Parents have been trying to juggle all the responsibilities of parenthood, employee, and teacher while the stay-at-home order has been in effect. Many have wondered when they will be able to have some “me” time. While finding time for yourself during the Covid-19 pandemic can be difficult, as restrictions are beginning to ease the challenge remains. Perhaps fitting as we end the Covid-19 parenting series of articles, in this last installment let us look at how parents can find time for themselves to practice self-care.
Once you became a parent your life changed forever. You added a responsibility to your growing responsibilities as an adult. When your first child was born most likely you experienced a shock at how much more complicated your life became. The need for self-care is not a Covid-19 issue, the need is a parenting issue and a personal issue. To practice self-care, you need to be purposeful, make a plan, and continually adjust and re-evaluate your options.
Making a plan as to how you can maintain and grow as a person when you are a parent may seem silly and unnecessary. After all, you wanted children. True, but losing your personal identity happens so subtly when you are caught up in parenting. Your life necessarily revolves around taking care of your child in so many ways that, if you neglect to purposefully care for yourself, you may find that you forget who you are outside of being a parent. Start by developing a personal plan for growth. Recognizing that your life has changed, plan for how you can have some time for you. Write down goals for yourself, in short-term, long-term, and “maybe one day” format. For example, an initial goal may be to connect with an old friend; that can evolve into a dinner out, then a weekend away, maybe a dream trip once your children are grown and gone. Be sure to plan to work in activities and interests that you enjoy and that you want to develop. Finding time may be a challenge, but not impossible. Even five minutes a day for self-reflection after the children are in bed keeps you focused on incorporating your needs into your life plan. Recognize that some days you will have more time and some days less, but you will never seem to have any time if you do not make a dedicated effort.
Check your list periodically to see how you are making progress. Look for progress in steps, not full accomplishment of entire goals. For example, if you want to connect with an old friend, have you found a way to locate that person? What avenues have your tried? If your goal is to read more, you can start with thirty minutes a week and work up to thirty minutes a day. Recording the steps you have taken helps you to recognize the progress you have made towards your goal and keeps self-care on your personal agenda. Short-term goals should show progress within weeks or months, long-term goals within months or years. Your “maybe one day” goals are your dream goals, so while progress may be years away, you need to review these items on a regular basis to be sure you remember what you hope to achieve and to keep your dreams alive. Keeping both a short-term and a long-term focus on yourself helps you to prioritize your time by reminding you of progress made and your growth and importance as an individual.
Let’s face the facts – life happens, and our goals and priorities can change. That’s OK. Raising children takes away from free time we had in the past. That’s OK, too. The important point is to purposefully include ourselves in our life plans. Parents often experience guilt if they spend time doing things for themselves, putting themselves last. Taking time for yourself does not make you a bad parent but does make you human. By modeling self-care, you are teaching your children these same skills by example. Developmentally, a child is born dependent and goes through formative years with a self-centered mindset. This mindset serves a purpose of survival when a child needs our guidance. However, as a parent preparing our children for adulthood, we need to be sure we are also teaching them self-care. Studies have shown that a parent’s satisfaction with life is a predictor of a child’s success and satisfaction as an adult. Finding time to be a family, to be a parent, and to be you takes effort, but the outcome is well worth the time. One day your children will be grown and gone, and you want to know that person who is looking back at you in the mirror.
For more information: Mobile Therapy Centers (MTC) is a private therapy company offering individual services to children and families, including counseling & behavioral therapy, speech therapy, occupational therapy, and ABA therapy for children on the autism spectrum, as well as educational workshops and webinars. For more information, please contact MTC at email@example.com or # 847-816-7200.
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This article was written by Carol Morrone, Manager of Educational Services & Development for Mobile Therapy Centers