meals. You can take time to read spiritual things with your family as well as alone.
Be creative with children
Creativity including music, art and art appreciation is one of the first things cut from most school budgets. Involve your children in your creative hobbies to increase bonding time together and to improve your child's physical and mental health. Children learn, "creativity, confidence, problem solving, perseverance, focus, non-verbal communication, and more from the arts according to Washington Post's article Top 10 skills children learn from the arts.
How self-care influences our children
While writing this article I texted my six children and asked how my practice of daily self-care affected their lives. Their answers included:
"Watching you take care of yourself has pushed me, to take care of me. I don't want health problems in my future. It has helped."
"This morning before (the baby) woke up I showered and it was so nice!"
"I always wanted to run since riding my bike along with you when we were kids. I am glad you are taking such good care of yourself."
Taking time to take care of myself did not take anything away from my family. In fact, it did the opposite, it added to their life and their health. Take the time to take care of yourself, guilt free.