Good parenting is, for me, grounded on love, patience and kindness. But it is not only your relationship with your kids that needs to be supported by these three pillars, it is also your relationship with yourself that requires all three pieces of the puzzle to come together lest you should fall apart.
So, how do you fill your cup first? As with breathing or dancing, it is utterly individual with some hint of a few general principles. The first and foremost rule is to focus on yourself and your needs. What is it that you enjoy doing, what relaxes you, what does your body crave, what is your mind yearning?
With me, it’s this blog, my morning yoga practice and keeping a clean floor. I love clean floors. They fill my cup. Seriously. Also slouching on a couch or sitting straight over a desktop, organizing my zooming thoughts, searching for the right word and typing down a blog post. And yoga. We’ve moved on Monday and my back is killing me. Yoga is my saviour in a shining armour. I bow to the divine in you, yoga!
These three keep all my parts in sync. Without them I feel nervous and itchy, and my itchiness rubs off the wrong way on my family, and all the principles of good parenting fly out the window. Staying calm requires much more effort without a properly filled cup. Showing love and being kind seem optional when I am out of sync. Those three are the water I need in order to thrive. I know that if I miss out on them I won’t be at my best and my family deserves my best. So everyday (or as much as I can muster in those specially eventful times like travelling and moving), I try to water myself well and stay fresh and smiling.
My mom, my hero who definitely deserves at least one blog post of its own, never took too much time for herself. Actually, I cannot bring to memory any particular ritual she might have had of filling her own cup. To her love, patience and respect for us came naturally. How she managed to stay calm and kind is still very much beyond me. I need the extra care. And I was never taught how to get it, because the only person who was supposed to show it to me had that part of herself successfully surgically removed.
When I became a mom myself all I could ever see in front of me was all the work that needed to be done, meals to be prepared, kitchen countertops to be wiped, diapers to be changed, walks to be taken. My mind concentrated on organizing to-do and shopping lists. And at some point I realised I was constantly yelling at my kids. Because what they were doing did not match the planned activity on the list. So, after the longest eye opening ever recorded, I decided to shift my focus and practice love instead of discipline. And that meant caring for myself, as well.
I tried different approaches, found out that surfing the net and reading interesting articles, informative and engaging as they may be, did not really prove to be particularly unwinding or cup-filling. Baking healthy sweets for kids, albeit self-rewarding, does not come out as “me” time no matter how you twist it. But, spending time on yourself does. In my case, I’ve always enjoyed physical activity and yoga’s relaxing moves are just what the doctor ordered.
Apart from identifying the things that you take pleasure in doing, you also have to detect your anxiety and itchiness triggers. Dirty floors worsen my mood, as does frustration, and since I cannot ignore these, I had to find a way to abate them. Creative expression relieves frustration and bearing that in mind, I make it a rule to devote at least a few hours a week to writing this blog. I often refer to it as my self-administered psychotherapy session. And I count in half an hour every day before the kids come back from school to wipe the floor. Seeing them run around barefoot also brightens my day, so it’s a sure way to lift my spirits and, hence, fill my cup.
So, if you’ve been feeling less of yourself lately, and if you believe your family is suffering because of it, give yourself some extra loving and care and spend some time on healing yourself before you can step out and heal the world.