This week in college we were talking about Ethics and the BACP Ethical Framework for counsellors. Whilst all very interesting (I assure you), I had to laugh when I was reading it, as it got me thinking – imagine if we as mothers and parents had a code of ethics we had to adhere to, in order to be “fit for practice”! I think with how nuts and ratted our days get sometimes, we would all be in breach of it on an almost daily, if not weekly basis!
It also got me thinking, on a more serious note, just how important self care is when you are a parent and how not practising this can have a huge impact on our well being and our ability to deliver good “service” to our little humans. I realised that we could learn a lot as parents from this seemingly irrelevant to us code of Ethics. Especially the section on “Fit For Practice” – It states:
We will take responsibility for our own well-being as essential to sustaining good practice
*Monitor and maintain own psychological/physical health
*Seek professional support
*Keep a healthy balance or work and life
As I read this I realised how true this could be for parenting and life. In order to really get the best out of life, and to have an ability to appreciate what we have and see the hearty moments around us, we need self care – to take more responsibility for our well-being and maintain good physical and psychological health. We need to recognise that our well-being is essential to good home and family relationships and that it has a direct impact on our little ones too.
We need to keep a healthy balance, ask for help if we need it and care for our mental and physical health.
I see taking precautions as being more prepared and organised – saving to avoid stress when things crop up, packing bags the day before so it’s not a mad rush in the morning, or resting when we know a big day is coming so we can reserve our energy. It’s eliminating negativity so it doesn’t make us feel naff about ourselves, or causes us to take on others issues when we need to focus on our own.
I recognise that this is often easier said than done, and I also recognise that we live at a time when everything is very fast paced. Taking on multiple roles is “just the norm”. Our lives are always on the go and many parents talk about how life is often a balancing act or spinning multiple plates, and it can be easy to assume that this is what life is. It is easy, with so many people sharing only the good in life on social media, to fall into the trap of becoming clouded by comparisons and feelings of inadequacy. We can feel like we aren’t doing enough or aren’t enough, even when we are in reality more than that. At best we can just generally feel drained with life with all of the directions we are being pulled in.
Life is exhausting and busy and when we add into it the everyday parenting challenges of financial pressures, little sleep, sick kids, tantrums and chores and work that all need doing, we can see how we can quickly become swamped by life.
Stop for a moment and think.
Are you giving your best self to those who need it the most?
Are you truly happy with the routine of your life?
when was the last time you stopped and listened to yourself?
When was the last time you asked “What do I want to do?”
Are you really aware of the effects that others are having on you and your well-being?
I have been asking myself these types things recently as I realise that these simple questions can go a long way to helping you identify your needs and being more aware of what affects your life is having on you. I have seen that I take on too much sometimes, and I have highlighted the needs I have to be happier and more balanced.
We talk a lot these days about self care – how important it is and necessary for our mental health. But how many of us take that seriously and truly understand what self care means to us?
I know that for me it is only recently that I have felt that I know how to listen to myself and what types of thing’s I can do to practice self care. It has taken me a bout of PND 8 years ago and losing a child to stillbirth, to come to really know myself and listen to what I need and what I want my life to be like. These experiences, and being in a state I can only describe as “rock bottom”, along with people saying “be kind to yourself and go easy”, for me has helped me to figure out how I can be kind to myself, and that has made a huge difference to my happiness and confidence.
With this awareness and thoughts on well-being in parenting, here are some of the ways I see that we can practise self care and therefore take more responsibility for our own well-being:
Eat Well – It will set you up for the day, provide energy, stop you feeling sluggish and also help your body stay healthy so that you are in a better place to do all you need to.
Allow yourself guilt free treats – With holding treats when you fancy a chocolate bar or an ice-cream is no way to live. It can make you feel annoyed or like you are missing out (and consequently binge later on). I am a great believer of “everything in moderation” – I have a healthy lifestyle, so I refuse to feel guilty for some giant buttons, a pizza or a cookie. Treats, and a little bit of what we fancy are good in life – especially when we don’t self sabotage over them.
