Do you ever feel like you just can’t catch a break? Like it’s just one thing after another? You’ve just dealt with one thing and then BAM! The next one hits. There’s no space to breathe, or relax in-between everything. I think everyone goes through times like these, but for adopters, these times can be more frequent and longer lasting. Well, that’s where I am right now. It’s hard. When I’m in a place like this, self-care is the furthest thing from my mind. However, I have found that it is essential to regularly practice self-care as an adopter to enable me to be the best mum I can be to my little ones.
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Walking in the rain
Today, after the school bus run, I took my littlest for a walk in the (covered) buggy. It was raining. But it was good. It was half an hour of walking in the deep fog with rain hitting my face, but it energised me and I felt better than I had in ages. I was looking after myself physically and mentally and it felt good. And, my perspective changed. Today was going to be a good day. We would have fun together, my new daughter and I. Today I am hopeful.
What does it mean to practice self-care as an adopter?
I recently attended a great course by Sarah Fisher, based around her book Connective Parenting NVR (available on Amazon). The thing that struck me the most, was the need for self-care in order to parent our children in a therapeutic way and be good role models for them.
Now I guess you may be thinking, ‘self-care, really? That’s a bit fluffy and snowflake-y. It’s all bubble baths and eating chocolate and watching chick flicks”. Or you may be thinking, “self-care? That’s great, but who has the time? I have enough on my plate without adding another thing to my to-do list.” I used to think that both of these things. However, self-care is really just about looking after yourself well. It is about meeting your needs for nourishment, exercise, sleep, and relaxation. If you’re looking for ideas for self-care then check out, How to practice self-care when you have no time.
Self-care is not selfish
Self-care seemed fine as something to do once I had met everyone else’s needs, but prioritising my self-care seemed slightly selfish and only benefited me. As a parent we aren’t supposed to be putting ourselves first, right? We should be at the bottom of the list. Well, yes and no. I do believe as parents we should put our children first, but in order to be the best we can for our children, we have to take care of ourselves too.
Now this may make sense and sound good, but how often do we really have the time to do it? I can’t have a night away from my children to recharge. Some weeks I can’t even get an hour away from them, except when they’re asleep and I am too drained to do more than lie on the sofa in my PJ’s, eating chocolate and watching Netflicks. Parenting is full on, especially trauma parenting.
Often I feel like I don’t deserve self-care. I’ve not done a good enough job. But self-care is not something to be earned, and when we feel like this, it is usually the exact moment we need it the most. When I look after myself, I become a better parent. I am more regulated and I have more energy and patience. I’m learning to stop thinking in terms of punishment and rewards. As I try not to parent my kids that way, I am also learning not to treat myself that way. As Dr Amber Elliott, author of Super Parenting (available on Amazon) says, we must try to therapeutically parent ourselves too. We too, are only human. All behaviour is communication. My behaviour (grumpiness, lack of patience, or whatever it may be), is communicating a need. Self-care for adopters is essential to our own well-being, but it also allows us to be the regulated parents that our children need.
Just in case I needed one final push to take my self-care more seriously, I am reminded just how much our children learn through observing us. I don’t just need to practice it in order to model the sorts of behaviours, interactions and self-regulation I want my kids to learn; I also need to model self-care so that my kids grow up knowing that it is normal to rest, and to do things that help us feel better and be their best self. My kids need to see me looking after myself, so they grow up knowing it is normal and healthy to look after themselves.
By the time my kids are grown, I want prioritising self-care to be the norm, for all of us, because self-care isn’t selfish. If you want to achieve great things, self-care is necessary! I hope after reading this, you can see the absolute necessity to practice self care as an adopter.