I constantly hear about burnout, both in my professional life working with parents and in my social life.
There is so much expectation, so much strain and anxiety and so much shame that people are feel about not measuring up, not being able to do it all.
Underlying all the various ways this issue is expressed, I’ve noticed an underlying self-imposed urgency. ‘It’s not self imposed,’ you may protest. I then hear how these things really are so so SO important, with the sentiment expressed that if the speaker doesn’t do them, something bad is going to happen.
What is going to happen if you don’t do this particular thing for your child? When I suggest that a lot of the pressure the parent is feeling might be unnecessary and excessive, the response is usually “But don’t kids need to…go to sleep at a given time, brush their teeth, eat the right amount of nutritious foods, get to school on time, do their homework???” The list of what responsible parents ‘should‘ do doesn’t end.
And the pressure that parents put on themselves doesn’t end either.
Could we possibly learn to lighten up and let go of some of that tense perfectionism that is rooted in fear? Can we trust ourselves and trust our kids instead of a checklist? Really, we’re not going to fail them or ourselves if we don’t do this long list of things on a regular basis. If we do the things that really matter – which comes down to providing a nurturing, loving home for our children – they’re going to be okay. They really are.
Not because you’re the perfect mother. Not because you line up all your ducks in a row and manage to execute flawlessly every day. No. You don’t and you can’t. And you don’t need to.
Can you embrace loving yourself as you are right now? Right now, with all of your imperfections?
I’ll tell you something that might be intuitive. Or it might be counterintuitive.
Do you want to be a more effective parent? Do you want to be more loving, more effective, more emotionally and physically present? Try treating yourself with kindness and compassion, with appreciation for your efforts and forgiveness for your lapses.
The more love you show to yourself, the easier it is to love those around you. When you learn to nurture yourself appropriately, it becomes much easier to nurture your children. When you stop continually raising the bar so high for yourself, accept your mistakes and appreciate your good intents, it’s natural to do the same for those around you.
We are so harsh to ourselves. So, so harsh. Do you think you’re being responsible to push yourself more, to tell yourself why you need to do more, to be more? No, it’s not responsible. It’s harsh.
Listen to me. There is nothing more valuable to your children than being raised by a mother who loves and accepts herself. Do you know how powerful it is to be loved unconditionally? Most of us don’t and we don’t know how to give that to our children. But it’s not too late – because you can give yourself that gift.
Start with small ways to love yourself. Go to bed earlier. Take a ten minute shower instead of a five minute shower. Sit and enjoy your cup of herbal tea. Little things that reflect the kindness and compassion that you deserve.
Allow yourself to slow down or do less without feeling guilty about it, without feeling defensive or apologetic, without the habitual self-shaming of telling yourself you really should be doing something else. Something more valuable, more important than taking care of yourself.
There’s not much that’s more important than appropriately taking care of yourself. Your capacity to give to others is rooted in the care you take of yourself, and the love you learn to give yourself will flow out to those around you.
For today, lovingly put yourself first. You deserve it, and your family deserves it.