Taking Care of Yourself as a Parent- Tips from a Family Physician and Mom
In order to take good care of your children, you have to take good care of yourself first! If your physical and/or mental health are suffering, your ability to be present and attentive to your children's needs will be limited. Many parents feel guilty about taking time away from their children for themselves, especially if they are working and have limited time with their children to begin with. However, self-care is not selfish and there is no reason to feel guilty. In fact, self-care is a vital part of being a good parent.
As a physician and mom, I experience a lot of the same feelings and struggles as many of my patients do. I have responsibilities at work and to my family that often conflict with each other and leave little time for myself. I want to share some of the self-care tips I have learned that have helped me take better care of myself as well as integrate my work life and family life.
Prioritize your health: Your health is your most important asset. Without it you will lose the ability to do the things you need to do to take care of your family and enjoy your life. You must take care of it! This means making sure you are getting good nutrition, exercising regularly, and seeing your doctor and dentist for regular preventive care. As a family, you can come up with a list of balanced meals that everyone enjoys (or at least tolerates!) and put these into a regular rotation to simplify meal times and reduce the need to order fast food or take out. You can build exercise into your daily routine by taking family walks in the evening, trips to the park on the weekend, or even having the kids participate in your work-outs with you. Put your doctor and dentist appointments on the calendar in advance and make these non-negotiable. By taking good care of yourself, you are allowing you to put your best self forward as a parent, and you are modeling healthy habits for your kids so they will grow up knowing how to take care of themselves as well.
Prioritize your relationships: It is extremely important that you have healthy relationships with other adults- your partner, your parents and siblings, your friends. This means that you need to devote time to nourishing those relationships. Parents often put their relationship with their partner in particular on the back burner while focusing on taking care of their children, but this can lead to resentment and discord that ultimately harms the children as well. After the kids are in bed, spend some alone time together being present with each other. Schedule date nights and hire a babysitter or ask a family member or friend to watch the kids. Give each other some grace during the early months of parenthood- life and your relationship are not going to be the same, but supporting each other will help get you through it.
Schedule yourself on your calendar: Everyone needs some alone time to decompress- whether that is taking a relaxing bath, reading a book, exercising, or working on a hobby. Whatever you like to do to recharge, schedule it and hold yourself to it just like you would if it were your kid's doctor appointment.
Let go of what does not serve you: Life changes once you become a parent, and things that used to be a huge part of your life may not fit into this next phase. That is okay! Change is normal and expected. Don't try to hold yourself to the same standards or keep the same obligations that you once had if they no longer fit into your life. The volunteer work or weekly happy hour or extra work shifts/after-hours work that you used to take part in may not work with your schedule anymore with kids or may no longer interest you. Keep the things that you love and that energize you, and let go of things that drain you.
At Vida Family Medicine, we understand how difficult it is to prioritize your own health as a parent. Our fourth trimester package and direct primary care membership program are designed to make it easy for you to get the care you need, when you need it. Patients have direct access to their personal physician on the go with our secure messaging app, easy online scheduling with same or next day availability, and extended appointment times for office and virtual visits so we can give space and time to address all of your concerns. Contact us to learn more!