By: Melissa Clopton 6/21/18
I began questioning people about what they think makes a good parent and often one of the first responses was to put your child first and not be selfish. Reflecting back when I first became a parent, this is exactly what I did, I put my child first. I quit my job and I became a full time stay at home mom. I needed some income, and I already had experience working with children, so I decided to babysit children out of my apartment. My business quickly grew, and I purchased a home, so I could have a licensed home childcare program. When my daughter started kindergarten, I started hiring assistants, so I could volunteer in her classroom. In my free time I enrolled in college and took classes online and in the evenings because I wanted to better myself for my children. I thought home childcare wouldn’t be convenient for our family life at some point and I wanted a degree to fall back on. Fast forward and here I am 18 years later, with four children, still running a home child care program. I run my program out of a home that I do not live in so that makes it nice to be able to separate home from work life. My two-year-old wakes up eager each day to attend daycare, and my twelve-year-old daughter helps there when she can. My oldest daughter is going to college to be a RN and my 14-year-old son is an honor student and heavily involved in sports. They are all growing and developing as well-rounded children. They are all honor roll students and I am often complimented from others of how well-mannered and respectful they are. I had always put parenting first, so yes putting them and their needs first seemed to create a parenting win.
Overall, I am grateful and thankful that I was able to put my children first and provide for them at the same time. There are many ways I put my children first throughout my lifetime. Now that I am older though and my children are at various ages, some things have changed. After remarrying and having my fourth child life got busy and chaotic. I had to learn to put me first. Why? Because if I don’t take care of myself who will? I wear many hats, as all parents do. I am a wife, parent, entrepreneur, small business owner, coach, volunteer, maid, boss, gardener, teacher, lesson planner, chef, doctor, chauffeur, and well, you get my drift this list could go on forever. I’m up at 5 am, I make breakfast, pick up the house, go to work (at the daycare) I transport my children to and from school, I work my shift, I hit the gym, help with homework, give baths, stop at the store, read bedtime stories, cook dinner, chauffeur to practices, games, and gymnastic lessons, walk the dogs, tend to the garden, handle wife duties, and before I know it, its 11pm and the whole evening is gone. I’m exhausted and with little to no sleep I begin the whole cycle again a few hours later. After being stressed out and wanting to give up and quit everything, and realizing that I was taking care of everybody else’s needs first, I decided things would have to change. I realized that I was pouring out of a cup that had nothing left to pour. I had to put myself first. And I wasn’t going to feel guilty about it. I was reclaiming my time!
This doesn’t make me selfish, it doesn’t mean my priorities are in the wrong order, and it doesn’t mean I love my kids any less. What it does mean is that I can’t give what I don’t have. Setting time aside to fill my own cup will increase my ability to pour out and help others. We must love and care for ourselves as much and possibly more than we care for our children. It’s important to show ourselves the same compassion and kindness we extend to those we love. Most parents ensure their children get adequate rest, proper nutrition, etc. yet we will force ourselves to stay up late to meet deadlines, miss meals due to improper planning or lack of time or other various reasons. Hold yourself accountable and to the same standard as you would your children.
These are some ways I began putting myself first and loving me, and you can practice self-care and self- love too!
Identify responsibilities and stressors
I’m the type of person that likes to see things on paper so the first thing I did was make a list of responsibilities in my life and any and everything causing me stress. I then put it in a category whether I would work on it, leave it as is or let it go.
Get to know yourself and list what brings you joy
The next thing I did was I made a list of things that brought joy to my life. I wrote down how practical it would be to incorporate it in my life whether daily, weekly, monthly.
Make your family your team
Make another list of ways that your family can share responsibilities and work toward a common goal. In my household this means that my three older children all have a night they are responsible for preparing dinner, they have chores a few times a week, and my oldest daughter drives so I can delegate some of the driving to her now. The more your family can help out the more time you will have to make for yourself.
20 Ways to Put Yourself First
1. Spending time with yourself and meet your needs without worrying about outside approval
2. Get adequate rest
3. Eat mindfully and fuel your body with proper nutrition, lots of fruits, vegetables, protein, and healthy grains.
4. Learn what ways help you manage stress
5. Learn how to manage your time
6. Surround yourself with supportive people
7. Take walks
8. Read something that interests you
11. Make time for fun- it’s as important to plan your leisure time as it is to plan for work!
12. Value and recognize your emotional health
13. Hot bubble baths
14. Learn to say “NO!” Don’t allow people to expect you to say yes automatically. Only say yes when it’s important to you.
15. Create a cozy space that is yours only!
16. Practice gratitude
17. Take yourself on a date
19. Make time for intimacy
20. Take breaks and take vacations!