We know that when you fly the flight attendant instructs you to take care of yourself before you take care of anyone else. The flight attendant has to give these instructions because too often, moms in particular, neglect themselves to take care of their children. However, if you don’t take care of yourself you are no good to anyone else. Similarly, it behooves you to take care of your physical and emotional needs. This is not the same as wants. You need oxygen, even if it is polluted. Certainly you can work on improving the quality of your oxygen, but it is important that you first know what your oxygen is before you think about the quality. Kindness is an emotional oxygen. What does this include?
1) Eat healthy so you have the energy you need for the enormous job you need to do.
2) Forgive yourself for your imperfections.
Sorry to tell you this, but you are human. By definition this means you are imperfect. This does not take away from the fact that you are amazing. You are doing the best you can given your circumstances, abilities and resources. The fact that you are reading this means you are looking to do better.
3) Have realistic expectations, there will be less forgiveness needed.
This is how I know you are not kind to yourself; you are trying to do the impossible. A good way to measure this is to take out your “To Do” list, now schedule those items into a calendar. I am willing to bet your list doesn’t fit into the amount of time you have available. This means you are expecting too much from yourself. This technique is actually one of the secrets of productive people shared by Forbes here…
“Secret #3: They don’t use to-do lists.
Throw away your to-do list; instead schedule everything on your calendar. It turns out only 41% of items on to-do lists are ever actually done. And all those undone items lead to stress and insomnia because of the Zeigarnik effect. Highly productive people put everything on their calendar and then work and live from that calendar.”
Learning how to prioritize is a conversation for another day and may require the guidance of a coach since what is a priority for one person isn’t even on someone else’s list. Which brings us to our next point…
4) Who says so? Who are they to decide this? In other words, life is full of decisions and you certainly want to make the “right” decision. It can certainly be helpful to ask other people for information or perspective. It is also just as important that you appreciate the advice givers are sharing what is really good advice for themselves. Their advice may or may not work for you. A good example of this is the following situation. Robert is a two-year-old little boy I worked with who, among other things, was not speaking. At that age the lack of communication was his biggest i.e. most frustrating problem. Mom spoke to many people, including various professionals, and was told 3 different contradictory things. Some people said use sign language. Some professionals said, have Robert just articulate what he can (basically “ah, ee, ba, ta, da and pa” for anything so “ta” was what he said for “two, ten, twelve, take…” “ba” is what he said for “bang, balloon, ball, blocks…”) which means he was unintelligible out of context. Some people suggested using a PECS (picture pointing system) since he could not really speak and even signing was difficult What should this mother do? Short answer, what works for her son and her family. Sometimes this means you give something a try and be open-minded to the idea of changing your approach if it doesn’t work out after a reasonable trial period.
5) Speak kindly to yourself. When you make a mistake or things do not work out the way you would like, listen to what you are telling yourself and how you say it. Are you speaking to yourself the way you speak to someone you respect? Carefully choosing your words and tone of voice? You can admit to needing to work on strengthening a weak area or needing outside help without beating yourself up. The expression “It takes a village…” is accepted as truth because it is. No one can do it all alone.
6) Spend time on yourself. Take the time to unwind, think your thoughts and listen to yourself.
When you show kindness to yourself and your child, not only is your home environment more pleasant but your child also learns to be kind to himself.