Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Oxygen Masks

Today I want to talk about self care for adoptive, and really for ALL parents.  This is one of the hardest things for us as parents, isn't it?  It's the story told again and again about the moms who ALWAYS put everyone else's needs ahead of their own and they wind up incredibly unhealthy and stressed out, but hey, at least their kids are happy.  Right?  Wrong.

Wounded Children Healing Homes refers to the airline rule about putting on your own oxygen mask before you put on your child's.  But we don't do this in real life, do we?  We put all of our effort and energy into helping our children heal and attach and flourish, but all the while, we are on the edge of the edge ourselves. 

Chris and I are trying to get better at self care.  We are realizing more and more that we are much better parents when we are rested, when we are not at the absolute limit of our stress levels, when we get breaks, when we have people to vent with; when we take care of ourselves.  We have much more patience and energy to do this hard parenting we've chosen.

Here are a few ways we are working in self care lately.  I hope something on this list resonates with you!

1.  Adoptive Parent Support Group:  This is not so important to Chris, but it is very important to me.  We have a fantastic support group in Visalia that is run through Reach.  They meet once a month for new/waiting adoptive families and once a month for adoptive families that are further along in process.  I stopped going for a long time because Chris works evenings.  Last week, I took advantage of the free child care they provide and my kids did really well.  We made it a fun evening by grabbing some frozen yogurt on our way!  I really need that time to connect with other people who "get it."

2.  Realize you are not the source of your child's problems.  This is from the above mentioned book and it has really blessed me.  I easily fall into guilt over every little screw up I make with my kids.  I begin to convince myself that I have forever damaged my kids and compounded whatever happened to them before they came to me.  It is so helpful for me to remind myself that I will never hurt them the way their birthfamilies did, and my failures will not permanently scar them.

3.  Work Out.  I stop working out when life gets busy and stressful.  Yet I need this outlet for stress, I need the energy and overall health that regular exercise provides.  This is an important way to take care of ourselves as parents.  I'm really trying to work out 2 or 3 days each week.

4.  Use Babysitters!  I am blessed to have free babysitters as we live by my parents and Chris's parents.  Even if you don't, find someone in your life who can provide you with an occasional break.  Maybe you even trade services and watch each others' kids regularly.  In the past, Chris and I have tried to just give each other breaks, but then it's just the same 2 tired parents swapping out.  It really helps us to both have a break together regularly.  We are trying to use a babysitter once a week, and an overnight babysitter once a month.

5.  Tag Team!  We also give each other breaks.  J-Man's therapist had suggested Chris and I have regular scheduled breaks that we can look forward to.  So we each have a morning every week that is our scheduled break while the other parent handles the kids.  I might just lay in my bedroom and watch tv, or I might head to Starbucks, or do some shopping.  The main point is that I know every Friday morning, I am going to get a break and that helps me through the rest of the week.

6.  Spiritual Nourishment.  I am trying to get better about reading my Bible every day.  It's important to me to take care of my soul as well as my body.

How about you?  How do you take care of yourself as a parent, adoptive or not?  I'd love to hear some comments!

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