By Atika Shukla
Before focussing on the kids, parents must learn to take care of their needs as well. This may seem at odds in the Indian context, where we are primed to believe that parents are expected to be selfless and go through endless sacrifices to make our children’s lives better. It’s always their needs before ours. In fact, at an early stage in life, girls are trained to take care of family members.
Today, parenting has become a challenging task as the sole caregivers are the parents themselves. A majority of us live in nuclear families with little or no support, unlike our predecessors where raising a child was a joint-family shared effort and responsibility. Moreover, most mothers are multi-tasking, juggling careers with taking care of the household needs, managing kids and caregiver schedules. The exposure to unlimited information on how to raise children doesn’t really help as we constantly feel inadequate and oftentimes question our very ways.
Effective parenting encompasses patient communication, empathy, playfulness and loads of love and care for our children. This can only happen when we are not feeling stressed or overwhelmed. If we feel exhausted, burdened or lonely, it will short circuit and spill over on our children, disrupting their lives too. As a result, we may end up screaming or reprimanding them for no fault of theirs and this may affect the child negatively in more than one ways. The child might grow up feeling scared, confused and frustrated. Consequently, the entire effort of positive parenting would get compromised.
How can we prevent this from happening? Well, it’s simple! We can achieve this by taking good care of ourselves, staying in tune with our needs, listening carefully to our bodies when exhaustion takes over. Self-care would include looking after our physical, emotional, social and psychological needs.
Physical needs include:
- Eating healthy and on time.
- Exercising even if it’s a walk for 30 minutes.
- Getting sound sleep, feeling rested.
- Dressing and taking care of one’s physical appearance which can be a mood lifter.
Emotional and psychological needs include:
- Taking out at least half an hour in the day for yourself to enjoy a cup of tea/or pursue a passion or hobby.
- Block exclusive time with your partner i.e. date nights to do fun activities, rekindle the romance and talk about stuff beyond household logistics.
- De-stressing by doing fun things with your children like dancing or going out with them and in turn nurturing your inner child.
- Allow yourself to express what you are feeling even if it means crying.
Social needs include:
- Nurturing other relationships too as you are not just a parent but a spouse, a friend, a daughter/son, a brother/ sister.
- Meet a friend for coffee once a week or go out for a girls’/boys’ night out.
- Bond with other parents as when you hear their stories, there will be a sense of relief that you are not the only one facing a toddler’s tantrums or a tween’s rebellion.
One of the key aspects of self-care would be to ask family and friends for support in doing so.
If we do not take good care of ourselves it is unlikely that we will be able to care of our children in a proactive and positive way, due to physical and mental exhaustion. Practicing self-care does not mean that we are neglecting our children, but that we are ensuring that we can take care of them in a more effective and positive manner. Initiating this may take more effort than expected as we have no earlier experience of it. It may even lead to a guilt trip but just like we do plenty of things for our children and take care of them without questions, there is a need to do things for ourselves without questions too.
As the saying goes ‘it takes a village to raise a child’ so practice self-compassion as you are doing your best and can have moments of frustration, exhaustion, feeling inadequate and burdened. It’s okay to have these moments and take care of yourself.
(The writer is Founder and CEO, Breaking Barriers.)