You all know, I am an avid believer in self-care and what it can do for us as parents. When it comes to caring for our own needs, among all of its positives, there is also a hidden underlying message being sent out to our children. But first, you may not know but I am also an advocate for ditching the guilt which often comes with taking time for ourselves. Discarding the guilt and opening up to self-care does more for our wider circle than you may imagine. So, how can we dump the guilt?
Breaking Through the Guilt
First of all, self-care is not selfish! I’ve said it before, and I will say it again and again and again because it needs to be repeated to truly get into our heads. We have a funny way of listening to the guilt over the cries of our bodies and minds desperate for love. The laundry is piling up, the bedsheets need to be changed, a run to the hardware is in order for bulbs. There’s always something to do but these things can always wait, if only we were able to break through the guilt.
But we can and here’s how:
1. Understand Your Relationship with Guilt
Figure out why you feel guilty about not doing certain things, or not meeting certain people for coffee, or why guilt cracks the whip when you sit down to read your book or binge Netflix. Write your feelings down. It can help to navigate those emotions and how you are connecting doing or not doing certain things in your life to guilt. In this way, we also learn to value ourselves.
2. Be Honest About What You Need
Many of us have a habit of not listening to our bodies and minds. We push those thoughts of going for a run, taking a bath, or spending time grounding in the garden, to the back of our mind when guilt says, “Oh no, not today!” and we carry on unloading the dishwasher. When we start taking the time to listen to what we need to do to fill our cup, we understand why we need to push guilt to the background instead.
3. Plan And Commit
Self-care takes some forward planning to ensure we fit it into our day. Whether its walking along the seafront in the evenings or taking a dip in the cold ocean, we might have to give ourselves a little pep talk to go through with our plans. If we’re to win the battle against guilt, we need to put ourselves on the list, prioritise, plan but more importantly commit.
Modelling Self Care
Once we break through the barriers of our guilt, we have the opportunity to show ourselves a level of care we can only do for ourselves. Self-care shows we appreciate, love, respect, and admire ourselves. It’s a pat on the back for ticking off some of the to-do list (not all! Just some!) It’s a round of applause for surviving another day with a teething baby, for refereeing siblings, for painting the shed. It’s a moment of recognition for keeping the momentum of the house going without it falling down (it never falls down, but we still deserve kudos for that!).
The more we open up about our self-care and actively pursue it, the more we model the importance of self-care. Remember, little eyes are always watching. We are our children’s first role models. They believe what we do is the right way, sometimes the only way, until their little world widens up with school, activities, and friends.
When they see us taking time to pursue our interests, take pauses from the busy day, look after our bodies and our minds when we paint our nails or stretch out on the floor for yoga or light our candles for ten minutes of meditation, they see the importance of self-care. By modelling this kind of behaviour we are teaching them the significance of caring for our own needs.
In this way, we are supporting their wellbeing, their growth, resilience, and connection. We are also reinforcing the idea that we are more than simply Mom or Dad. We are people with needs, desires, and hobbies. This gives them a more grounded vision of us as their parents which will see them through to adulthood when they understand they are also deserving of time, love and respect in a manner that will serve to strengthen their minds and bodies. In turn, they will become compassionate to others, understanding, and see the needs of friends, colleagues, and even strangers as they learn empathy.
Engaging our children in our own self-care routines can teach and encourage them to pursue their own interests. If going for a walk in the evening is important for you in destressing from the long day, invite your teenager along. They may get as much benefit from it as you do, and most importantly they will learn the value in taking the time to engage in activities which help to explore their mind, soul, and body. They will learn that taking care of themselves matters. That you matter. That they matter.
If this is something you wish to instil in your children, navigate around the guilt, and remember, when our children see us practicing self-care, they are learning and understanding self-care is not selfish. It’s necessary.