Prioritising Self Care

Prioritising Self Care

Opinion: Why we should re-frame 'time out' as 'time in'

We regularly hear mums being kindly told to take ‘time out’ for themselves when they need a break. But however well intentioned the suggestion is, it too often comes with a tinge of social disapproval, as though you shouldn’t really need it.  Just like you are asking for sick leave from an employer, who is secretly wondering why you let yourself get sick in the first place.

And here-in lies the problem. Using the phrase ‘time out’ makes it sound like time off from a job. As though you are stepping away from your responsibilities as a parent, for a time at least. 

If the role of parent was simply to make it through the (often un-realistically long, I must add) list of tasks that are necessary to raise one or more humans in clean clothes, nutritiously fed and with toys that live mostly in the vicinity of their storage containers, well… this might have a tiny bit of merit. 

But in reality, parenting is about so much more than the tasks we have to do. Sure, clean clothes and nutritious food, and some degree of tidiness are part of it, although these are also things that can be outsourced to other people or services. The really essential part of parenting is ensuring children feel loved and valued and teaching them how to look after themselves mentally and physically, in a world that will undoubtedly challenge them. It’s about giving them the skills to take care of themselves every day, not just when things get tough.  

I, for one, hope that my children will do this by learning to recognise when they need a little extra care, and then taking it instead of just pushing through. I hope they will take the time to go for a walk through the local park in the mornings if that’s something they enjoy, or run themselves a warm bath with a good book in the evening. Overall, I hope they will prioritise themselves amongst all the other priorities that life will throw at them. 

But how can we expect our children to practice these behaviours, if they don’t learn them from us first? I truly believe that engaging in these activities isn’t taking time ‘out’ from parenting. On the contrary, it is very essential ‘time in’. It’s leading by example, demonstrating to our children the key life skills & habits that will help them navigate the inevitable challenges of life. 

So, the next time you feel a little guilty about going for a walk in the evening, or saying you’d like a little ‘quiet’ time to yourself, stop. Explain to your children that this is something you enjoy that makes you feel good, and that’s why it’s important that you make time to do it regularly. By doing so you are modeling how to set healthy boundaries and practice self-care. There’s a very great and invaluable lesson in that for them, and one I personally hope my children learn quickly.

(Let’s stop calling it time ‘out’ and start referring to it as time ‘in’. An ‘In’ for parenting, and wellbeing, and simply leading by example.)

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