It’s a busy life being a parent. And it wouldn’t be so bad if we could allocate some of our precious time for ourselves, however unfortunately as mums we often seem to be last on the list.
Recently I found the time to paint my toenails. I didn’t realise it in the moment but those few minutes ended up providing so much happiness when I glanced down and saw my bright pink toenails over the following weeks!
Getting out of bed to tend to a screaming baby I would notice my pink toes and -pop- something would change inside me because seeing feet that looked cared for just made me feel so much more important and a little indulgent.
As a new parent, this was a quick and early lesson in the importance of making time for myself. This is a serious issue because as mums if we don’t look after ourselves we seriously can’t give our children what they need.
Visualise a cup, about half full, and imagine every time you do something for yourself the level increases. But every time you give of yourself to your children, partner, family, friends – the level decreases. You don’t want an empty cup – that means you not only have nothing to give yourself, but nothing to give your family either.
An empty cup might translate to those days where you feel down – physically and emotionally; it might mean being run down and more exposed to catching a cold. The empty cup could mean different things to all of us but for me it means the days I feel like I can’t cope, where I feel as though I have no energy to resettle my daughter when she wakes after her ‘40 minute dash’, and where I don’t put thought into what I eat and drink.
Consistently putting everyone else’s needs before our own puts us at risk of not being able to cope when life throws adversity at us. Prevention is better than cure so here are some ideas that work for me to make sure my cup stays full enough for both myself and my family. Sometimes just knowing that you spent 5 minutes on yourself today, regardless of what you actually did, is enough to keep that cup full.
4 tips for taking time out for yourself
1. Set yourself up for success
If you’re going to allocate a few minutes to yourself make sure you do it at a time when you’re not likely to be interrupted. For me, this is once my husband gets home and our baby has just gone down (that way I know I’ll have at least 40 minutes if she wakes after one sleep cycle!). There’s no use trying to make time for yourself at a time you know won’t work. You’ll just end up discouraged and you won’t make the effort again in the future.
2. Use this time as ‘Me Time’
It might be reading an article in a magazine, flicking through a catalogue, painting your nails, putting on a face mask, having a cuppa, lying down, putting on hand cream, listening to a favourite song or piece of music, looking at some photos or trying out a new recipe. For all of these ideas you really only need a few minutes but it’s amazing how much better you feel once you know you’ve allocated some time to YOU!
3. Prioritise ‘Me Time’ and be flexible about it
I used to think I couldn’t enjoy doing something like putting on a face mask if I knew there were dirty dishes in the sink. By being flexible and prioritising ‘me time’ I have learned to put myself first and enjoy myself even when my house isn’t up to scratch. Prioritise ‘me time’ by making sure you do something each day for yourself even if it’s just a cup of tea that you wouldn’t normally have.
4. Avoid making excuses
Don’t think thoughts like “I can’t afford it” or “I don’t have that.” There are a lot of ideas out there for low or no cost pampering and self-care. It’s about the time you’re dedicating to yourself, not the money or products. Do a Google search for ideas.
It’s your choice – you can choose to put yourself first sometimes and reap the benefits, or you can choose to put everyone else first all the time and have an ‘empty cup’. If you need more motivation to do this, think about the message you’re sending your kids if you always put everyone else first. You’re saying “everyone else’s needs are more important than mine”. Do you want your children growing up with the same attitude? It’s not selfish, its self-care.
This article was written by Amanda Abel from Abel Psychology
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