Parenting in the Early Years: Take Care of Yourself

hammockI remember the day well. I had a newborn, a four-year-old, and a six-year-old. As a stay-at-home mom, I’d been with them all day and I was exhausted.

Mark walked in the door from work and I said desperately, “I wanna make a deal with you.” He looked at me, surprised.  I’m sure I sounded like a crazy woman.

“Thirty minutes. That’s all I want is thirty minutes.”

“Thirty minutes of what?” he asked.

“Thirty minutes to myself, in my bedroom, with the door closed. That’s it.”

“Well, if you think it will make a difference, I can make that deal.”

That was the beginning of “daddy wrestle time” at the Savage house.  And that was the beginning of a new me.

Parents of littles need time to rejuvenate. They need a plan to recharge their batteries. They need to fill up their emotional and spiritual fuel tank before it hits empty.

They also need to understand that self-care is not selfish.  Self-care is an important part of your job description as a mom.

Little ones take alot of physical energy. You are dressing them, feeding them, playing with them, watching them, answering a ton of questions, breaking up arguments, bathing them, and more!  It’s alot of work!

A parent of preschoolers needs to take me time. Here are some practical ways to do that:

1) Trade childcare with a friend.  Find a friend who has kids about the same age as yours and set up a regular trade. One Tuesday you watch her kids and the next Tuesday she watches your kids.  The kids get to play with friends and you get a good sized break a couple of times a month.

2) Ask your spouse for some me time.  My 30 minutes a day that I asked Mark for gave me time to read my Bible, read the newspaper, or just take a short nap.  It gave me a much-needed respite so I could make it through the evening.

3) Plan a night out once a week.  During that same busy season of littles, I also had one night out to myself where I could meet a friend for dinner, walk the aisles at WalMart, or go to the park or the library to read.

4) Give your kids a consistent bedtime.  They need sleep and you need some time without them underfoot.

5) Take care of your marriage.  Taking care of your marriage is also taking care of yourself. Parents need time without kids around to talk without interruption, have fun together, and enjoy some couple time. If you live near grandparents, ask them to babysit on a regular basis, or trade sitting with another couple, or hire a high schooler to care for your kids on a regular basis. Regardless of what childcare strategy you use, stop the excuses and start make it happen!

6) Keep yourself in God’s Word.  When my kids were little I kept a Bible in every bathroom.  As they entered school and I became the taxi driver, I kept a Bible in the glove compartment of the car. Now I have a Bible on my smartphone.  You can also write Bible verses that encourage you on an index card and post them on your bathroom mirror or your kitchen cabinet.

7) Be intentional about sleep, nutrition, and exercise.  It’s easy to go to bed too late, survive on the crusts of your kids peanut butter sandwiches, and consider your trips up and down the stairs doing laundry as your exercise.  However, that won’t serve you, or your kids, well for for the long run.  Resist the urge to stay up too late. Take the time to plan and make healthy meals. And put exercise into your day in some way, even if it’s just loading up the stroller and going for a 30 minute walk.  Your body and energy level will thank you.

Taking care of yourself is an essential responsibility for every parent. We have to be proactive about filling up our emotional, physical, and spiritual fuel tanks.  When we do that, we ensure that our kids get our best instead of our leftovers.

What about you? What strategies do you use to take care of yourself? 

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4 Responses to Parenting in the Early Years: Take Care of Yourself

  1. viviene says:

    This is a good list! I need to forward this to my husband too. We’ll be first time parents in 2 months!! =D 2 of my friends who just gave birth says the same thing on the “me time”. I’m glad when they said that, my husband was right beside me! I want him to understand what is going on!

  2. Valerie says:

    I’m in desperate need of some self-care. Thanks for making me feel not so crazy!

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