LOOK AFTER YOURSELF
Karen Walant urges all parents to take some time to nurture themselves alongside caring for their children
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Let's face it, even though the rewards are innumerable, parenting in an attachment style is demanding and stressful, both physically and emotionally. Wearing an infant in a baby sling is one thing, but hauling a toddler around in a sling is quite another. Nursing a three-month-old through the night is one thing, but continuing to do so when he/she is a toddler takes its toll. And yet, though we may be looking forward to "child-led weaning" and some welldeserved rest, many of us continue to follow all of these approaches because we believe it is best. The spirit is always willing, but the body is often... well, tired. Many parenting books stress the importance of having one's own time, taking bubble baths or coffee breaks, but this is harder to come by in an attachment parenting household. After living through these earliest years with about as much attachment style parenting as possible, including baby wearing, extended nursing, co-sleeping, empathic listening, and a nurturing, mindful environment, I've been asked to share some ideas about thriving, not just surviving. I might add that I did not begin my parenting years with this knowledge, thinking then only about the numerous benefits of attachment parenting, but learned it the 'old fashioned way' — through fatigue, overwhelm and stress. Granted, I learned these lessons because my husband and I were blessed
'Begin to gather a support group that will nurture you'
with three wonderful children, a now nine year-old daughter and five year-old twin boys. Had I not had to juggle around-theclock extended nursing and baby wearing, among other things, I don't know that I would have learned the three important lessons that I offer you now. I've followed these lessons with ten suggestions that you may want to incorporate into your own life, as you seek to find balance and nurture yourself as well as your children. But be creative. Find what works for you, alter or dismiss what doesn't, and you're on your way to deepening your relationship with yourself and your children.
think oxygen In an airplane emergency, the flight attendants insist that parents put on their own oxygen mask first, and then put masks on their children — not the other way around. It is crucial that parents are cared for even before our children. We cannot sacrifice ourselves to the point of endangering ourselves, for then we endanger both ourselves and our children. Caring for ourselves need not be in the extremes of narcissism; though, for some of us, caring for ourselves at all might feel like that. But think of it this way: the model you want to teach your children is that of love, for themselves, for you, for their siblings, for others. If you don't take care of yourself, then you are sending them a message of neglect — that sacrifice is mandatory in relationships. think support Even during pregnancy, begin to gather a support group that will nurture you and your spouse after the baby comes home. This can include family, friends, neighbours, support group members, other relatives, even babysitters. Make sure these are people who will honour and support your parenting choices. One of the best gifts I ever got was a friend who brought us a week's worth of frozen dinners for the first week home. Another came and helped with cleaning the house. But even after the initial weeks home, this support is not just 'nice to have', but crucial. Remember, oxygen for you first — so you need people you can trust your children with, and you must work to cultivate these relationships.
Meeting people at the playground, at church or synagogue, finding out about API support groups or La Leche League meetings, can make a world of difference to your peace of mind and to your ability to have some long moments of serenity. Even within the practice of attachment parenting there can be other nurturing and loving people who can care for your children — particularly people who will, hopefully, be involved with your family for years to come. The important idea is that your children are surrounded by loving, attentive, nurturing people. You will be giving your children richness by supplying them with others, besides yourself, who care for and love them as well. For my husband and me, one of our greatest gifts has been our loving nanny who has been with us even before our twin sons were born. She is a secure, loving presence for them and for our daughter and is viewed by all of us as a wonderful member of the family. We live in a society of isolation, where parents are expected to 'do it all' by themselves, and to do it perfectly. This places unrealistic demands on parents and families. The truth is that it really does take a village to raise children. Resist the urge to do it all alone. Resist the belief that you and your husband can single-handedly 'split-shift' all the parenting needs for your children. You will be giving a gift to your children as well as to yourselves. think love No, not just love for your children, and your partner, but love for yourself. The biblical advice that we should love our neighbour as ourselves means that we cannot really love anyone else, even our children, until we love ourselves. Think oxygen, but replace oxygen with love, and you will see the wisdom in this thinking. Love yourself and you will find yourself loving others with more enthusiasm, more joy, and more energy. My daughter recently told me she has lots of love in her heart, first and foremost for herself. Next in line, she told me, is her parents, then God and the Universe, then her dog, then her grandparents, then her brothers, then her friends, then the earth. She was not afraid to place herself at the top of that list. This is not conceit, nor a dangerous sign >
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