Self-Care for Parents: Why It's Important

With our busy work and home lives, there can be lots to juggle. Many parents find themselves overwhelmed or frazzled with all they have to take care of. However, self-care for parents is very important. Here are a few reasons why, and what you can do.

According to Pew Research Center, 62% of parents say parenting is somewhat harder than they expected, with 26% saying it’s much harder than they expected.

  • In the same survey, 33% of mothers and 24% of fathers said parenting was stressful most of the time.
  • Long-term stress can lead to physical health problems, such as: headaches; back pain; exacerbated breathing problems; increased risk for hypertension, heart attack, or stroke; weaker immune system; gut issues; and more.
  • Sleep deficiency can lead to health problems as well, including: heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, kidney disease, depression, and more. It can also impact your attention, memory, reaction time, and decision-making.
  • A 2015 study showed that “self-compassionate parents had better outcomes for all three types of parenting stress compared to those with lower levels of self-compassion.” These types of parenting stress are: Parental Distress, Difficult Child and Parent–Child Dysfunctional Interaction.
  • In a 2016 study, parents who showed themselves high levels of compassion “were less critical, and used fewer distressed reactions to cope with their children’s emotions.”
  • Improved self-care can help you reduce negative health effects of stress and fatigue.
  • Taking steps to combat stress and poor mental health will help you be better able to support your child.
  • Practicing self-care models to your child that it’s important to look after yourself and your mental health. It also helps your child learn empathy and emotional regulation.

How parents can practice self-care

Many parents put their child or family’s needs before their own. However, taking some time for self-care doesn’t have to mean neglecting your duties as a parent or spending a lot of money. Here are a few ideas you can use right away to fit self-care into your life.

  • Try to get as much good-quality sleep as possible each night. An early bedtime and an uninterrupted eight hours isn’t realistic for many parents, but doing something relaxing in the time before bed can help you fall asleep easier.
  • Don’t feel you have to spend an hour on self-care for it to be worth it—even a few 15-minute pauses in your day can help. Some suggestions include taking a walk, reading, meditating, journaling, pursuing a hobby, calling a friend, or letting yourself enjoy that coffee.
  • Lean on the people you trust the most. Open up about how you’re feeling or simply enjoy their company. Their perspective and support can help bolster your own self-image.
  • Incorporate more movement into your day. Physical activity has positive effects on not only our physical health, but our mental health too.
  • Try to incorporate screen-free time both on your own and as a family. Engaging with the world around you in small ways can help you feel more grounded.
  • Set boundaries for yourself around social media, whether it’s only checking a handful of times per day, or unfollowing accounts that cause you stress or negative comparison.
  • Look for quick, healthy snacks that you can easily prepare when you’re busy, and will give your body the nourishment it needs to keep going. Some ideas include nuts, cut veggies with hummus, fruit and yogurt, apples with nut butter, turkey and cheese roll-ups, or smoothies.
  • See if you can delegate some tasks to take some of the pressure off yourself. For example, older children can help with some household chores, or grandparents might be willing to spend Saturday mornings with your child so you can focus on other tasks.
  • Investigate self-care apps that can help you with things like habit tracking, meditating, journaling, or mindfulness.
  • Be kind to yourself. Parenting is difficult, and you’re doing your best.