So many people ask me what they can do to "be a better parent." They wait for answers like be more patient or calmer with your child, but actually my answer isn't about your children or your parenting at all. It's all about YOU and how you nourish yourself. And for me, this all starts with how you set yourself up for a beautiful day each morning.
Have you ever have a bad morning before even waking up? That’s been me many times over. Before I was a mom I had an amazing morning routine - gratitude and meditation, lemon water, morning pages, yoga... the world was my oyster and all that. Then baby came and SCREECH! And what would I immediately do? Blame myself! My monkey mind would take over into ongoing criticism that spiraled me over the brink. “It’s your own fault you didn’t wake up in time...” “You ruined your chance for a great morning AGAIN...” “what is wrong with you!?” So much negativity! I would beat myself up and my whole day would feel rough. Then one day I woke up late (again) and started the negative self talk and something snapped in me. I decided it has to be different. It took me a long time to figure out a solution but now that I have one I hope it will save you a lot of heartache. Here’s the magic that has really changed my day to day (inspired by my own life coach):
Proactive scheduling of ME Time
Let me explain: so today, and if I’ll be honest, for weeks now, I still struggled to wake up. And then missed my morning meditation and yoga before E woke up. Such a bummer, right!? Well we can go down that rabbit hole of self shame and blame OR we can flip our approach to how self care or even how ME Time might look or feel. We just have to be open to the possibilities.
What I have been doing consistently for months now has been to name my needs ahead of time and insist on my me time consistently. At a neutral time, I explained that one of the things that I need in order to be happy and calm for being a good parent is yoga every morning. I said that I try to wake up early to do it before E wakes up but that when I wake up late I will still do yoga before anything else. Then, when it happened in real time I stayed consistent and didn’t give up on myself.
I’ve done morning yoga while E was screaming next to me. I’ve done it when she sat and watched. I’ve done yoga after setting her up with some breakfast. I've done it as she was running around the garden (as in this pic!) Then one day E helped me set up my mat. Another day she asked me, “Ima (mom in Hebrew), are you doing yoga today?” and helped me choose a video. We also started reading children’s books about yoga and practicing together at other times. We chatted about my yoga practice. Then one day she sat with me through part of the meditation. Another she did downward dog with me. Sometimes she would climb beneath me or over me and be my “yoga weight.” My mantra was everything goes as long as I get to do my morning yoga!! And today was pure joy when I woke up late (again) and E practiced yoga with me through an entire 10 minute video!
Some clients have asked me how to find easy ways to get time for ourselves. My answer is in this idea of proactive scheduling of non negotiable time. I believe we need to be proactively and unapologetically grateful. What does this mean? I challenge us all to identify what we want, ask for it, and enjoy these things withOUT shame!
As with the non negotiable ME Time that led to this morning's yoga practice breakthrough, my three biggest suggestions have led to huge, sustainable shifts in my mood, daily routines, and happiness factor. They have been inspired by my personal life coach:
1. Commit to a consistent morning routine for yourself: define what would nourish and sustain YOU throughout the whole day and then give yourself the gift of trying it out in small and bigger ways every day. Everything that you think you must immediately give to your children can wait until after you fill your own personal cup. This is crucial to being able to give for the rest of the day. Try it out and you will see. For me, it took a while to get the negative talk out of my head and commit, so to help solidify this habit, I gave myself monthly challenges bit by bit.
I believe that anyone can try something consistently for a month. So try out something small and be flexible as you go. Remember that monthly challenges don't necessarily have to be 30 straight days. Be kind to yourself. But do try to stick to your commitment. Then, if after 30 days you realize this isn't for you, then at least you will know you tried it. And if you LOVE your new habit, then voila! you've made a small change that can lead to big improvements in your happiness.
