Taking Care of Yourself is the Start of Being a Great Parent
It is often quipped that being an intentional parent is more about the parent than the child. And it is true. We cannot be a healthy parent unless we are a healthy person. Today’s society is very fitness and health aware – and we go to extreme lengths to look after our body – but our physical body is only one aspect of our health. We need to be healthy in all areas of our self: spiritually, morally, emotionally, socially, intellectually, and physically.
To be a healthy personal physically you need to know what it means to you to be fit and healthy, then you set a goal and then you put in the work. It also takes work to be a fit and healthy in the other areas of our life: spiritual, moral, emotional, social, intellectual.
- Do you make time for your relationship with Jesus? Are you growing in your understanding of who God is and what he asks of you? Are you growing in your ability to live a holy, set apart life?
- Do you make choices based on your moral values? Do you grow in your resolve to stand firm for what is right?
- Do you know, or are you growing, in understanding yourself, what makes you tick, and how to communicate your inner emotions.
- Do you make time for people, to build relationships and community with others, giving and taking as friendships grow.
- Are you exercising your intellect? Always learning be it wisdom, knowledge or skills?
- And the physical – The body is one of our many resources and we need to look after it.
Being a Parent can be an Excuse
Though we feel like parenting is all consuming it shouldn’t be. If we feel that being a parent fills every fibre of our emotions, our relationships, our thinking, our abilities, our talents – then we have something out of whack.
We are more than a parent. (Though I know men read this – I am going to keep writing with women in mind – though the ideas are applicable to men and women).
We are first of all a person – created in the image of God. Secondly we are (most likely) a wife. We are also a parent – yes, it is a significant relationship and role that we have but we are also a daughter, sister, friend, we are a community member. And we know deep in our heart that we have passions, and interests, abilities and talents.
And though women are often told they can have it all – we can’t. We are finite beings – we do have limitations but we can find a place where we balance all the different spheres of our life. When parenting consumes every thing (and I’m talking about everything) we have no time for our husband, we have no time for friends and we have no time for recognising that we are a person as well, we may even have no time for God. This is not being healthy. This is like exercising one part of your body – like just exercising your legs. The rest of you will have some degree of health but your legs – wow they look strong – but what are strong legs if when you walk somewhere to do something your arms aren’t strong enough to lift or carry?
We need to be healthy as a whole person – all areas of our life in health.
It starts with being Self Aware
As Christians we have been told that we have to be self-less, be others aware. And that is so true. That is following in the footsteps of Jesus for sure. But – Jesus knew who he was. Do we know who we are? Jesus knew when he was depleted, He knew his priorities and when he had to push through or when he had to retreat.
When we grab hold of one principle – like, be selfless and be others aware – we ignore other principles – like, we are made for a purpose, we have God-given abilities and talents. Life is about finding our way to balance more than one principle at a time!
So being self-aware is about knowing ourselves – knowing what you believe and value, knowing your strengths and weaknesses, knowing your motivations, knowing your gifts and abilities, knowing your passions and dreams.
Once you know these things it doesn’t give you a free rein to live a self focused self aware life – we learn to know who we are so that we can become more like Christ, so that we can be a blessing to others.
As a Christian our self-awareness starts with our awareness of sin. Even as a redeemed and restored child of God – we need to be aware of the effects of the flesh in our life, and the state of the fallen world that we live in. The Bible tells us to renew our mind – but we can’t do that unless we are aware of the wrong thinking we are living out.
We can become more self-aware – that is aware of our inner makeup (the good and the ugly) – by
- Writing in a journal and looking at recurring patterns that you keep doing or thinking about
- Listening to your inner voice – what do you tell yourself is important as you go through your day
- Reflecting on your feelings – acknowledging your feelings are what they are is good, it is our acting on our feelings that often get us into trouble!
- Keeping a growing list of your values as they come to mind
- Building a personal profile by taking personality and strengths type tests
When we know ourselves, and then when we are honest with what we see, we give ourselves the best opportunity to grow.
Growing is Hard Work
Once we have a sense of who we are and where we are at – and how that differs from where we want to be in our life – we can get to work and make some changes in our life. Here are three ways that help me work on my inner issues:
1–Go to God – though this may sound trite and expected – the reality is God is not only the measuring stick of seeing the gaps in my life – He is also the source of strength to make any changes. God is not taken by surprise by our neediness or immaturity. He knows us and He wants us to grow and be more like Christ. When I see a weakness, a wrongdoing, an immaturity I go to God and He gives me love, forgiveness, wisdom and grace. It is from this place that I know I can grow as a person.
2–Talk to Peter – though my own well-being is my responsibility and something that I have to do – we are not made to do life alone – we are made for community. Marriage is my first community – and then there is family and friends who support me, help me, encourage me. By talking with Peter about the areas that I struggle with, I get his insight, his support and practical helps when necessary.
3–Make a Plan – I know there are many things that God works on in my life that I’m not even aware of. But there are also areas where I am aware I need to change and I ask God for help, and I put all my resources that He has given me to work. I make a plan – I set goals, I see the obstacles, I find ways around them, and I set to. Of course this is actually a lot harder than it sounds on paper. I have an up and down success rate – but the idea is that once I am aware of an area where I need to change, I do what is necessary, to the best of my ability, to work on that area in my life that doesn’t reflect or honour God.
Like I said at the beginning parenting is about us the parents being the best we can be. If we don’t do the work then we find our weaknesses, our baggage, our stuff impacting our parenting. We may project our hurts and issues onto our kids, we may live through them, we may withdraw from them, expect too much from them, be unfair, unloving, unavailable, or angry.
It isn’t that we need to have all this sorted before we become a parent. God will use the role of parent to sanctify us – to shape us to be more like Christ. The key is to be actively working on being healthy in every area of our life – we don’t have to be perfect, we don’t have to have it together and not make mistakes. But we do need to be growing and changing – we do have to do the hard work of being a healthy person.
To be an intentional parent means you need to be an intentional person.
To be a healthy parent means you need to be a healthy person.
Over to you:
So what do you think about the issue of self-awareness?
Can you have an honest look at your life? Your responses? Your challenges?
Have you intentionally taught self-awareness to your kids?