Taking care of the caregiver

o meet the physical and emotional needs of caring for children, parents and carers need to remember to take care of themselves.

But as is often the case, by putting others’ needs first, parents and carers can tend to neglect their own needs, leaving little time for themselves.

According to Dr Janet Hall, Clinical Psychologist and parent coach, the great news is that the Super Parent is a myth! 

“Parents are busy people”, says Jan, “especially when their children are very young and this is the time when they most need to think carefully about their reactions to the challenges of child-raising.

“Parents are usually under pressure, having to make instant decisions in chaotic conditions. There is no time to read a text book or consult an expert. Parents need time-out for themselves to recharge their batteries. Carers need to regain their sense of humour and equilibrium.”

Jan Hall believes that children need to learn that parents need quality time for themselves that is just theirs. 

“Modern day media has promoted a myth that children need quality time. In particular mothers fall over themselves to make sure that everyday, every one of their children gets some special mother time. Why doesn’t the same mother make sure she gets the same time for herself?”

Include yourself on the caregiver’s list

There’s no doubt that for all the positives of parenting, it can at times also be an exhausting, frustrating and energy draining business. So as a parent and carer, what is it that you need to help you prepare for and cope with the everyday challenges of managing a family unit and caring for children?

Including yourself on the list of people you care for means you’re more likely to be more positive, giving, calm and resilient. And, a positive frame of mind can help you maintain equilibrium both on the home front and at work.

Taking a break from day to day care giving doesn’t have to mean a weekend away or childcare that you can’t afford. Giving yourself permission to ignore the dishes and read the paper instead, asking a partner or friend to mind the kids while you relax for half an hour in a bath, or indulging in a DVD, can be effective ways to help recharge the batteries.

If you need to get outside help to give yourself some quality alone time, consider hiring a babysitter during the off-peak hours to give you solitary time to exercise or read a book at a secluded location and gather your thoughts.

Time for some time-out

Try some of these suggestions:

  • Combine a good book with an early night.
  • Go for a brisk walk.
  • Ring a friend.
  • Listen to relaxing music.
  • Get up 10 minutes earlier and enjoy breakfast in peace.
  • For every DVD you hire for the kids, hire one for yourself.
  • Move to music.
  • Sit and browse magazines or the newspaper.
  • Laugh at a joke book or cry over a soppy movie.
  • Snack if you must, but make it healthy.
  • Pull up a few weeds, or pot some flowers.
  • Sit in the sun and focus on relaxing tired muscles.
  • Keep a diary.
  • List 10 good things about yourself.
  • Learn to say no.
  • Set up a co-op with friends for babysitting, support, or help with household tasks.
  • Give a hug and ask for one back.

Invest in growing your passions and hobbies

One of the best ways to make sure you commit to external hobbies is fully invest into whatever it is you choose. If you’re wanting to take up sewing – go out and buying a sewing machine straight away. This monetary and physical investment will make it more likely that you will both start and stick to your hobby, instead of remaining a goal which fails to start. This doesn’t have to be expensive. If you’re looking to go to the gym you can start with buying the essentials, a gym bag, yoga mat, gyms gloves (there’s plenty of great womens gym gloves these days) and a gym membership. The more you commit to your hobby the more you can develop an overall healthy lifestyle which will in turn help you be a better carer.

The daily reality check

Try starting each day with a reality check on how you feel, what you need, one thing you hope to accomplish for the day, and plan for 10 minutes ‘me’ time.

If you need five minutes with your feet up, take it and make the most of it. Exercise is great for reducing stress and muscle tension, so if a walk on your own is out of the question, consider taking the kids to the park and doing some stretches and skipping while they play on the equipment.

Being a parent and carer makes you a very important person. If you plan for time out every day, it’s more likely to happen. And if you’ve had some time out to feel rested and more relaxed, you’re more likely to feel attractive, competent and unhurried.

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