Parenting is a tough job, and knowing how to be a good parent isn’t always easy — especially since life with kids constantly throws you one curve ball after another. And while it might seem like a selfless role, the very best moms know that the secret to raising children and creating a happy family (while keeping your sanity intact!), is ‘being selfish’ and putting your own needs before your kids.
While that might sound counter-intuitive, or even go against your natural instincts to nurture your kids, think about it for a minute.
When is the last time you put as much thought into preparing for your day ahead as you do sending your child off to school? How often do you think about your end of day wind down as thoughtfully as you plan your child’s after school snack or homework support and bedtime routine?
As a parent, you can get hyper-focused on making sure that a smooth path is prepared for your children so they can enjoy their day, yet you forget to do the same for yourself.
When family members depend on you, particularly children, it seems like you’ll be able to relax if you just care for them first. But that only brings temporary relief from the constant pleas for assistance.
“Mom, can you …”
“Mom, can I …”
“Mom, where is my …“
By the time all their needs are attended to (which is impossible because they are always coming up with more requests)!, there is little energy left to attend to you.
Maybe it’s easier to think of it in terms of your children and how you encourage them to manage their day themselves. Would you suggest a routine for your children where they stay up too late, wake up early and un-rested in order to complete their partner’s part of their team assignment?
Would you let them leave no time to eat breakfast or to pack a healthy lunch, then study through their lunch hour, take no breaks, do only the work assigned to them, rush through their dinner (so they can assist three friends with their homework) and fall into bed two hours late?
So why do you treat yourself that way, working non-stop to fill others’ needs and requests before filling your own? It’s that ‘nurture’ part of being a mom that can easily take over, if you aren’t paying attention.
You forget that being a mom does not mean you are no longer an individual with your own needs. You forget that, before becoming a mom, you existed and led your life by fulfilling your own needs first.
This is why you need to reorient your mom brain to look inward first so you can fulfill your own needs, before you turn your attention outward — toward the people you care for.
This “me first” approach can seem selfish to those more inclined to take care of others first. But in reality, it is essential if you want to bring your most complete and present self to your role as caregiver.
You might be thinking that this is just another one of those articles about pampering yourself and giving yourself a break, but that is not what it means to “fill yourself up” by meeting your own needs.
It means asking yourself, “What does it mean to be me, and what do I need to do to feel like me? What do I need to do to feel most connected to myself?”
Two of the easiest ways to reconnect to yourself are to sit in stillness (meditating) or get out in nature. Or, have the best of both worlds and create quiet and stillness while in nature. These practices help you connect with yourself so you can discover what you want to create and experience.
Depending upon where you live or the time of the year, it is not always possible to get out in nature (comfortably) at the start of the day, but it is always possible to sit in stillness for a while. Even if it seems like there is no time with a busy day ahead, you can set your alarm earlier than usual in order to ensure a few moments of stillness.
Others may find movement is their key to connection. So you can try yoga, a vigorous workout, or even a solo run to reconnect. And still, for others, it may be reading something inspirational, contemplation/prayer, or journaling that really brings their soul alive in the morning.
Whatever your preferred form of connection, committing to establishing that connection with yourself first, before taking care of anyone else, allows you to bring a “filled-up” version of you to the ones you love rather than a version that is running on empty. That isn’t being selfish; that’s being smart.
And if that isn’t enough of a reason to reorient your thinking, imagine your child was going in for surgery. Would you want the surgeon to come into her day depleted and unfocused?
When you don’t fill yourself up first, you come to your caregiving responsibilities depleted and unfocused. And that goes against your nature as a mom to care well for your children.
Remember that being a mom is just one of the roles you play in your life, but being the best, most fulfilled version of yourself is what you bring to everything you do and every role you play.
Starting with “me first” means that you have the courage to accept a responsibility that only you can fulfill — the role of being you in this world — that nobody else can do.
This post was originally published on YourTango.com