When I first began to implement a life-giving morning routine, I was scared that I wouldn't have time for anything. I was so self-defeating and set up for
failure. But then I decided to just try anyway. So I began with my first monthly challenge of developing a gratitude practice in bed before I even open my eyes. I would force myself to name at least 10 things I was grateful for because I believe that if you push through past blocks, then the flow happens. When I couldn't think of anything, I used more general ideas like "I am grateful for my body, for my breath, for today." Then I worked in lemon water and after that, meditation. Nowadays, my life-giving morning routine consists of daily gratitude, lemon water, and at least 20 minutes of yoga. Sometimes when I can, I also add in a walk in woods, and tea with morning pages. And, my own practice has also possibly inspired my toddler into becoming a new budding little yogi herself!
2. Pre-establish ME Time into your calendar: We already talked some about above about ME Time, but here I want to emphasize one big thing. When you think of your own Me Time, it makes a HUGE difference if you place them in your calendar FIRST before you schedule anything else. Then schedule all of the to dos and responsibilities around your special time. Do this for yourself!! The simple shift of allowing yourself the freedom to focus on what you truly need FIRST, makes all the difference. So remember, focus on yourself so that you can fill your cup, and then plan for all of the rest.
3. Create bite-size daily goals: These are 3 things that you identify that you are going to accomplish for yourself in any given day. The key is to identify 3 things that you can really get done and feel good about by the end of the day. So take that big project and break it into bits and pieces. Give yourself the gift of not overextending or asking too much of yourself. Give yourself the opportunity to celebrate the feeling of accomplishment instead of the oh-too-easy negativity of "another day wasted." For me, identifying my bite size goals each day is the most challenging of each of these suggestions. So what I do is make my list and then ask myself "can I really finish these things today?" and "how will I feel if I don't" and then tweak and refine until I hit something that feels truly manageable. Sometimes I have low energy and know I have to be forgiving, I make my MITs very small (like wash the dishes, floss, play with E for 10 uninterrupted minutes). Other days, especially when I allow myself to nourish first in the morning, I get into flow state and give myself loftier goals. The important thing is to practice self care throughout.
In addition to these three biggies, during the day, you can do a lot of things to help you feel grounded and calm. You can always take some centering and grounding breaths when you feel a bit unsettled. Another goodie is developing a consistent mindfulness or gratitude practice. And another great hack for buying some rest when your child is completely awake: a tickling or cuddling contest! Whatever you do, remember to be kind to yourself and name what you need to your love village. I suggest proactively carving out time for yourself by stating that need upfront to your partner first and foremost - for me, in addition to my morning routine, some of my weekly commitments to myself are to go to at least one public yoga class, go to choir practice, and to enjoy my book club. I also try to have a walk outside (even if only for 5 minutes!) every day after dropping off my daughter at school and before moving on to work.
In addition, remember that you don't have to BE with your child every moment! Just as it is important to partake in at least 10 minutes of truly connected, focused playtime with your child each day, it is actually EQUALLY important to ALSO provide them with the space and freedom to play alone. So set you child up with an activity you feel completely comfortable letting them interact with on their own (like a cotton balls and pompoms sensory bin or a few fun pots and pans to hit), then let them go at it while you read a book close by on the couch or cook a meal. During those times, don't intervene and allow them to play in any way they choose (as long as it still feels safe to you, of course!). That way, you are breeding a sense of trust and independence AND you get some you time for yourself. The longer you practice allowing for solitary play time, the more the two of you will get used to it and the longer it will last.
The lesson: Teach into daily routine and habits as non negotiable time for yourself and accept what you are given with unapologetic gratitude. Preview why you are choosing these habits with your children ahead of time. Name your needs to your partner if you have one and to the rest of your love village. Model patience and consistency. And most importantly, don’t give up on yourself!! Allow yourself to be cared for just as much as you care for your little ones. And soon, you will notice a huge difference. If you would like to know more about how I help parents find the ME time they deserve or want more information about my coaching services and Four Phase Methodology towards a Joyous Parenthood, visit here!