There are lots of different angles to why your mental health as a parent matters – in case you fall into the trap I, and many other women do sometimes, of thinking other people in your family’s needs should come before your own, I’ve suggested some below.
- You are a unique human being in your own right, regardless of whether you are a parent that means you have your own particular set of feelings, thoughts, memories, needs, challenges and desires. You are on your own journey through life, and for all of us some chapters are tougher to climb through than others. We all have times we need to give our selves extra care and attention, and times we need to accept more help and support from others. If this is a time like that in your life as you read this, know that you’re not alone. Around half of us struggle with our emotions, perhaps anxiety or low mood, significantly at some point in life.
- Being a parent can be stressful and exhausting, as well as full of joy and laughter. I find it difficult to think of anyone I know well who is a parent who hasn’t at some point struggled with parenting stress, sleepless nights, worry about some aspect of child development or tantrums, with other people’s expectations of them as a parent or with their own not matching reality.
- Life as a parent for most of us is a juggling act – even if you’ve got lots of helpers and are a skilled delegator, there’s still juggling the delegating. I’m usually juggling parenting two children with my role as a wife, a daughter, a sister, a friend, a Clinical Psychologist, a housekeeper, a gardener and a pet keeper. During the current period of Covid-19, I’m also a home school teacher for my daughter and need to fit in keeping on top of the updates, rules and regulations. There also tend to be peaks and troughs in the parent juggling act, for example birthdays, holidays and Christmases tend to be peaks, but there are also times where the routine plods along smoothly. It can be helpful to relax in the ordinary and plan more self-care around the peaks.
- What you value most can also be what brings the most stress and conflict. If it’s very important to be the best parent you can be, it’s likely you might feel anxious on those days nothing seems to work out right. This can also be a helpful motivator to look after yourself as a parent though – for you to be the best parent you can be, you need to be healthy.
- Your child is going to look to you as the model for their mental health habits. If they see you push away your feelings and say you’re fine when you’re not, they’ll learn that’s what they should do too. If they see you shout and swear at their other parent, they’ll do that too. If they see you drown your sorrows every night in a few glasses of vodka, they’ll follow your lead once they can get hold of it. If you avoid going to the dentist because it makes you anxious, so will they. If you want your child to grow up to be mentally healthy, you need to fasten your own seat belt first and grab your own metaphorical oxygen mask. If you want your child to use psychological skills, you’ll need to develop them yourself first.