We nourish our children by first nourishing ourselves.
This concept is challenging for parents. Our innate tendency is to put our children’s needs before our own. It feels right and natural to make sure our children come first, that their physical, emotional, spiritual and mental wellbeing are our number one priority.
But I would like to challenge our way of thinking as parents, and propose that if you want to show up for your children in the fullest and most alive expression of yourself, this will mean putting yourself first sometimes. If you want to feel you are present and truly connected to your children and able to respond with compassion, patience and love, it means filling up your own cup. Tending to your own needs. Serving yourself in order to serve your children better.
Parents become excellent nurturers for their young. We happily put our energy into making our children thrive in this world. To give ourselves that same level of love, so that we can be successful in our own lives and grow as individuals, is one of the best ways to nurture the whole family.
We can think of ourselves as having an internal bank account of energy with which we can make withdrawals and deposits. Every day we make withdrawals from that account. Raising children, running a home, working, paying bills and juggling life all use up our energy. When something unexpected happens such as our children get ill, this requires even more of our energy resources and often we end up going overdrawn. This is where practicing self-nourishment becomes vital. Making daily deposits into our internal account so that we keep ourselves ‘in the black’ and topped up with the resources we need.
There will always be that conflicting interplay between juggling our children’s needs and our own, and dealing with feelings of guilt that it brings, which is why self-nourishment is an art. It takes practice, commitment and a change in your mindset. Over time, with conscious thought, careful planning and some diligence, self-nourishment can become a daily ritual, something you look forward to. It may be just something very small, such as sitting alone for five minutes to breathe and be in silence. It may be to take up that longed-for hobby that you put off, or book that course that you plan to do when the kids are grown up and you have more money.
But every self-nourishing activity, no matter how small, done everyday with the intention of purely filling up your own cup, can lead to big changes in your energy levels and ability to cope with the demands of parenthood.
I have learnt the importance of self-nourishment the hard way. After the birth of my first two babies, my experience of post natal depression was compounded by my inability to make time for myself, to leave my babies with anyone else, to barely even have a bath each day. When I found out I was pregnant for the third time, I knew in order to have the energy to grow a healthy baby inside of me while looking after two rambunctious boys, I had to nourish myself inside and out. I had to sleep, I had to have time off, I had to fuel my body with the high quality food and supplements which cost money that I wouldn’t be spending on my boys. It reaped great benefits for us all as a family. I felt good and so in turn, did my boys and partner.
Here are some of my top tips for introducing self-nourishment rituals into your life, however there are endless ways we parents can bring balance into our lives. I encourage you to enjoy exploring the ways in which you can give yourself daily love and attention.
1. Take a salt bath
We don’t all have the luxury of taking a long, daily soak. But I’ve found salt baths to be so beneficial for my mood, that I now create time for a Himalyan salt bath at least once a week to relax and distress.
This salt is full of important minerals which your skin soaks up and absorbs into your body. It helps remove toxins, eases aches and pains, improves circulation and helps you sleep better. After a busy day, this is one easy way you can nourish yourself. Add some essential oils such as rose, neroli or jasmine for an extra treat! These plant and flower medicines can be very healing.
2. Go to bed an hour earlier
Sleep is the Holy Grail of parenthood. Just like the legendary Grail, sleep has magical properties. It restores us, rejuvenates us and bring us back into balance. And sadly, just like the Grail, it’s often hard to find if you’re a parent with little people needing you around the clock. Once the kids are in bed (and then eventually asleep!), instead of catching up on chores or social media, introduce a nourishing bed time ritual to help you relax, unwind and prepare your body and mind for a healthy sleep.
If you can find a way to put aside all other activities, get into your comfy bed and resource yourself with the magical powers of sleep, it will have a huge benefit to your mental focus, mood, energy levels and even weight. An extra hour of sleep makes a huge difference!
3. Swap your coffee for a smoothie
Make a smoothie jam-packed with living nutrients that will give you lasting energy instead of a short term caffeine fix. You can share it with your kids so they benefit from extra vitamins and minerals for their growing bodies! It’s a win-win!
As you replace coffee with nutrient-bursting smoothies, watch your complexion begin to glow, your mood improve and your fuzzy brain become more focussed. One of my favourite recipes is to blend unsweetened almond milk, tinned coconut milk, avocado (I buy the frozen ones that are already peeled and halved), banana, vanilla powder, spinach and nut butter (such as peanut, almond or cashew). Sometimes I add chia or hemp seeds for extra protein and a date for extra sweetness. You can play around with the quantities of each ingredient and make it to your own taste. This smoothie is full of really good healthy fats for the brain as well as important vitamins and minerals to rejuvenate your body.
4. Do something that feeds your soul
We all have something that we are passionate about, that stirs our soul, or at least helps us to reset and bring us into balance. Maybe for you it’s reading a good book, making music, working with nature, socialising with friends or cooking with your partner. For me it’s having time on my own and being able to work on my personal growth. Although we can’t necessarily schedule a set amount of time everyday to do self-nourishing activities, there is at least one point in the day when we can find something to feed our soul. Somedays its not until the kids are in bed that I can do a bit of yoga, sometimes I grab a nap when they are at school. Each day is different, but I always look for an opening to get in touch with my soul and give it some attention.