If you have ever experienced the joys of parenting, you know that it is truly one of the most rewarding (and most exhausting) undertakings than any human being can possibly assume. Yet while parenting is undeniably immensely rewarding in the long-run, it provides very few short-term rewards. In a recent Pew Research report, in fact, parents reported that caring for their children was significantly more exhausting than their paid work – however, they also reported that childcare was at least twice as emotionally gratifying. It was also reported that mothers were far more inclined to wear themselves out with parenting than fathers; they consistently reported feeling more physically, mentally, and emotionally drained than their male counterparts when it came to childcare, housework, paid work, and even leisurely activities.
The Demands of Parenting
The demands of parenting take on an entirely new form as children transition from childhood to early adolescence – the terrible tween years. Parenting during this period of life may not be quite as physically demanding, but it can certainly be both emotionally and mentally exhausting. Raising a tween takes a significant amount of psychological endurance, and it is absolutely vital that parents remember to take care of themselves and their own needs during this challenging transitional period. When parents take the necessary time to practice self-care, they allow themselves to remain the center of stability and consistency within the home. They set a positive example for their children while maintaining their own emotional and mental well-being. Self-care is also crucial in the sense that it allows parents the opportunity to begin separating from their children in a natural and healthy way. As children grow into adolescence, they begin developing their own identities – their own sense of autonomy and self-sufficiency. For mothers specifically, it is all too easy to get detrimentally entangled in the lives of their children. They may become emotionally enmeshed if they are not practicing adequate self-care, taking on the identity of ‘mother’ rather than ‘self’.
When you take a step back and look at your own life, how much of it is defined by being a parent to your children? If you tend to over-identify with your children, their natural and healthy inclination to pull away will be especially painful. To avoid feeling as if a piece of your soul has been ripped from you when your children begin to become more independent, it is vital that you begin to pour more time and investment back into your own life. Explore activities that you enjoy – it is never new late to discover new hobbies and develop new passions in life! Not only will you be demonstrating to your children what a healthy balance looks like, you will become more content and satisfied with your own life, which will make you a more effective and capable parent in the long run.
Lifelong Coping Mechanisms
When your children witness you implementing healthy coping mechanisms and valuable life skills, they become more inclined to develop such skills themselves. Taking a small step back and leading by example is often more beneficial than directly intervening and attempting to control. As a parent, it is your job to provide your children with a constant source of stability – someone to turn to and a shoulder to lean on when they feel as if their own worlds are caving in. In order to be the most effective source of nurturance, you must strive to keep yourself strong, balanced, and well-cared for. You are worth intentional and long-term self-care – and in large part, the emotional well-being of your children depends on your ability to take care of yourself!