Does self care help you be a better parent? All parents have undoubtedly felt guilty at some point for not spending enough time with their children. A large part of this guilt comes from our culture. American parents are pressured to dedicate superhuman levels of time and energy to caring for their children to ensure optimal development.
This notion is so prevalent, it’s even garnered names like “helicopter parenting” and “intensive mothering.” Trouble is, this style of child rearing is extraordinarily taxing on one’s mental and physical health. Not to mention, many believe such obsessive control not only doesn’t work, but may actually harm a child’s development.
If you’re nagged by such guilt, there’s good news. Recent research suggests that worrying about the amount of time you spend with your kids is totally unwarranted. A 2015 study published in the Journal of Marriage and Family found that for children aged 3 to 11, there was no statistically significant association between the amount of time they spent with their mothers and their outcomes in terms of behavioral health, emotional health, or academic performance.
The study did find that teens experienced less delinquency when they spent more time with their mothers. However, this outcome occurred with teens who spent an average of six hours a week with the family—not exactly a massive commitment. What’s more, the study found when parents are stressed, anxious, and guilty, spending time with kids can even be harmful. Perhaps becoming aware of this now can let you off the hook and free up your time for self care first.
“Mothers’ stress, especially when mothers are stressed because of juggling work and trying to find time with kids, may actually be affecting their kids poorly,” study co-author Kei Nomaguchi said in an interview with the Washington Post.
As with everything in life, successful parenting involves finding a healthy balance between caring for your kids and caring for yourself. It’s vital—for you and your children—to develop a self-care routine that allows you to devote regular periods of time each day to relaxing and recharging your mental, physical, and spiritual resources.
There are countless self-care methods, but one of the easiest, least expensive, and most effective practices is mindfulness meditation. Although the word often conjures up images of monks, monasteries, and mountaintops, meditation is no longer the sole domain of celibate yogis and wandering ascetics.
Today, meditation is practiced by millions of Americans, regardless of religious affiliation or lack thereof. And it’s not just childless hipsters who meditate. Even the busiest parents are sitting quietly each day to reduce stress and cultivate mindfulness—the ability to maintain non-judgemental awareness of one’s moment-to-moment experience.
The reason meditation has grown so popular? It works. Dozens of clinical studies have shown that meditation offers myriad benefits: stress reduction, decreased emotional reactivity, increased relationship satisfaction, enhanced memory, sharper focus, and expanded cognitive flexibility.
Some of you are probably thinking you can’t possibly add another item to your daily to-do list; however, meditating for just 10 to 15 minutes a day is enough to generate results. And once you experience meditation’s benefits, you’ll likely wonder how you ever got by without it.
Just ask Shana Smith, mother of two and author of Meditation for Moms and Dads: 108 Tips for Mindful Parents and Caregivers. Her book intimately details how meditation made her a better mother and kept her healthy and sane during parenthood’s most trying stages. Indeed, she believes meditation is not only possible for busy parents, it should be mandatory.
“If I forget to meditate, I’m much more likely to be overwhelmed by parenting’s physical, mental, and emotional demands,” she said. “With meditation, these demands are more easily kept in perspective within life’s bigger picture.”
Maintaining perspective on life’s big picture is a critical part of estate planning. An experienced and trusted estate planning attorney can help you assess what’s most important for your family’s well-being and security and protect those assets in a comprehensive estate plan. To this end, estate planning—like meditation—can reduce anxiety and stress over your children’s future, allowing you to take better care of both your kids and yourself.
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I know it’s not easy to face our own death. And as a mother with two active boys, I understand how hectic life can be. But based on my own experience and those of clients, I have seen how planning for our death and incapacity (even though it can be uncomfortable at first) creates an enormous amount of peace of mind. Let’s get started now on creating a plan to protect you and your family throughout your lifetime and beyond.