Being a parent can be one of the most rewarding experiences of our lives. It is fulfilling to develop a meaningful relationship with your child and nurture them as they grow into their potential. However, numerous factors can impact this process, the most significant one right now being the current pandemic. The pandemic has created the need for a redefinition and renegotiation of our roles as parents as we navigate being present parents for our children with the compounding stressors of work, finances, and potential illness. In a time when the need to engage in self-care has become crucial to our mental and physical well-being, we have lost sight of this as we grapple with the changes in parenting roles and subsequent stress. However, remember you can only give to your children what you are giving to yourself (e.g., compassion, understanding, grace, caring). Kindness to yourself will allow you to be more kind to your children. Caring for yourself will allow you to be more caring to your children. And having compassion for yourself will allow you to be more compassionate and understanding to your children. Below are four ideas to help guide your self-care experience while you parent during a pandemic.
(1) Self-care requires constant redefinition. Popular culture has indicated that self-care must involve elaborate excursions or buying expensive things. However, parenting doesn’t always allow for the time or money to engage in these experiences. Instead, seek out opportunities for in the moment self-care experiences. For example, a 60 second meditation or deep breathing exercise while your child eats, or 15 minutes of yoga during nap time can provide a brief pause to create space for re-centering, relaxation, and rejuvenation.
(2) Self-care requires practice. Just like a muscle, your self-care will grow stronger with consistent practice. Set aside time everyday to practice self-care. Explore what works for you to create a reflective space that is conducive to your role as a parent. Try out different times of the day with various activities (e.g., reflection, meditation, reading, listening to music, having a supportive conversation) to see what self care practices fit with your schedule. The key is to include some form of self-care each day.
(3) Self-care must be intentional. The stress and busyness of parenting can contribute to several reasons why we can’t engage in self-care. Who will watch the children? When they are napping that is my time to get other work done (or sleep myself) or I am too tired to engage in self-care. It is easy to allow these reasons to take the focus off creating spaces of kindness and compassion for ourselves. Your self-care must be intentional to overcome these challenges.
(4) Good self-care requires communication. To help with the intentionality and practice of your self-care, it is important to maintain good communication with your children, partner, family members, and friends. Good communication will help you to create the boundaries needed to facilitate a reflective and gracious space. Additionally, good communication can increase accountability regarding consistently engaging in self-care. Lastly, good communication will foster opportunities for support and idea generation as you develop your self-care practice.