I remember vividly when my first child was born. The day I became a mother. On that day I promised my beautiful boy that I would always be there for him and always put him first. It took me quite some time, however, to realise that my efforts to put him first were somewhat counterproductive. Instead of becoming the mother I had always wanted to be – full of energy, creativity and enthusiasm, I became utterly exhausted. I had too little sleep, was not eating healthily or exercising and had too little energy left at the end of the day to look after my own needs. The truth is, parenting is exhausting. And there is no perfect way to parent.
Learning to put yourself first
It was my mother who first said to me – “you need to start looking after yourself to be a good mother”. Admittedly, daughters don’t always listen to their mothers. I believed that her ideas were somewhat outdated and that she didn’t understand my commitment to put my child above everything else. I was convinced I was doing the right thing.
If the parents are ok, the kids have an excellent chance of being ok.Jim Rohn
But, with the benefit of hindsight, I can now see that she had a point. Years later I listened to an audio book by Jim Rohn who put it quite simply when he said, “If the parents are ok, the kids have an excellent chance of being ok”. That day it dawned on me that I hadn’t got it quite right. Yes, I had given my boys nutritious healthy meals (even homemade bread, free from preservatives). Yes, I held them close when they cried. Yes, I played with them, read with them and did countless creative activities with them…
…But, I was exhausted
It was too much. It stressed me out. In putting my children first, I stopped looking after myself. In striving to be the best mother, I became tired and frustrated. I was prioritising my children at my expense.
So many parents have gone through this, desperate to be the “perfect parent”, whatever that means, and losing their identity and their self-worth in the process.
Now, a bit older and wiser, the best advice I want to give new parents is: start first by looking after yourself. Make sure you are in a good place. Are you sleeping enough, eating the right foods, exercising, spending time on your hobbies, connecting with friends and family? Check out my blog article on Julie Morgenstern’s excellent book ‘Time to Parent’.
Put your oxygen mask on first before helping your child
I always remember what flight attendants say during safety demonstrations on airplanes – “always put your oxygen mask on first before helping your child”. There’s a good reason for this. If you don’t put your oxygen mask on first, you won’t be capable of helping your child if and when they need you.
The same goes for parenthood. You have to be physically and mentally strong in order to be a good parent. So, start thinking about yourself. Focus on the essentials – sleep, food, exercise, friendship and hobbies. Try to spend time on yourself, however little, every day. And please don’t feel guilty if your children watch an extra 30 minutes of TV so that you can have a well-deserved break. Aim to balance looking after yourself whilst being a great parent to your child.
Of course, don’t forget to get help and support if you need it. Asking for help does not show that you are weak or helpless. If anything it shows that you care about your family and want to make things better. Read our guest blog by Safia Rana-Jaswal on why it’s so important to support mums through the parenthood journey.
Be the parent you want to be
The simple truth is that in order to be a great parent to your child, you have to look after yourself. You’ll soon see the difference it makes not only to your life, but to your relationships and to your children. And if you need some help with your child’s sleep, Sleep Superstars is here for you. We focus on you – the parent – offering you an affordable option to resolve your child’s sleep issues with a sleep package that is tailored to your child and your preferences. We’re here to help you get the rest you need, to be the parent you want to be.