Perfect parenting is a myth.
This article is inspired by our Positive Parenting Workshop, run by Dr. Clara O'Byrne as part of the Wellbeing Workshop Series for companies and organisations across Ireland who want to support their employee's wellbeing at work and beyond.
The first secret to self-care for working parents: Reframe your self-talk about your parenting. You are doing your best.
There is no such thing as the perfect parent or family. There is beauty in imperfection, this wooden bowl was repaired with a nod to the Japanese style of Kintsugi or golden repair. Just as rupture and repair can add beauty to an object, they can add depth to a parent/child relationship. Rupture and Repair is a phrase used to describe the inevitable rupture in parent/child connection and the importance of repair. The first step in the repair process is developing your awareness of the rupture and then communicating clearly with your child that you are there for them, you understand, and you will try again. This idea of imperfect parenting being ok is also drawn from the concept of the ‘Good Enough’ parent. Children actually benefit from imperfect parenting as it prepares them for the real world with its challenges and imperfections.
Second self-care secret for working parents: Be kind to yourself and prioritise small moments in your day just for you.
Self-care is a word that is marketed and monetised to working parents regularly. This self-care industry will tell you that buying a new bag, going on a spa break or prosecco with your friends is self-care. Of course, these are lovely treats and will bring you enjoyment in the short term. However, authentic self-care that is grounded in your values is more likely to have a longer-term positive impact on your well-being. Self-compassion is about being as kind to yourself as you are to others. Self-care is not selfish. It is maintenance, not a luxury when you don’t take care of yourself, you are diminishing your energy levels and capacity to juggle.
Self-care is not selfish.
Consider this question for a moment:
Do you want your child to experience your stress and frustrations with the endless juggle when they are adults?
Children will nearly always do what they see you do rather than do what they hear you say. When you practice self-care and set boundaries and prioritise according to your values system you are modelling how to make healthy choices to your children.
Make the most of mini gaps in your day. Throw runners and book in your car so if you get 10 minutes to yourself you can walk or read. Make a list of podcasts you want to listen to and make your morning commute more interesting. Move often during your day and develop a bank of self-care tools that you can use in those small moments. Try deep breaths whilst waiting in a queue, try a mindful walk at lunchtime, put your phone away at a certain time each day and get enough sleep.
The third self-care secret for working parents: Routines are your friend.
Family traditions deepen family connections and give a predictable structure to the family calendar. Routines help the household run smoothly. Children, like the rest of us, handle change best if it is expected and occurs in the context of a familiar routine. A predictable routine allows children to feel safe, and to develop a sense of competence in handling their lives. When we offer children a predictable routine as a foundation in their lives, they are more likely to be able to cope with bigger changes. Routines help to ease the cognitive load, that is, they lessen the amount of ‘thinking power’ you have to use. Routines decrease stress, develop a sense of security and safety for children and reduce decision fatigue.
One way of combining living an authentic life aligned with your core values and having a structured family life through the use of routines is to implement Family Traditions. Family Traditions are a great way of underpinning your core values as a family unit: is it adventure, connection, or playfulness? Family traditions enhance a sense of family identity, this is who we are and provides consistency and predictability – so children can say in our family we always do x on birthdays.
Some family traditions can be family movie night, pizza night or happy memory jar. A happy memory jar (see picture) is a collection of your most happy memories as a family throughout the year. To fill it over time, take a moment with the children when you had a good day and write down what went well on a piece of paper. For example: "We had great fun at the beach", or "We had a picnic in the boot of the car". These happy memories go into the jar, and every few months and on New Year's Eve, you can review the previous month's and year's high points. Other family traditions could be Midnight Feasts, Upside Down Days, Special Birthday routines or foods. Traditions provide anchor points to your week, month and year and help the routine of the household. When the household routine runs like clockwork, those are the days it is a little easier to breathe and mind yourself.
What family traditions added structure to your childhood?
What family traditions do you currently have and what family traditions could you work on?
Interested in learning more?
Get in touch to find out how you can apply the science of wellbeing to your family life. We help parents to achieve work/life balance, to parent with consistency and authenticity and support families to flourish and thrive.