Navigating Island Parenting

By: Mutryce A. Williams, Commentary

Navigating “Island” Parenting is a submission of insights, quotes, tips and parenting advice that I have gathered over the years as a source of inspiration and as tools to deal with the daily challenges of parenting. This week’s issue: Self-Care. The hope is that this submission will cause you to reflect upon your parenting skills and also make the journey of parenting a bit easier or brighter.

Self-Care is not about neglecting your children’s needs.

The minute the nurse or doctor hands you that screaming infant the world as you knew it ceases to exist. Your life has been transformed forever. Although some of us may be too afraid to admit it; fear comes over us. We may even go through moments of being overwhelmed. We ask ourselves several questions. One of the first questions asked, “Can I do this?” The second question may be “How am I going to possibly do this?” You see prior to this life changing event, our only responsibility was taking care of ourselves. Now there is a whole other person who will rely on us to have his or her needs met. A wave of emotion comes over us and we realize that this dependency will last until we take our last breath. This is the life of parenthood.

We look into the face of our newborns and whisper words of affirmation to them. We pledge to do our best. We set out to do our best, however there are times when we get lost and forget that we exist, and that we have needs. We fail to realize that in order to be the best caregivers; we need to first take care of ourselves. Many of us when we hear this we cringe because as parents we translate self-care as neglecting the needs of our children. Self-care is not about neglecting your children’s needs. It is about taking care of yourselves so that you can be in the best physical and emotional health to take care of them. I have chosen to share an excerpt from the non-profit organization Stop Child Abuse Now (SCAN) of Northern Virginia, a non-profit organization whose mission is to promote the well-being of children, improve parent-child relations and prevent child abuse and neglect. Please read on.

It takes energy to be a good parent, therefore self – care is important!

Excerpt from the SCAN – Building Hope for Parents and Families in Northern Virginia

“Many parents today are overwhelmed with the stresses of family life. In fact, a lot of parents feel like they’re just treading water trying to keep up with the daily tasks associated with caring for children. Being a parent is not easy—it can feel as though we’re constantly focused on our children: feeding, clothing, teaching, disciplining and more all day long. But are you taking time to focus on yourself, too?…

The problem we face if we don’t practice self-care is that parenting can become an even greater challenge than it already is! It takes ENERGY to be a good parent. When we’re over-stressed and not taking care of ourselves, we can be irritable, exhausted or sad. But positive, proactive parenting takes patience, energy and optimism. All traits very hard to come by if we’re not taking care of our physical and mental health. So on top of not taking care of ourselves, we cannot care for our children as we might otherwise be able to. This can lead to reactive parenting, with lots of yelling, missing opportunities to reward positive behavior and more.”

We wear many hats, as we women, mothers, sisters, aunts, cousins, best friends, confidants, employees and volunteers. The expectations are insurmountable. There are only twenty-four hours in the day and we are expected to accomplish great feats, with precision and perfection. We have to do all this while taking care of ourselves. There comes a time when we have to realize that we can’t always achieve perfection. All we can do is, try our best, but make sure that we don’t drown or lose ourselves in the process.

Women are like stovetops…We can’t always be perfect.

“Women are like stovetops. Each burner represents a role that we play. If all the pots on our stove are on high, something is bound to burn. We can’t always be perfect. We must learn to surrender to the fact that our pots have to be shifted around sometimes. As long as our burners aren’t turned completely off, we mustn’t get down on ourselves if we have to lower the flames once in a while.” Kera Thompson

I think Kera Thompson sums it up nicely, women are indeed like stovetops. It is necessary to lower the flames once in a while and sometimes we may need to take some pots off of the fire altogether and start afresh because there are times when we fail to realize that self-preservation has its place in parenting. This may not only apply to meeting the demands of our children but the demands placed by those in our circle as well. My own parenting philosophy is, if it does not lead you towards a place of centeredness or balance so that you can be your best self or the best parent then it is leading you in the opposite direction. It is an unwanted distraction and it needs to be addressed. The First Lady of the USA Michelle Obama sums it up nicely when she said,

“Do not bring people in your life who weigh you down. And trust your instincts … good relationships feel good. They feel right. They don’t hurt. They’re not painful. That’s not just with somebody you want to marry, but it’s with the friends that you choose. It’s with the people you surround yourselves with.”

As mothers or parents sometimes the people who weigh us down are a source of stress. Our relationships with them may seep into all areas of our lives. Make life less complicated. Surround yourself with positive people, people who share your goals. On the journey of parenting it is important to find other parents who are supportive and likeminded. This can make the world of difference.

As you take some time to reflect on self-care. Here are a few suggestions on how you achieve some balance and begin taking care of yourself, because you matter.

Some ways of taking care of yourself

• Spend time with your partner or positively infectious friends

• Spend time alone each day, discover the outdoors, go for a walk

• Prioritize the activities that make you happy

• Be creative / flexible about social activities you can work around your child’s needs

• Find things that make you laugh

• Say no to extra responsibilities

• Learn something new whether it is a language, take up baking or a craft such as sewing

• Write a journal, reflect on your new life, continue to set goals and never stop dreaming

• Get lost in a book while drinking a cup of green tea

• Exercise, eat healthy, visit your health practitioner, get some much needed rest

• Return to old hobbies you may not have pursued since your child’s birth

• Be open to inspiration and awe, surround yourself with positive energy

• Meditate or pray each morning, or each evening

Quotes on Self-Care

“In most families, care-giving becomes the woman’s responsibility. While care-giving can enrich you, it can also deplete you if you don’t have support or make time for self-care.” Kathleen A. Kendall-Tackett

Much of your strength as a woman can come from the resolve to replenish and fill your own well and essence first, before taking care of others.” Miranda J. Barrett, A Woman’s Truth: A Life Truly Worth Living

“Rest and self-care are so important. When you take time to replenish your spirit, it allows you to serve others from the overflow. You cannot serve from an empty vessel.” Eleanor Brownn

Self-love, my liege, is not so vile a sin, as self-neglecting. William Shakespeare, Henry V.

“Taking care of yourself is the most powerful way to begin to take care of others.” Bryant McGill, Simple Reminders: Inspiration for Living Your Best Life

Recommended Reading for the Mother’s Soul

What I Know for Sure by Oprah Winfrey

Rainbow in the Cloud: The Wisdom and Spirit of Maya Angelou

Daily Gratitude: 365 Days of Reflection by National Geographic

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