Be KIND to yourself – This leads me onto kindness to yourself. Recognise that you are doing your best and avoid telling yourself you are rubbish, ugly, not enough, not doing enough, lazy etc etc. It is exhausting and drains your happiness. Of course it is fine to be aware of ways we can improve, but it is not fine to sabotage yourself for things that are normal, things that are out of your control or shortcomings you feel you have.
I am always working on ways I can tell myself I am great and appreciating my unique self – it isn’t prideful or egotistic, rather it is empowering and a form of self care. Try speaking nicer and being kinder to your body and mind. Celebrate your accomplishments and see that you are a fantastic and unique person – and then embrace that.
Get enough sleep/Rest If you need to – Sleep with kids or a new baby is hard. But how much better does a day go when we go to bed at a decent time? I also find that if I can grab an afternoon nap, or leave the laundry and dishes for a day to rest now and then, I feel so much better for it.
Learn to Say “No” – It’s not selfish or harsh to say no to things. Don’t take on things you know you cannot manage and say no to people who drain you or leave you feeling inadequate.
Are you taking on too much? If you think you are, then perhaps it’s time to say “no” to a couple of things and evaluate what you want from your life.
Learn that ‘fixing others’ can take a lot from us – It is not our job to fix people, and there are people in life that will, if we allow them, always take from us and our time. Be aware of these people in your life and what it is taking from you. You may need to create some distance, or sign post them to someone better equipped to give the help and advice they need.
Take a duvet day – Contrary to common belief, It is not lazy to rejuvenate and take a day to rest. It is not lazy to stay in your PJs and binge watch some stuff you love (if you fancy it). It will go a long way to relaxing and feeling better and it will help you to rest and gain more balance in life.
Go to places that make your soul sing – I have recently become aware of how good I feel at the beach, in old manor houses, eating out, at the cinema etc I suppose it is mindfulness, but being aware of how these places make you feel and recognising the impact on your mood is so good for self care. I know, if I go to places that make my soul sing, I feel happy, joyful and life is good and blessed!
Get out in Nature – Everytime I walk on the beach, through a wood, in the hills or over the fields, I breathe in deeply and life feels good and lighter. It helps me feel closer to God and it helps me feel like it’s good to be alive. I see so much beauty in the world and I feel gratitude.
Nature helps us gain perspective and clarity. It is good for the mind and soul and helps us keep healthy and feel grateful. When things are too much, getting out in nature to walk or just sit and be, really helps feed my soul and ignites my mind.
Take a Social Media Fast– Last year I took 2 social media fasts. 1 was for a week, the other for 10 days. They helped me focus on the here and now, be more present, and stopped me comparing to others or feeling bad about me. If social media is taking up a lot of your time or causing you to feel naff, unfollow or take a fast. Also, try to remember that likes and followers do not determine your worth!
Ask for Help if you need it – If you need to talk to a friend then call them. If you need some extra help at home because you are sick then ask someone. If you need a night off then call a sister or parent or friend to watch your kids – it is not a big issue and people who love you want to help you where they can. Stop feeling like it is a failure to ask for a hand, like it is weak or feeling like you might be burdensome to others. It’s okay, every now and then to ask for a hand. We all need to and It takes a village to raise a kid!!!
Stop listening to others opinions – We are all good at passing judgements and giving opinions and if you are anything like me, then you may have spent far too much time seeking the approval of others or internalizing the opinions of them. Part of self care is realising that people can have an opinion but it isn’t necessarily the right one, or right for you. This is YOUR life, and you can make your own choices. It is okay to seek advice from friends and family, but choose wisely from who this comes. Remember that ultimately it is your opinions that need to be prioritised and it will either be right, or a lesson learnt.
There will always be voices all around us and comparisons to be made. There will always be someone with advice or an opinion on your life. But this is your life and your family, and being the best for both, is down to what you want and what you feel is right.
We may not have a code of ethics as parents that we need to adhere to, but I believe that self care is essential to sustaining good practice for life and parenting. I cannot stress enough how much we can learn from these things, and that by taking more responsibility for our well-being, we can keep a healthy balance, find more joy and appreciation, and embrace more of the hearty moments in life.