It’s hard enough to meet basic personal needs when you have a family. Take that to the next level and growth and development seems almost impossible. A lot of parents put their kids first and barely leave enough time to take care of themselves. Sooner or later, however, your needs and desires will catch up with you. It might start with an inkling that you need a change. To welcome necessary change, you have to address that subtle nudge.
Step 1: Examine your life and see if there’s something in your static habits you want to modify.
Step 2: Discover the tools you need to modify your new dynamic behavior.
Step 3: Adapt your life to incorporate new habits.
Step three can be tricky for parents. It’s exciting when you attend a workshop or read a book that inspires you and encourages you to grow. But you’re then tasked with fitting new habits into your old life in a manageable way.
In an effort to feel healthier and more invigorated, you may adopt new eating habits. Does that mean you now cook one meal for yourself and something different for the kids? Or, if you want the entire family on your new health kick, how do you deal with your three picky eaters—the vegetarian, the one who won’t eat beans or leafy vegetables, and the one who will eat anything as long as it’s not mixed together … or touching … or in a sauce.
Let’s say you decided to meditate twice a day for 30 minutes. You come home with a plan similar to what they taught at your retreat—a morning ritual. You decide to wake up a half hour earlier than you’re used to and it works for a while, that is until your son tells you he wants to be on the swim team that practices at 6:30 a.m. That means you have to leave the house by 6:15 and he needs to be up by 5:30, which means you need to get up at 5:00 a.m. All of a sudden your morning meditation seems impossible.
In both examples the thing that keeps most people from progressing with their self-care goals is finding the constant balance between taking care of themselves and caring for their family. The important thing to remember when trying to decide if you can strike this balance is that self-care is not selfish. You cannot serve from an empty vessel.
5 Quick Tips for Success
1) If you show your children balance, they learn balance in their own lives.
Many parents are guilty of prioritizing everyone else’s needs above their own. If you’re one of these people, you may think this makes you a good wife and mother. The truth is that you’re putting yourself last in line and rarely saving enough time for yourself. When this happens, you not only ignore your needs, you also show your family that your needs aren’t as valuable as theirs.
2) If you tell them what you’re doing and why you’re doing it, they will likely be helpful.
Being able to meditate for 30 minutes in the morning makes me a better mom. I am more resilient, more grounded, I feel better and I am more in touch with my emotions when I do this. Recognizing that this is my plan and communicating it to my family gives them the information they need to support my practice. They don’t barge loudly into the living room between 5:30 and 6:00 a.m. because they know that’s where I’ll be. They are welcome to join me, just not to interrupt.
3) Let the problem become part of the solution.
Instead of becoming bummed out because you can’t squeeze “you time” into your day, ask your family to help you come up with a plan that allows you the time you need. By involving them in the process, they become part of the solution rather than the problem. These chances for your family to support one another feel great for everyone.
4) Learn to say no.
You cannot be all things to all people. If you’re swamped at work, at home, or both you will not have the resources needed to take care of yourself. Learning to say no is a skill you need to practice. Before you take on one more task for a friend, for a cause you support, or for the kids’ school, ask yourself, “Does this help me or hinder me in attaining my personal goals today?” If the answer is that it will hinder you, say no politely and celebrate your persistence in personal growth.
5) Take things slow.
Remember that everything that happens on your path to personal growth is a step toward success. It isn’t a race; as long as you’re moving, you’re making progress.