At this time of the year, there’s a million things on your to-do list: getting the Christmas presents organized, planning the menu for Christmas Day, figuring out how the hell you’re going to keep the kids entertained for an entire month… But we’d guess that the one thing missing off that list is self care

Over the festive season, busy parents – and mums in particular – have so many things to think about that their own health and wellbeing usually falls to the bottom (or completely off) the priority list. 

To help you combat that this Christmas, we sat down with parenting expert, Dr Rosina McAlpine, to chat all things self care. Dr Rosina speaks about removing the guilt from ‘me time’, why self care makes you a better parent, and shares her top tips for how to prioritise yourself over the silly season. 

Dr Rosina, we hear from people all the time that they struggle to find time for themselves while juggling a million different things. What are your thoughts on this? 

Today’s working parents have just got so many stresses. Long working hours, taking the kids from one activity to another, as well as all of our usual household duties – this leaves very little time for you.

One of the barriers to finding that time for self care seems to be the guilt associated with taking time for yourself. Where do you stand on that?

This is one of the most comment things I get asked. Personally, I think that society needs to let go of this myth that parents should ‘self-sacrifice’. It’s this idea that parents need to be ‘all for the children’ or ‘all for the workplace.’ At the end of the day, not taking time for self care has consequences not only personally, but also for your family and your workplace.

The other thing for mums to reflect on is to ask yourself what kind of role model you’re being if you’re telling your kids to get enough sleep, drink enough water, look after themselves… but you’re not doing that for yourself? You’re saying ‘do as I say, but not as I do’ which isn’t the best example to set. 

So you feel that being a good role-model is the mindset parents need to adopt to remove the guilt from self care? 

Absolutely. If you think about it – you’d never say to your child ‘Please don’t look after yourself, look after everyone else. If you’re tired, don’t rest.’ We would never say that. But really, by them observing us doing that for ourselves, we are in a way telling them that it’s acceptable to treat ourselves like that. 

Let’s talk about self care strategies. What are your top tips for actually practicing self care in a busy world? 

I’d always suggest starting off by thinking of what ‘self care’ means to you personally – because it means something different for all of us. For some, it’s about getting more sleep. For others, it’s just going for a walk or reading a few pages of a book. Some of the mums I work with actually enjoy doing the housework because it means they’ve got a more organised, less-frantic household which in turn helps them to feel less stressed. So it really is different for all of us.

Ask yourself what you can do in perhaps a small space of time (even just 5 minutes), what you enjoy doing for yourself, and in what ways that will bring a benefit.

Remember too that ‘me time’ doesn’t have to take out a huge chunk of your busy day. Me time can be as simple as walking outside. Stop. Be present. Reflect on where you are and how you’re feeling. A few moments, a few breaths – it doesn’t take very long.

What about Christmas? The demands of being a parent increase dramatically during the holiday period. What’s your advice as we approach the festive season? 

I think in the hustle and bustle of Christmas, parents can forget the fundamentals of good health. Let’s think about hydration – who drinks enough!? Why not start by setting some reminders in your LifeBuddi app to ring every hour so that you can make sure you and your kids are both getting enough water to stay properly hydrated.

The other thing that usually goes out the window is sleep. Despite being away from the busy demands and routine of work – we still somehow manage to not get enough rest. Christmas really can be a great time to catch up on that rest. No one wants cranky kids or cranky parents over the holidays.

Before you go, what’s that lasting tip you’d give to any parent who is struggling to put themselves first? 

For me, it’s just about coming back to those basics. Parent-child happiness is interlinked. We know this from the research. Just a small increase in parent happiness can have a long-term impact on child happiness. If you look after yourself and practice self care, you’re in a better state physically and mentally and that will impact your child for life.

 And, at the end of the day, every parent wants the best for their child. If your child is important to you – show them how to take care of themselves in the world by taking better care of yourself.

Dr Rosina has worked with thousands of parents over the years through a research-based approach. Her philosophy is to not give parents advice, but give them information based on research. If you’d like to know more about Dr Rosina, check out her website here

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