Mental health. It’s a topic that is widely discussed online and usually concerns the younger generation. But what about parents? Looking after a child can be the most rewarding experience, but also the hardest. We get told all the time to talk about mental health, and not be afraid to speak out when we are struggling. This is also true of parents. It’s okay to not be okay. In this post I will be talking about the importance of having a timeout from parenting, and how we can achieve this.
Guilt is an emotion that all parents experience at some stage. I wrote a post about it after feeling guilty myself. When parenting gets tough, it’s easy to stick your head in the sand. Pretend that it’s not as bad as it seems. Why are we always so stubborn to ask for help too? It’s a feeling of being ashamed that we can’t cope on our own. The fear of people thinking that we aren’t good enough parents.
The perfect parent doesn’t exist. Everyone needs help sometimes, and we need to start being more open when we are struggling. There is nothing to be ashamed of. It doesn’t make you weak, and it certainly doesn’t mean that you are a bad parent.
Parents Have Needs Too
Sometimes we forget that we have needs as well as our children. We spend so much time making sure the children are looked after, that we forget to look after ourselves. As admirable as this is, it doesn’t help your mental health. To be the best parent we can possibly be, we need to be at the peak of our powers. Well rested. Physically healthy. Mentally ready to tackle the day. As many parents will know, trying to take care of a child whilst in the ‘burnt out’ stage is almost impossible.
It makes perfect sense to be in a mindset of putting your children first. It’s a parental instinct. Sometimes though, we just need to take a little more time for ourselves. Not only will your mental health improve as a parent, but it will improve the quality of care that you are providing for your children. Everyone benefits.
How To Get A Timeout
So it’s clear that a timeout for parents is important. But how do we get one? Here’s my advice…
Book a babysitter – This is why babysitters exist. They are available for parents to use in order to get that break that they need. So why not use them? Find a regular person that you trust and make it a monthly thing. Book a meal out for the two of you. Or just for yourself if you are a single parent. It’ll cost you maybe £20 for a couple of hours but the benefits would be well worth the money.
Use your support system – Do you remember them comments that everyone made when you first gave birth? “I’ll be stealing that child at every opportunity!” Yeah well now it’s time to take them up on that statement. Use the people around you that are willing to support you. It’s not always possible to have a good support system. Not all parents are that lucky. If you do have support, then make sure you use it. Don’t struggle by yourself. Send them off to their grandparents for a sleep over.
Pick up a hobby – When you finally get rid of the kids for a few hours, it’s important to use that time wisely. Taking up a hobby can allow your mind to focus on something other than parenting. It doesn’t even have to be an active hobby. It could be as simple as picking up a good book, or going for a swim at the local leisure centre. It’s vital that you remember the individual that you were before you had children. You are still that person with all of the same interests. Just a more tired version.
Take turns with your partner – This one is directed more at the Dads. When researching this topic, I found so many articles about ‘tired Mums’ and ‘Mums need a break’. This shouldn’t be the case. If parenting is done the right way, then both Mum and Dad should be taking an equal responsibility for the child. Guys, help your ladies out and take your child for a couple of hours when you finish work, to give Mum a break.
To ensure that both parents are getting time to themselves, work it like a rota. If you are both off at the weekend, then one of you have a lie in on the Saturday, and the other gets a lie in on the Sunday. Also, if you can see that your partner is becoming exhausted, then take your child out for a few hours. Allow that person to recharge and take time to relax. It’s all about reading your partner.
I asked the opinions of parents on social media what they thought about the importance of the mental health of parents. The views were all fairly similar. Parents aren’t taking enough time for themselves. A lot are at breaking point. Here’s just some of the responses…
“It’s very hard to find time to myself with 4 kids, and until recently, I never really understood the importance of having time just for myself. I’ve found myself so run down that I can’t even get out of bed”
“I usually just send my kids to play in their room and then I have to decompress alone… it’s getting harder and harder as they get older but I am really trying to not freak out in front of them”
Madi Dearson @MadiDearson
“My ‘timeout’ has always been my kid’s bedtime. I have zero flexibility when it comes to that. Those few hours of total peace, is SO important to me. I read, have a glass of wine, talk to my husband. Create healthy sleep habits, that’s my advice”.
The general feel is that a lot of parents are finding it hard to create that balance of parenting and self care. Unfortunately there isn’t any advice I can give that will be 100% effective. Every family situation is different. What works for me in my life may not apply to other families. Following my simple steps may give you a fighting chance however. Remember, your mental health is the most important thing. If you are mentally happy, your children will be too.
If you have any more questions about this topic, then please let me know.