There’s a whole list of things to remember, to do, to be, in order to feel like you can call yourself a Gentle Parent. That list can include things like being respectful, apologizing when you’ve made mistakes, recognizing what sets you off, and learning ways to handle certain challenging situations. I even give three things to do today to be the parent you want to be in this online class.
But there’s really just one thing that needs to be done to be your most gentle self. These last few weeks (they’ve felt really stressful for me… holiday stress, the end of my maternity leave is looming, worry over the health of friends) have really opened my eyes to the importance of this one thing. Really, the only thing that helps me be the person I truly want to be to my children. And to my husband.
It’s taking care of myself.
You know when you’re on a plane and they say in the event of an emergency put the mask on yourself before attending to your children? That’s because if anything happens to you, then you literally would NOT BE ABLE TO care for your children. Only when you’ve made sure you can breathe, can you make sure everyone around you is getting the help they need.
I like to think my children come first, and in so many ways they really do. But I need to remember to put myself first. When I’ve truly taken care of my needs, then I can appropriately respond to the needs of my children.
I know the things that make me stressed.
I learned about appropriate development.
I know about the science of behavior, how to respond to things and why.
But I can’t do or be anything I want if I’m not at my best, or at least at my good. If I’m hungry, it’s harder to hear my daughter cry or whine without snapping. If I have to use the bathroom, it’s so much more difficult to have patience while my three-year-old takes her time putting on her socks. If my back hurts, or I’m exhausted, it’s so difficult to stand up while holding a three-month-old to get my older child something different to eat because the first thing fell on the floor. Or she didn’t like it. Or it touched the other thing on her plate…
So when I’m not acting my best, I know it’s because I need to do something to help me feel more like me. I need a 5 minute break. A good meal. Someone to come over and help me out. Put on clean clothes. Take a shower. Brush my teeth. Whatever it is I need in that moment, I have to remember to do it. The more I put it off, the harder it is NOT to yell, or lash out, or say things I don’t mean.
When you think of self-care, things like yoga classes or mani-pedis, or getting your hair done, or a massage come to mind. And while those things are awesome, they aren’t always feasible. They can be expensive. You need a babysitter. Those wonderful things are long-term self care goals. They take planning. I’ve recently started going to yoga classes regularly but it’s taken awhile to get that started for myself. And sometimes I skip a week because… I don’t know… it just doesn’t happen.
But short-term self care goals…what does that look like? Keeping yourself hydrated. Having good snacks around or occasionally ordering take-out from the good Thai restaurant to make sure you get a good meal without the prep and mess. It looks like brushing your teeth and washing your face whenever you feel gross. It looks like putting baby in the rock and play and pulling that into the bathroom and turning on Doc McStuffins so you can take 10 minutes to use the bathroom and wash your hair. Do that. Take care of yourself, no matter what that may look like, first.
Then I promise you’ll be the parent you want to be. <3