Taking Care of Yourself
. . . children do not need superhuman, perfect parents. Yours only need you: The good-enough parents they happen to have.
—from Your Baby and Child by Penelope Leach
No parent can or should expect to always “get it right.” It’s not possible and wouldn’t even be good for your family. Kids need to grow up learning that things don’t always go as planned and that no one is perfect. Still, the pressure of wanting to do your best as a parent, combined with the everyday work of running a household, can lead to mounting stress and even distress. The ideas below will help you think about what you can do to relieve some of the pressure and ensure that you take care of your own health and well-being. If you do this, your whole family will be better off because you’ll be the best parent you can be—and that’s good enough.
Tips for . . .
- parents with children ages birth to 5
- Let go of something—No matter how organized (or not) you were before your baby came into your family, times have changed. Your young one has needs that can’t always be delegated to someone else or put on a to-do list for later. That means other tasks will sometimes have to wait, or not get done at all.
- Get active. It’s easy, especially when your baby is very young, to sit or lie down at every chance. But getting moving can actually give you more energy. For example: Put your baby in a front carrier and do simple, safe tasks that get you moving around and provide stimulating movement and images for your child. Or lift weights every day for five minutes at naptime or before bed.
- parents with children ages 6 to 9
- Arrange a childcare swap with parents of one of your child’s friends. Use your time alone to do something you really enjoy, even if it’s just something you’ve been meaning to get to but haven’t had the time.
- Start introducing your children to leisure activities you enjoy. If you like playing tennis, take your children to a court and hit some balls. If you used to watch old movies, pick some with age-appropriate themes to watch together.
- Read a chapter book with your child. If you don’t have any ideas, ask a librarian or teacher.
- parents with children ages 10 to 15
- Your children are at a great age to be helping others and their communities. And surprisingly, volunteerism can be a stress-reducer. Find a volunteer opportunity you and your children can do together.
- Take up a quiet, portable hobby like crossword or number puzzles, knitting, or reading. You can take any of these with you and do them while you wait during your kids’ appointments, practices, or other activities.
- parents with children ages 16 to 18
- Share household responsibilities. As long as it’s balanced with time for themselves, your teenagers can be in charge of preparing meals, getting younger siblings home from school, caring for a family pet, or other regular tasks.
- Connect with other parents of teens! We’ve said this before, but we can’t emphasize it enough. It’s important to reach out for help, support, empathy, and friendship.