Sometimes you must approach self-care like the emergency oxygen masks on an airplane. Take care of yourself first, before you help others. Otherwise you’re no good to anyone and instead become a liability.
Setting time aside to care for our physical, psychological, and/or spiritual well-being is incredibly important; even more so for parents. Yet, self-care is often the first thing to be sacrificed when parents, especially new parents, find themselves facing a slew of additional responsibilities which is very often coupled with sleep deprivation.
An additional area to consider while rearing children is the parents’ relationship. Making time to reinforce and reengage in your relationship is important and has been proven to support the relationship’s longevity. But things are often easier said than done, so here are my two cents on making it work.
Be Honest with Your Needs
Being a parent calls for a lot of sacrifice, but it’s up to you to know your limits and needs. Sacrificing until you break often leaves the family worse off than if you had taken the necessary break. It also exhausts your partner, as he or she picks up the slack during your recovery, making it extremely difficult to regain balance. This part requires introspection and honesty but, once mastered, can be a great way to avoid potential catastrophes down the line.
Respect The Difference
Everyone is different, and just like partners often have different love languages, they at times have different decompression needs. Be sure to respect your partner’s needs, even if you do not see the value of the activity. For instance, my wife and I both enjoy watching a movie as a way to relax. We often chit chat during films, pausing as necessary for side talk; however, there are days when I prefer to watch a movie in absolute silence.
Initially, Jacque had a tough time understanding the desire for absolutely zero interruptions, but she was quickly able to adapt and respect the change when I asked for it. Being able to adjust a past time to your current needs can be the key to taking care of yourself. It also illustrates the need to find balance between the couple’s needs and the individual’s needs.
When new parents are planning self and relationship care, it is important to remember to stay flexible. Often when we come across examples of self-care, we forget to take our time integrating new activities into the current routine. Sometimes you have start slow with date night every month and work your way to a regular weekly time to spend together. The same applies to individual self-care.
Another important thing to consider is that individual and couple’s needs shift with changes in role, income, employment, family status, etc. When Jacque was pregnant with baby V, we discussed having her be a stay-at-home-mom after the delivery (in December). Unfortunately, she was laid off in May. Needless to say, many things changed immediately for us. With Jacque being a couple of months pregnant, finding a new job before delivery seemed fruitless.
Our needs changed from a monetary perspective as well as psychological and physical. Not only were we adjusting to surviving on one income, much sooner than expected, but Jacque was adjusting to spending all of her time with the girls. She had to figure out what her needs were to feel recharged physically and emotionally, while I was adapting to the stress of being the sole provider.
Though that period was tumultuous, the worst effects were mitigated through introspection, communication, and compromise. We knew change could be rough, and we braced ourselves as much as possible. As it usually does, it turned out for the best, and we are both very happy in our new roles.