Taking care of No 1 used to mean looking after yourself first and foremost before even considering anyone or anything else but once you become a parent that all changes and you pass the position on. The more children you add to the mix, the further down the scale you slide.
It is important to note that all children jointly hold the No. 1 position, there aren’t favourites despite what the middle child may think. That is until one of them decides to crap in the bath, at which point the bath turd victim’s position is temporary elevated to ‘angel child’ until such time that the faeces faux pas is dealt with and forgotten about. Then equity resumes.
No matter how far down the scale you slide, you are not less important. You are jointly No 1 with the kids, it’s just that you are the parent and they look to you for everything but that doesn’t mean you need to forget yourself. It’s easy to do when your mini-me is screaming like a banshee while doing their best impression of an ironing board as you try to negotiate them into a buggy because you thought they’d enjoy a trip to the park. Or when the whole house needs cleaning and there’s a pile of washing to rival the local laundrette and you are having the period to end all periods.
Of course your child’s happiness is top of your list but yours should be too and if you need a day in to recoup/recharge or just to tackle a few jobs around the house, then that’s what you should do. Being bored never hurt anyone and it’s something I believe all children should learn, because it encourages independence and imagination, so don’t feel guilty about telling them to play by themselves/together for half hour while you paint your nails or have a cuppa.
Mental and physical well being should be paramount for all family members. We’ve all seen that Mum in Tesco whose kids are screaming about being in a trolley, kicking at her as she tries to do the weekly shop, looking so defeated that you could cry for her. Maybe all she needs is a hug? Or maybe she needs more than warm words and a cuppa, like professional help.
Parents are told ‘keep calm and carry on’. I hate that expression. It’s so old fashioned and harks back to that wartime mentally of have a cup of tea and everything will be fine. It’s not true. Tea doesn’t fix everything and a strong resolve will only get you so far. A positive mental attitude will not fix a chemical imbalance in the brain, and nobody wants to be Jessica Biel in The Sinner. You know the scene, with the pear knife on the beach. Except there is no beach on a hot sunny day and there is no trigger song. It’s just life and sometimes life is too much, and there is no shame in admitting that.
When Mum or Dad isn’t happy, it rubs off. If you need a few minutes for yourself, take them. If you need a day to yourself, then sort out your childcare and go for it. No harm ever came from Mum taking a kick boxing class or Daddy going fishing. If a day isn’t going to cut it, if you know you need more than that, then talk to your friends and family or better still, go to the doctor. Ask for help. We all need help at one time or another. Don’t get in your own way, just ask for it.
You don’t need to be bottom of the scale for your kids to be happy. In fact, your kids don’t want you there. To them, you’re number one and nothing is more important. Despite what you may think, you are the centre of their universe and everything you do affects their world and ultimately their future selves. So go and be happy, well and healthy. Get fresh air and eat well, while enjoying a little of what you fancy along the way.
Take care of yourself properly so that you can take care of those around you with a genuine smile on your face.