I’ve heard it said, that children come first. We say it in lots of different ways;
‘It’s the kids that matter.’
‘You need to do what’s best for the children.’
Although I am passionate about the rights of children and their well-being, in our family at least, children don’t come first. I have come to see that it is an unhelpful to always put the needs of my children before my own.
I’ve long held the belief that children aren’t the most important people in a family. The rights and needs of children are vital in protecting them. Yet blindly putting children first fuels another problem which negatively affects children too.
One phenomenon that regularly visits my Facebook feed stems from a direct consequence of believing that children matter above all else. Our obsession with children taking priority, has allowed us to slip into believing that we are doing the right thing when we neglect our partners, our friendships and our own needs (including our health).
Before I became a Mum, guilt and I were already good friends.
Since becoming a parent, guilt has blossomed and become as easy as breathing. I’m constantly plagued by everything I should, be doing as a mother.
‘I must make sure I read a story before bed, give my child time to be creative at home, provide out of school activities, stimulate, relax, educate, nurture’…the list never ends.
And what happens as a result?
My need for self-care gets pushed to the bottom of the pile, at the detriment of our whole family. Because when I am physically exhausted, when I am mentally drained – everyone suffers.
And it isn’t helpful for our children either.
My offspring aren’t the centre of the universe.
The world doesn’t revolve around them.
I have written before about disability sun which can centre a family’s universe. Disability can grow and morph into a mammoth entity around which we all rotate. To a certain extent it is inevitable. My son’s disability takes up the majority of my time, decides where we live, affects the holidays we have and the activities we do at the weekend. So, every day I make a conscious effort to centre our family on our values, rather than the magnetic power of disability.
But like every person and every parent, I need to rest.
Whether you are young or old, single or married, a parent or childless, rest and fun should be part and parcel of life and work. At the core of our lives sits the truth that what we do and what we achieve does not define us or give us value.
I must constantly remind myself that getting help, having a nap, reading a book or watching Bake Off, can be exactly what is best for me and therefore my children. Because it is only when I look after myself and take the time for self-care that I am able to be the kind of parent I want to be.
For some this might be hard – I know I’m rubbish at it.
But I’ll give it a go if you will.
Because as my children grow up, one thing I want them to witness is how I demonstrate every life matters – theirs, their brother’s and even mine. All of us deserve good things. We all deserve rest and fun, netflix and cake (especially cake, and cookies, and chocolate and fresh air and lie-ins and looking at the stars and sleep – definitely, sleep).
Go on, take that break. Do something frivolous.
Drink that cup of tea while it is still hot and resist the desire to explain WHY you need or deserve it. Resist the temptation to justify your right to rest and do something just for you. Find out who you are and invest time in being that person.
And know with confidence that when you are the best version of you it is for the benefit of your children too. And if you don’t have children, the best version of you is still exactly what the world needs right now.
When was the last time you had a moment of solace?
How long has it been since you and your partner went out?
What has made you laughed with your friends?
Make some plans to rest and have fun.
Because your children are worth it and so are you.