Don’t wait! It’s your job to look after yourself. And I don’t mean all by yourself. We can ask for what we need; but it’s down to you to make sure you’re well taken care of, by yourself and by those around you. It’s your right. Everyone deserves to be well taken care of. But once we are adults, our care is our responsibility. And no-one else’s.
When you were a child, it was your parent’s job. Now it’s yours. Not your partner’s, or your friend’s; not your boss’s, or your colleague’s; not even your parents’ any longer.
When a baby is first born, it relies on those around them for everything. A new-born’s parents’ job is to feed, and keep warm, and soothe to sleep, and clean and hold their child. As time goes on, the child begins to choose what they eat, the clothes they like, their own bedtime routine, habits and how they like to connect.
A parent begins by taking care of everything and then gradually hands over the responsibility for a child’s well-being to the child.
As a child shows their ability to take care of themselves, they are given more freedom to choose how they do that. Take clothes for example. A parent dresses a baby, the toddler begins to express preferences but needs help with buttons, a preteen experiments with different styles, a teen goes out without a coat and gets cold and wet. We need to allow our children to make mistakes. Mistakes are fine, more than fine, it’s how we learn best. Parents need to learn to let go, to trust their child; just as a child needs to learn how to make responsible choices.
As a parent, we will do a great deal to make sure our child is well. We want to take good care of them. And later for them to take good care of themselves. So, by getting them to eat their greens, drink water, go to bed in good time, go for a walk in the fresh air, read, listen to music, pause and feel the sun on their face, seek what makes their heart sing, we are teaching them self-care. But if we’re not doing these things too, for ourselves, what are really teaching them? That children need to be taken care of but parents don’t? That you have to rely on others to tell you how to look after yourself? That they deserve care, but you don’t? If we really want our children to take care of themselves, they need to see us doing that for ourselves too.
Be a good role model to your children – show them that part of growing up is taking care of yourself.
To put yourself high on the list of things to give attention to. Perhaps higher than them. They may baulk at it, but they’ll also feel a sense of relief when you do. Why? Well, our children depend on their parents being well, for their own survival. So, if they see you not taking care of your well-being, then they may step in and try to take care of you themselves instead. They know that their survival depends on you being okay, so if you’re not taking care of that, they may try to. And it’s not their job. It’s yours.
Maybe you didn’t get what you needed as a child, and you’re still waiting for someone to make up for it. For someone to notice and give you want you need now, as an adult. That’s natural. But if you’re an adult, don’t make your partner your parent. Don’t expect them to notice what you need and step in to give it to you. That’s not their role. They may have that role in your children’s lives, but not in yours. That doesn’t mean that they can’t sometimes notice and choose to do something caring, but it’s not their responsibility. It’s your job to give attention to what you need, and then to meet those needs. That may mean asking someone for something, or to do something for you, but you’re doing the asking, you’re not expecting. And if they can’t, you don’t give up, you look for another way to meet that need.
Needs don’t go away if they’re unmet. Actually, they have a tendency to clamour at you, like a small child pestering. So, attend to what you need and see how that affects you. When you treat yourself as if you’re important, your well-being is important, then you feel good about yourself. You resource yourself to be the best parent, great partner, friend, worker that you can be. When you’re not trying to run on empty, but instead nourish yourself, you increase your capacity for everything else in your life.
So, scrap the guilt. Pause for a cup of tea, or a chat with a friend, a wander under the sky, or whatever you have that gives you some light relief and recharges your batteries. It’s amazing how a little will go a long way to restoring your energy. These are essential for your good health and therefore they are essential daily activities for your children’s well-being too.