I’ve heard it said, that the children come first. It’s a statement expressed in many forms.
‘It’s the kids that matter.’
‘You need to do what’s best for the children.’
But guess what? Sometimes, they DON’T.
I’ve long held the belief that children aren’t the most important people in a family. I haven’t dared to write about it because I know it sounds bad. Although this sentiment plays an important role in protecting children, I think it has also contributed to whole other problem.
There is a phenomenon that regularly visits my Facebook feed. I think it stems from a direct consequence of believing that children matter above all else. This obsession with our children taking priority, has allowed us to slip into believing that we are doing the right thing when we neglect our partners, our relationships and our own needs.
Research is full of evidence that sleep isn’t a luxury but essential to health and well-being.
Just the other week, I read a heartfelt post by a Mum agonising over whether she could leave her child in hospital. She was exhausted and wanted to go home and get a good night’s sleep. She was desperate for sleep and her husband was going to stay with their child but she just wasn’t sure she could leave him. Now, maybe she was she worried she might just lie awake all night worrying. Or maybe she’s been subjected to the drip-feed message that her needs come second fiddle to her children.
Before I became a Mum, I was pretty good at feeling guilty.
Since becoming a parent, I find it as easy as breathing. I’m constantly plagued with the idea that I can, or should, be doing more.
‘Make sure you read them a story before bed, give your 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 exhausted, when I am mentally drained – everyone suffers.
And it isn’t helpful for our kids either.
They aren’t the centre of the universe. The world doesn’t revolve around them.
I have written before about how, when your child has additional needs, disability can become a sun the whole family rotates around. I know I need to constantly remind myself that getting help, having a nap, reading a book or watching Bake Off, can be what is best for my child. Because it is only when I look after myself, when I take the time for self-care, am I able to be the kind of mum I want to be.
I know its hard – I’m rubbish at it. But I’ll give it a go if you will.
Go on, take that break, drink that hot cup of tea and resist the need 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 always know, that the best for your children comes from finding the best for you too.
When was the last time you had a moment of solace?
When was the last you and your partner went out?
When was the last time you laughed with your friends?