Dear Parents Who Struggle With Self-Care:
Are you feeling guilty about not taking better care of yourself (whatever that means to YOU)? Maybe you took great care of yourself (whatever that means to YOU) before you had kids, but now you feel pretty far off course?
I get it! The other day I caught myself thinking “It is crazy how far off course I was from living a lifestyle conducive to self-care.” If you knew me when I was in my 20s, you would probably say the same thing. I was the most health-fanatical person of anyone I knew! Now, I’ve been working on habits that I would have considered pretty basic back then. I would have thought that these habits were not nearly enough to maintain my health.
So why did I need to go back to square one, and build habits slooooowwwwlly? Because having a baby threw a huge curveball into my lifestyle.
Yup. I had a LOT of healthy habits back when my only responsibilities were myself and a job. And I had disposable income and free time to support those healthy habits. I could go to the gym when I wanted, with no scheduling constraints beyond my job. Pay for classes and workshops when I wanted. Buy whatever food I wanted. I could do really intense fitness programs and cook from scratch. (What now seems like) unlimited time, energy, and money made things so much easier.
And I had ZERO experience fitting in healthy habits when my lifestyle changed completely. Zero. I think a lot of parents struggle with this. Suddenly, we have much less free time. Much less energy. We probably have less income than we are used to. Maybe that means that we can no longer do ALL the healthy habits we used to do, because some of them required time and money and energy. Now, we can’t just join a gym AND Cross Fit AND yoga AND pay race entry fees for all the weekend 5Ks AND buy only fresh food that we have to prepare at home from scratch. So we drop a lot of these things. And since we only have experience with an “all or nothing” mentality, and we don’t have much experience with incorporating smaller habits, we don’t do ANYthing healthy for a while. Maybe we have no energy or brain power to work on any new habits at the moment.
So we may need to drop everything else for a little while we figure parenting out. That’s okay. That’s what I needed to do. If that’s what YOU needed to do, you are not alone.
I see a lot of parents (mostly mothers) berating themselves for not living as healthfully as they used to (whatever that means to them) and wondering “what is wrong with me? Why can’t I take care of myself better? Why is this so hard?”
Here is my theory:
NOTHING is wrong with you. Not a damn thing. You just took on a whole new lifestyle, and learned LOTS of new habits to care for your kid(s). Feeding, diapering, schedules, education, and more….all with less sleep, and likely fewer financial resources. When I take all of those things into consideration, I am in AWE of all the habits I’ve learned and incorporated over my son’s first two years. In absolute awe. And that’s how I know that we are capable of changing our patterns and learning new ways of doing things. We have concrete proof. We’ve done it.
You are completely capable of taking care of yourself (whatever that means to YOU!), and it is completely normal and okay if you have to back yourself WAY up and start from a place you never thought you’d be. It is okay to start with something that would have once seemed like a tiny, insignificant step. In fact, it’s more than okay. I’m convinced that it’s probably the most sustainable way for any parent to go.
Be kind. Cultivate patience. Give yourself a pat on the back. You’ve done amazing things. Focus on those things instead of the things you haven’t done.
You got this.
P.S. – I wrote a series on how I made successful habit changes with a kid and a job, after taking a long break from self-care. Check it out here!