As a mother, I bet you’re great at looking after your family – but do you take care of your own needs on a daily basis? On Mother’s Day, why not take some time to think about whether or not you look after your own needs on an ongoing basis. In my latest book, The Gentle Parenting Book, I help parents understand how to parent gently through applying what I call my seven Cs of gentle parenting: connection, communication, control, containment, champion, confidence and consistency. Here’s how to apply the seven Cs to yourself – after all, we all need ‘me-time’ in order to be a better parent.
In many ways becoming a parent can reveal gaps and flaws in the way you were parented. To heal, sometimes you need to parent yourself, and connect with your pre-child self, to be able to move on. Are you in connection with your own needs? Or have you neglected them for so long you no longer understand what they are? Perhaps you also need to connect more with friends, relatives or your partner?
What is your body telling you? Do you pay attention to the subtle cues of dis-ease within yourself? Aches, pains, niggles, food cravings all indicate that something is amiss. What is your body telling you? Do you communicate your feelings enough to others? Or do you repress them and then put yourself at risk of ‘snapping’ at some point? Do your repressed feelings make you irritable and short-tempered with your children? Practising mindfulness can help enormously as it’s a wonderful way to step up communication with yourself.
How much control do you have over your own life? Is there any way that you can regain a little more? Or perhaps the opposite is true and maybe you need to ‘let go’ a little? Mindfulness can be a wonderful tool to help you to relax and live in the moment, rather than worrying about everything that you cannot control.
Who or what ‘contains’ your feelings? Do you try to keep them all inside? Do you need to make space in your container in order to contain your child’s needs? If so, then you need to find somebody (or something) to contain your own feelings. This could be your support network, a sport, a hobby or it could be a support organisation. Don’t allow your container to become so full that you are no use to anybody else.
Who champions your needs? While you are busy championing the needs of your family I bet you often relegate your own to the bottom of the pile. Who or what helps you to feel good about your parenting skills? It’s so rare that we compliment other parents on their skills, or indeed compliment ourselves. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, or to take a day to nurture yourself whenever possible – your needs matter too.
How can you improve your confidence as a parent? Do you have issues with confidence generally? How can you improve this? Surround yourself with people who inspire you and help you to feel good about yourself, and remember that criticism from others is often rooted in their own issues and actually nothing to do with you.
Do you lack consistency? Do you find it difficult to enforce boundaries? Do you find it hard to say ‘No’? Similarly, are you consistent enough in your self-care efforts? Or do you make a half-hearted start and not continue? Conversely, perhaps you need to be a little more flexible? Loosen your routines and expectations and relax a little more into being led by life, rather than always trying to steer it in a certain direction.
In essence, be gentler on yourself this Mother’s Day. By looking after your own needs you’ll find it easier to look after those of your family too.