Overcoming the Guilt of Parent Self-Care: Restoring the Heart of Te Fiti by Angie Proctor

Do you look like this?

Are you throwing fireballs at your children because you are so tired and weary of all the pressures and struggles of caring for a child from trauma?

The movie Moana tells the story of Te Fiti, the goddess who forgets who she is and takes away all the nutrients of the sea. She doesn't meet the needs of the island people. Moana in the end, restores Te Fiti and helps her to remember who she is and what her purpose is.

Who are you? And what is your purpose?

Parenting at-risk children is a long, hard journey. You commit to loving unconditionally and do your best to meet all the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs. You often have to decode what the needs are due to poor coping skills and maladaptive behaviors. All of that is exhausting. How do you do it?

I know how you do it. You DON"T STOP!

You keep moving all day long, trying to keep your head above water, caring for everyone's needs but yours. You are lucky to get to bed in time for a few hours of sleep.

But oh, wait! You can't sleep because you're thinking of what needs to be done or how your child is drowning in a world that doesn't seem to understand the complexity of his challenges.

You keep moving for fear that if you stop, you may DROP!

Where is the balance? There is none! The needs are so great. You need balance and peace... somehow... somewhere.

According to recent research, the more stress we have in our lives, the more it impacts our physical health. The ACE's study, www.acestoohigh.org, even suggests that traumatic events can impact our life expectancy. The more adverse experiences we have, the more likely we are to develop physical and mental illness. 

So how do you take a breather without feeling guilty? How do you convince yourself that it is worth investing in your own physical and mental health?

Here are a few ideas to help:

1. When you are worn out and fried, you aren't able to give your kids your best self. It is easier to react to things that typically would not trigger anger and frustration because you are already up to your limit and need respite.
2. When you stop to meet your own needs, it promotes healthy boundaries and relationships. This generates emotional clarity and opens the door to hope and joy.
3. You don't have to go on a week vacation, although if you can, go for it! Or you can start small. Go take a long bath, walk around the block, sit on your porch with a cup of coffee, or call a friend. None of these options even require getting in your car! (and don't cost anything)
4. If you are able to get out and spend a day or two away, it is worth it! Make sure it is time that you are able to breath in deeply and rest. If is possible, reflect and regroup. Some parents are so compassion fatigued, they just need to start with breathing. That is okay.
5. The more you do self-care, the better you get at it. I worked as an administrator for a group home for many years and the foster parents received a full week off every 5th week. This was our organization's way of ensuring our foster parents had time to regroup. They are on duty 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for four weeks, and looked forward to that time when they could do something for themselves. Many parents felt like they had not talked to each other for 28 days! The longer they worked for us, the more creative they became with their time off. You can do it too!

Don't feel guilty for taking time for yourself. You are better for it. It will allow you to rejuvenate your desire to connect with your children and see them as they are.

Bring back Te Fiti!