Guilt Free Self Care For Parents
Updated: Aug 1
Is there ever a way to be completely guilt free when you have small children needing attention so much of the day and a million other chores that always need doing? Honestly I don't know, for some this is a much easier task than others but it's definitely something I struggle with. I wish I had a really simple solution to this but I don't think there is one.
I heard a million times from different people when my son was born, "nap when the baby naps", which honestly never happened. When the baby naps you get tiny windows to have a shower, do some dishes, or find something healthy to eat so you aren't living off muesli bars all day long. There is always that one day though, where you decide to go OK, I'm completely exhausted, I'll lay down for a few minutes. You just start to doze of when a screaming child rockets you back to reality and you end up spending the next hour feeling like you've been fired out of a cannon. So is napping when the baby naps ever that helpful?
So getting extra rest is clearly out of the question as far as self care goes, so what can you do and when can you do it? Some of this will depend on you and your child. It will depend on how tidy you you like your house and how long your tiny angel likes to nap for, which changes with age. Just as you settle into a routine and start to get used the day going a certain way, they grow a little more and three naps turns to two, or two to one.
Now my tiny monkey has just gone from two to one, so instead of two thirty minute windows, I now get one. This doesn't seem to be the normal though, because everyone else's baby seems to nap from 1-2 hours and boy am I jealous. What I could do with 1 hour solid during the day! Half hour windows don't leave me with a lot of time for self care after you've gone to the bathroom after realising you've been busting for an hour, packed the dishwasher and cleaned up the mountain of food that was unceremoniously tossed from the high chair during lunch.
What I try to do is get as much of the housework done during the day as I can, even if it's only small and try to use the evenings as down time. It doesn't always pan out because there are sometimes still things that need to be done, but a lot of the time once the little guy goes to bed at 7:30 my husband and I try to wind down and do things that make us feel at least a tiny bit human. This will look hugely different for everyone but here are some of the things I try to do.
This is one I'm sure most people use, but I have a rule, no kids movie or shows on the TV once the little one is in bed. This might seem easy but I was always a massive Disney fan so Disney movies were pretty common on our TV, but in the evening the TV is reserved for more grown up shows.
As a couple we have now instituted mandatory movie night now too. This means there is one night a week we always watch a movie together, no computers, video games or other distractions. Date night and going out just isn't a thing for us anymore for many reasons, but watching movies together was something we always used to do and enjoyed. It's nice to have that back and some forced down time where it is just the two of us.
This is something that I have been doing since I was eleven (I was an old soul). It's something I have always done to help calm my often very noisy brain. I do it while sitting in front of some rubbishy television show I don't have to think too hard about and just zone out, watching the picture take form before my eyes. It helps to ground and refocus my brain away from the chaos of the day.
As hobbies go it is one that requires a great deal of patience, but not huge amounts of skill. You just follow a pattern from a magazine, book or even Etsy. I have done large projects which have taken me years to finish, but you always get a nice picture at the end you can get framed and it can be hugely satisfying.
These can be great for couple bonding as well and another one that can easily wait until all the tiny people have gone to sleep for the night. It's another form of date night but more interactive than the movie night. Be careful and make sure you pick the right board game for the mood, if tempers are already frayed maybe steer clear of Monopoly.
Some good ones we really enjoy for just two are Risk, Ticket to Ride, Monopoly Stock Exchange and if you want something a little different you could try one called Pandemic. Pandemic is great because it is cooperative so you have to work together rather than against each other. Great for helping to reconnect as a couple, if board games are your thing.
I try to sneak in tiny windows of writing where ever I can, even if it's only ten minutes here and there, at least I feel like I'm progressing with it slowly. I work on my blog posts which allow me to express a lot of myself and allow me to feel like I'm connecting with people. I also write short stories for competitions, which I am yet to win but are fun to enter and when I lose I can post them on my blog. If you are interested in reading any of them, here are the links to the ones I have posted so far: Little Angel, New Beginnings and School Daze.
Amongst this I am also attempting to write a novel. At the rate I'm going I still have about twelve more moths of writing, but I'm enjoying chipping away at it little by little. Like the cross stitch it takes patience and watching something grow slowly as you work on it little by little.
My favourite pastime of all. I have always been an avid reader and before becoming a mother I had plenty of time to slip in reading here and there. I'd read on public transport, in my lunch breaks at work, in waiting rooms and whenever I could at home too. Time for reading has now become very restricted, that along with the million other things I try to fit into a day.
So, as a rule, I always read before going to sleep each night. No matter how tired I am or how late it is, I read. This is a part of the old me I will hang onto for dear life. Some nights I barely make it through a paragraph before I'm asleep and others I can manage a little more, but getting through a book now takes me months, but that's OK. Even if it's only five minutes, it's five minutes I can guarantee on being able to shut out the rest of the world and wind down to sleep.
These obviously won't help everyone, people find different things relaxing. Some like to exercise, but for me that would be torture. They say self care is important for parents and I'm sure it is but at the same time, if you can't find the time to do all the self care the internet or your great aunt tells you you should, that's OK too. It's OK to embrace the new life you have created and not stress yourself out trying to do it all. Trying to be the parent you want to be while still doing everything you used to will likely burn you out.
It's important to know it's OK to just be a parent for a while. Children grow up so fast, and I know everyone says it but I can't believe how much my little man has changed in just 16 months. He won't be this tiny forever, so while he is I will be there for every second of it I can, and if that means less time for me then I'm OK with that. That's my choice and whichever way you go with it, it is your choice and you need to do what is best for you and your family, whatever that is.
I hope you enjoyed this post, if you did you might like to subscribe to see more in the future. Try to enjoy being a parent as much as possible and try to ignore all the voices around you telling you what to do, because at the end of the day, only you have to live with your choices, not everyone else.