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Before we can love anyone unconditionally, we must first love ourselves. We have to give and express the unconditional love to ourselves that was not provided to us by our biological parents. We re-parent ourselves not by our parents but by our own inner source of love." -- Anne V.
You can't raise healthy kids if you are always flying off the handle. It’s not as if you just need a rich chocolate pastry or a movie to temporarily rejuvenate you. Or to leave your kids and run on a vacation. The bottom line in parenting is that your kids depend on you to regulate them emotionally, which means you have an obligation to regulate yourself emotionally. If a pastry will help you do that, by all means, go ahead. But you need a more steady and enduring solution.
If you can use your love for your child, as your motivation to do the hard work of learning to regulate your own emotions and moods, you’ll be giving your child a tremendous gift. But the gift to yourself will be even greater, because you’ll end up being a happier, more emotionally healthy person.
Just like your children, you can only “act good” when you feel good from within. And while pastries and movies have their place, what you really require is something much deeper: an internal “parent” to love you unconditionally so that you can discover your own stanch inner happiness. That's the secret of keeping your cup full.
The bad news is, having a child changes everything. The good news is, having a child changes everything. Seriously, having a child can be the best thing you ever did. What else offers such rich rewards while helping you grow into a more loving person? But sometimes the rewards are elusive, and we find ourselves screaming inside "This isn't what I signed up for!"
Usually, that's when our own needs aren't met. Or our own big feelings get triggered. In other words, when caring for our kids takes so much out of us that we aren't caring for ourselves. But your child's ability to regulate her emotions will depend on how well you regulate yours when you interact with her. And if you can stay centered and joyful, your child will respond by wanting to cooperate with you.
I know, it's hard to be joyful when you can't remember the last time you finished a telephone call without being interrupted. But taking care of your own needs and feelings will allow you to feel so much better about life, and about your child, that whatever bothers you now about your child will be so much easier to solve.
You owe it to yourself. Ultimately, you're the one responsible for how you spend your life. The secret work of adulthood is that we are all still growing up, and parenting forces us to learn to parent ourselves as well as our child.. So how can you nurture yourself, when all the hours in the day are already accounted for? It's partly a matter of changing what you do; nurturing yourself in small ways throughout your day. And it's partly a matter of changing your attitude; finding peace inside yourself.
As you go through your day, you have a running list. Change the diaper, read the toddler a story, feed the preschooler , help the elementary schooler with homework, help the tween braid her hair, negotiate with the teen about an electronic, make dinner for the family, fold laundry, remember a birthday , email your siblings, get ready for an office party with your spouse... the list never stops. But have you fallen off your own list?
The only way to keep your cup full in the constant vortex of parenting is to tend to yourself even while you tend to your child. Throughout your day, make it a priority to check in with yourself.
Often, we’re amazed to realize that we deny our desires routinely, without even noticing it. Maybe we’d love a cup of tea while we help our child with that project but “it’s too much trouble.” Maybe we really need a good cry. Maybe we’re tempted to pick up a crayon and enjoy expressing our creativity while our child is colouring, but we’d feel silly. Or maybe we simply need a quick visit to the bathroom, but we routinely wait until we absolutely can’t delay any longer.
Some Tips to Keep you Cup Full
v Adopt yourself. Whose job is it to nurture you? Yours. Spouses, partners, friends and families are companions on the journey, but we can only take in from them what we're able to give to ourselves. Start by talking to yourself like someone you love. Nurturing yourself through the hard times. Acknowledging just how hard it all is, and how hard you try. You don't need to be perfect. You are more than enough, exactly as you are. You deserve all the tenderness you would shower on a newborn baby.
v Today as you’re taking care of your child, check in with yourself. Notice what you need. Is there anything you can give yourself right now that would help you stay in balance?
v Make it a habit to tune into yourself as often as possible throughout your day. Just take a deep breath and let it flood your body with well-being. Breathe in calm, breathe out stress. Simply being present with yourself is an essential form of "attention" that we all need.
v Slow down and show up. Often we're so focused on the list that we forget to live. But this is the only chance you get, and your child really will be grown in the blink of an eye. If you're too busy to revel in your child's natural joy, you're turning up your nose at the fuel that keeps you going as a parent. What happened to that joyful, exuberant person inside you? She's your antidote to burnout. Yes, your children and household will demand every moment you have. But many of those moments are full of joy, if you choose to simply enjoy them. Soak in every moment of goodness you can.
Dr. Jessina Merchant