There are many responsibilities that come with parenthood. And in turn, the pressure we put on ourselves is not just from social expectations. Instead, the harsher critic we have as parents is ourselves. What if I ask you when was the last time that you actually spoke kindly to yourself?
If it has taken you a long time to remember, you might be criticizing yourself too hard. In the long run, you won’t be able to handle the challenges and enjoy parenthood pleasures if this habit persists. To get you back on the healthy practice of self-love, remember the following:
Stop Punishing Yourself for Not Meeting Expectations
One of the reasons why you ended up criticizing yourself unhealthily is because of expectations. It could be those things set by society, but more often, it’s those things that you’ve set yourself. It’s an unhealthy habit, and perhaps, you might not even notice setting them.
As we grow up, we get exposed to various ideas and opinions. You’ll end up with a list of things that you should and shouldn’t do, or else you’re a failed parent. However, all of us vary in the circumstances we have to face in life. Therefore, what works in another family, article, or book, may not be applicable to how we should raise our kids.
Sometimes, you are holding yourself to reach and do things that are unrealistic. Instead of enjoying parenthood and riding through the challenges, you’re already setting yourself for failure without even starting. In the long run, this habit gets debilitating in addition to the other responsibilities and stress in life.
So how can you avoid creating expectations? Replace expectations with acceptance. The only way to learn and become a better parent is actually experiencing difficulties yourself. Like with all things in life, parenthood only becomes easier to adapt to if you accept that compromises are sometimes needed.
When you start accepting that those expectations are unrealistic, you will also make it easier to forgive yourself. For example, I remembered how I cried one night when I noticed that my baby has rashes on her bum. I thought, how could I get so careless in changing her nappy? I even did my research and read this guide on how to choose a diaper for sensitive skin.
But looking back now, I realized my frustration was not just from that event. It’s actually an accumulation of things that have happened, and things I assumed will happen. I thought, “If I messed this up now, how can I face toddlerhood?” I even remembered how I feel failed when I can’t make her stop crying, but my husband can.
To break from this cycle of self-blame and harsh criticism, start acknowledging your past experiences instead. Use what you’ve learned from these moments to become a better parent tomorrow. And never be afraid to allow yourself to feel these things. Just because you feel frustrated doesn’t mean you are a bad parent. Instead of ignoring the emotion, use an outlet, and then take action.
Self-Care is Not Selfish
Self-care is not selfish; repeat after me. We have this misconception that if we have days where we prioritize our emotions and give ourselves some me-time, we are immediately neglecting our kids. Perhaps, your definition of parenthood is sacrificing your physical and emotional health to make sure your kids are safe and happy.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s true that it brings me joy to always consider my kids’ happiness before mine. However, if you over exhaust yourself to the point of burnout, all of these sacrifices will go to waste. Your children won’t understand why you are cranky from the lack of sleep even though you’re sleep-deprived from tending to them. They will just see you as mom or dad, who’s always in a bad mood and gets frustrated while cooking breakfast. Sounds familiar?
My point here is that the quality of your performance as a parent is influenced by how much you’re taking care of yourself too. If you feel happy emotionally, physically, and mentally, you’ll take the responsibilities and stress more smoothly. To be the best parent, you have to stop compromising self-love and self-care.
Allocate a day in the week or an hour in the day where you check on yourself. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, don’t feel bad asking for reinforcement and help from other people. Take your kids to the daycare and get yourself a massage. Buy yourself that shirt as a reward. Have a date night with your spouse and get a trusted person to babysit your kids.
These things might seem mundane, but depending on what motivates you and re-energizes you, go do them. Like with anything in life, parenthood needs balance. Love your family as much as you love yourself too. Self-care is not selfishness, remember.
Easy Kids are Easy to Parent
I want to keep this last advice short and straightforward. You have to ingrain in your mind that easy kids are easy to parent, while challenging kids are challenging to parent. Stop comparing your situation to what you’ve seen in other families or articles.
One of the things that have come across my mind is the thought, “How come he/she managed to raise their kids well? They are so well-behaved.” If you can relate, let me tell you that there’s a bigger picture to what you see.
When you’re in social media, or you’re outside, you get to see families that might match what your ideal is. Then you start to compare them to your own and look for what you failed to do. This starts the cycle of toxic self-criticism until you’re too focused on how to be like your ideal without adapting to your current circumstances.
There is no complete handbook with steps to follow when it comes to parenthood. You have to be the one flexible and willing to compromise in the various situations. It’s about time that you start supporting yourself and stop being your worst critic.
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