The Problem is Not Usually the Real Problem
When any of my kids start crying over a math problem, I know I have a puzzle to solve.
You see, they’re all good at math. They could do it for fun. (Yes, their mom might be a nerd who has actually done algebra for fun.) So when one of them starts to cry over long division, I know he is not actually crying because of the math. He’s crying because of something else that has impacted his ability to do math well.
I start going through all the possibilities:
- Is he tired?
- Is he coming down with something?
- Is he hungry?
- Is it spiritual? Is he feeling guilty and can’t concentrate?
- Is this space too cluttered to think?
As the mom, it is my job to help my kids do their best. And this means in all things—the whole person.
That’s a big job. It’s one I take seriously. I care about my kids and want the best for them.
What about my own health?
But what about me? How do I take care of myself? I don’t know about you, but the term “self-care” always sounds nice, but not critical. Right? It sounds like items that would be nice to add to my day, but if I don’t get to them, well, no harm done.
A while back, I was listening to The Business of Becoming podcast and heard a term that was new to me: self-parenting.
Now, I look at my own health with the eyes of a parent. And it makes a big difference.
Do I let my kids stay up 2-3 hours after their bedtime because they chose to start a good book late in the day and want to finish it? No. Do I do this very thing? Yes. And do I pay for it the next day? You bet. Of course, this leads to “if Mom isn’t happy, nobody’s happy” in the house. My whole family can be impacted because I chose to stay up late.
Just because you CAN doesn’t mean you SHOULD
My mom told me that nobody under her roof would ever dye their hair. Guess what I did freshman year of college? Yup. I dyed my hair. Just because I could.
Independence and adulthood lead to a lot of freedom. We can choose what and how we eat (dessert first anyone?), how/where we worship, when we sleep, who we hang out with, etc. But with this freedom comes the responsibility to use it wisely.
When I was a kid, I was always looking forward to a later bedtime. When I left home, I had nobody telling me when to go to bed. I had to self-regulate. I chose shifts in the ER that would suit my circadian rhythm. Working until 1:30 A.M. and sleeping late was perfect. A natural night owl, it was hard when my kids were born and wanted to get up before 10:00 A.M. But even with “early” risers, I still stayed up late.
I know the benefits of sleep. I know that your entire body, mind, and even spirit need it for whole health. I know that healing, restoration, and renewal happen when one is sleeping. I know that the immune system works better when you are rested. I know all this in my head. And yet, I still was staying up late–getting 2-4 hours less sleep than I need.
[I think I only survived for so long because I was implementing other energy boosting principles into each day.]
So now I am self-parenting. When my independence-craving, feeling-brain wants to keep going late into the night, my rational, thinking-brain goes into parenting mode and tells me to go to bed.
I’m getting more sleep. I’m waking up feeling rested. I don’t start to slur my words as I struggle to stay awake reading the boys a book.
Self-parenting works in other areas, too; I’m a whole person and need to care for the whole. Even if I don’t want to, I still make sure I exercise. (Most days. This is a work in progress.) Even if I don’t feel like it, I will eat my peas. Ok, that’s a lie. I hate peas. Self-parenting only goes so far.
Self-parenting has changed my view (and more importantly, my actions) about my whole health. How will it change the way you take care of your health?