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By Intisar Seraaj

Self-care and self-love have been hot topics of conversation for a while now, and it seems like they’re here to stay, because there’s so much to explore within these concepts. First, some of us must overcome the feeling of guilt when making ourselves a priority. That guilt is extra loud in your head when you’re a caregiver, particularly a parent— that’s especially true for parents of children with special needs. So, we’re here to help! Let’s discuss why carving out time to care for yourself as a parent is so important and talk about ways we can actually practice this.

We are still discovering the best ways to practice self-care and still trying to understand the long-term effects of not doing so properly. Because of the demanding society we live in, plus the demanding personal lives many of us have, these two interchangeable concepts, in which we put ourselves first, ironically get pushed to the backburner—no matter how much we tell ourselves that we need “me time.”

Photo by Miriam Alonso

Here are a few reasons parents should ensure they have time for themselves to practice self-care:

  • Having time for yourself allows you to rediscover yourself and continue to develop individually. I’m sure you can recall a time when someone referred to you as “so-and-so’s parent.” That is a metaphor for what can happen: your identity has now solely become a parent or attached to your child’s developing identity. But what about who you are? What about what brings you joy.
  • Spending time alone allows you to improve focus, creativity, and productivity. You can finally hear yourself think, not worrying about what someone else needs. An overworked mind isn’t going to help anyone because it’s not functioning at its full capability.
  • Stepping away from your children models positive behaviors and concepts. By watching you self-regulate, they learn that they don’t need to be stimulated by others all the time. Eventually, they learn to self-soothe and cope, and that alone time is healthy.

Parents are notoriously guilty of losing themselves in the role of parenting, in the act of constantly putting others before themselves. We honor all parents who are taking care of the ones they love. Because parents are the ultimate caretakers, they might be the least aware of when they’re approaching burnout. It’s easy to get caught up in the routines and schedules of your little ones—even the lives of your adult children.  But when we practice self-care, we’re improving the care we’re able to give others and increasing our genuine joy in doing so.

Photo by Ron Lach

Here are several ways parents can love on themselves:

  1. Utilize respite care, and babysitters and family members to watch your kids for a while.
  2. Meditate.
  3. Watch a film that’s not specifically family- or child-oriented.
  4. Wake up early to carve out quiet personal time and a self-focused morning routine.
  5. Or go to bed late and enjoy an extensive bedtime routine for yourself.
  6. Reignite or explore your passions and establish a hobby.
  7. Garden.
  8. Journal.
  9. Exercise or take a walk.
  10. Schedule a routine solo date.

Whatever you decide to do, make sure it’s all about you. Just because the world is on “go mode”  24/7, doesn’t mean you need to be too. “Good health is the true wealth.” Set your own pace. Take control of your life by remembering it’s your life. Through “me time” you’re actively living your own life and not letting others dictate the flow and direction. As a parent, you might win the award for the best supporting role in your child’s life, but you’re still the star of your life.

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