By Coreen Soh . August 2017
“Why do I feel tired even after sleeping the night through?”
“Why do other parents seem to cope better than me?”
“I wished I have 72 hours a day.”
Are these thoughts running through your mind? Do you often feel drained and lethargic? Parenting is indeed a huge change in most of our lives. It is a time when many of us feel a great sense of achievement, at the same time, a great sense of despair. The sentiments swing like a pendulum, moving from side to side, sometimes, causing us to question our own sanity.
Every child is unique and so is every parent. The first mistake we make is to compare our parenting competencies with other parents and most often, we end up feeling more pathetic than before the conversation started. How do we grow as parents while we grow together with our children? How do we ensure that our children grow healthily and happily, and we as parents, develop healthily and happily too?
Parents are the main caregivers. The act of care-giving is a draining one if our own ‘care bank’ is not filled up as we care for others. We often deplete our own ‘care bank’ till a point of deficit, sometimes feeling frustrated and doubtful if we have made the right choice to be parents. Very often, we hear parents lamenting that they have to function like normal despite them nursing an illness. Life simply goes on.
How do we fill up our own ‘care banks’? Acknowledging that we need to be cared for, is the first step to establishing the balance. Are our kids capable of caring for us? Definitely yes! Even a young toddler can do it! Demonstrating acts of care by children can be advocated by the other parent who is well. The act of caring need not be limited to tasks. For example, if your spouse is unwell, be a role model of care by asking or checking-in on your spouse’s well-being, encourage the children to do so too. Simple acts like covering your spouse with a blanket, encourage the children to choose quiet activities so that your spouse can rest, dim the lights or even a simple gesture of a stroke on the head or a pat on the shoulder, can be acts of care that fill up our ‘care bank’. Children will pick up these behaviours gradually and develop a sense of empathy, care and concern. They start to understand that they can be reciprocal in a parent-child relationship. In this way, our own ‘care banks’ are being replenished as we provide care for our children.
We can only care well for others only if we know how to care for ourselves. However, many parents face the torment of guilt when they even think of taking time-out of their parenting duties. Exercising self-care is an important contributor to positive parenting. We have experienced how our interactions with our children tend to be negative when we have had a bad day. Hence, a happy parent raises a happy child. Taking short couple trips, nights-off, me-time, are just some ways to exercise self-care. Self-care allows parents to recharge, lead a balanced life and build their stamina in their parenting journey. Often, the outcome would be a higher quality parenting relationship with their children.
Parenting is a choice. Enjoying or resenting it, is a choice too. Taking the first step to acknowledge that parenting can be enjoyable by making small changes to our routines, develop self-care habits and communicate these needs to your children and spouse. We often forget that children can support us in their own ways too. Parenting is not a one-way journey, it is reciprocal.