BY TABI FALCONE
An important function of parenthood is to raise good human beings who become happy, healthy and productive members of society. In order to do that, parents need to teach by example—model healthy boundaries and put worth on taking care of themselves. Far too many working parents fall into the trap of putting themselves last in favor of doing everything for their children. The list below includes practical ways for busy parents to practice self-care and live their lives by the example they want to set for their children.
- Take a timeout.
When overwhelmed, separating yourself to spend some time alone is a great tool for self-care. Not only will this give you a break to regroup, but it will also teach your children coping techniques, as well. Timeouts can be quick, to fit into your busy day, sometimes only 5 minutes of quiet is needed to re-set yourself.
Endorphins are a powerful thing. Not only will exercise improve your health and set a great example of modeling healthy behavior for your children; exercise has been scientifically shown to increase happiness and improve mental health. Most importantly, your kids will think you’re totally awesome when you can do more pushups than they can. Workouts can cut out chunks of time in your day, but working parents can easily work around that by taking early morning trips to the gym, doing lunchtime workouts, utilizing gym childcare centers (they get to hang out with other kids and have fun, too!) or even finding free YouTube videos to do at night after the kids are in bed.
- Make time for your hobby.
Time spent doing things you love is worth its weight in relaxation. Whatever your hobby is, make sure not to ignore it for your children. They need to know that your existence isn’t just for feeding them and working, that you’re a human, too! If you don’t have a hobby… find one! Try a few things out until you find something you enjoy. Hobbies are also something that can take as little or as much time as you want them to, depending on your interests and schedules.
- Limit extracurricular activities to 1 or 2 per child.
Nobody has time to be running around the world dropping off a thousand kids at a thousand different activities. Between time and money, you need to make sure you have family time together and don’t spend your entire lives in the car. Know that you have limits to how many things you can do in a week and don’t be afraid to tell your kids, “No!” It will help them down the road to understand priorities and not being able to do everything when they’re adults.
- Host a “Wine and Paint” or crafting night.
These can be a wild success! The supplies can be purchased on sale if budgeting is an issue. There are tons of easy DIY projects available on Pinterest, and if you’re hosting, there is no need to get a babysitter. Bonus points if you invite your friends with kids who can occupy yours during the painting or crafting. Not everybody has to do the same craft, but you get to hang out with your friends and get a cool piece of art at the end!
- Spend time with your friends.
It is so important to find and keep your tribe. Friends are so key to some people’s well-being that they can feel themselves getting stressed out if it has been too long since a good chat. You can go out and grab coffee, dinner, go on a hike, or even just talk on the phone—but make time for your core friendships.
- Wake up 30 minutes early and enjoy a cup of coffee or tea alone.
Set your alarm a little early to be able to have coffee or tea, and get some “you time” in for reading, meal planning or one of those hobbies you’ve now picked up. Even just thirty minutes of solo time can launch your day on a positive note, and it will grow from there.
- Read a book.
Reading allows you to escape into an alternate reality for a few hours. Whether you disappear into a fantasy land of elves, delve knee-deep into a murder mystery, or get engulfed in an inspirational “how-to” guide on discovering your potential; detaching from reality by curling up with a good book (or Kindle) is a sure-fire blood pressure reducer. An added plus: books and Kindles are small enough to throw into your bag to pull out for a lunch break de-stress session.
- Take a class.
This one is great and can be adjusted based on budget. You can take a weekly long-term class, sign up for dance lessons, or even a one-time jewelry making class at a local art school. Something to get you out of the house and stretching your brain or body. The options are extensive for classes outside of traditional working hours, depending on what schools and studios you have around you. Like yoga and animals? Find a baby goat yoga class! Want to expand your knowledge of power tools? There’s a class for that, too!
- Join a parent’s group.
There are local parent groups as well as online parent groups, depending on the availability in your area. This can get difficult for working parents, as many of the in-person parenting groups meet during the day, but this trend is beginning to change. There are also MANY online parenting groups that cater to different parenting styles and circumstances. Thanks to the Internet and social media, you can now find parenting groups as specific as “Secular Foster & Adoptive Parenting,” “Crunchy Parents Who Vaccinate” and “Conservative Vegan Parenting.” Having these connections to be able to talk to people who are going through what you’re going through, or have gone through it already, makes more of a difference than you might realize.