5 Things My Kids Taught Me About Self Care – The Hard Way
My children have been the best thing for my head – but the worst thing for my health
Let’s get this out of the way first. I love my family more than anything on this earth.
Family photos and artwork adorn my desk and office wall. My children dominate every conversation with my patients – my greatest belly laughs come from my kids’ cute, innocent and earnest comments. They really have no filters, and an amazingly accurate outlook on life. I learn things from them every week.
However, parenthood has caused everything south of my mind to go pear shaped. Where once I used to be super fit, healthy and well-rested — my body is now doing the best it can.
I’ve learnt five clear lessons from my kids that I wanted to share. I hope it will help you, fellow parent, find a strategy or path to help you look after yourself too. After all, we are the best parents we can be for our children when we look after ourselves too – as hard as that can be!
Problem: Broken sleep.
I can be woken up to 3 times a night by my kids. Even though my sleep is fractured, I am able to function perfectly normally and never feel tired. Our bodies are amazing at adjusting to our circumstances to enable us to perform at our best. The downer is that research shows that poor sleep significantly shortens life span; so it’s best for your own health if you can improve your sleep however you can.
Lesson: Pray that your children will be good sleepers.
Failing that, a good bedtime routine is beneficial in aiding sleep. Keep your kids away from the blue light spectrum emitting devices (iPad, TV, PC) one hour before bed and keep bedtime consistent each evening. Follow the same advice for yourself as well — go to sleep and wake up at the same time each day. After all, the kids will!
Body Wear and Tear
Problem: Back pain
Since having my kids, I’ve experienced a major back injury. I can trace it directly back to them. One day, one of them almost fell back into the bath. I lunged forward suddenly to save him and tweaked my back. The pain lasted a week.
Three weeks later I carelessly twisted and bent as I put my other kid into his car seat. Twang! My back went again. The pain lasted a week. Again. It was resolved with good chiro and physio.
A month later we moved house. Although I can’t technically blame this on my kids, this is when my back went for good. (And they started this whole thing, OK?!). It was so bad that I didn’t even have back pain. My leg was twitching and I had a spasm in my thigh. I couldn’t run, cycle or barely sleep. A subsequent MRI scan showed a significant disc issue.
Thankfully, it has since settled with treatment. If I overdo it, my body reminds me very quickly to look after myself and not push too hard.
Lesson: Keep moving.
Parenthood can be physically demanding so it’s important that you keep your body active. At work, stand up frequently from your desk, go for a walk at lunchtime, and walk before or after work if possible. Try do some core and tummy tighteners while sitting at your desk.
At home, put a cushion behind your back if you’re sitting on a deep sofa watching TV, invest in a proper computer desk and chair (it’s cheaper than a lifetime of back pain, trust me), and be conscious when lifting things (especially unpredictable objects like children). Try to avoid repetitive activities. If you have the time and motivation, try to do stretches. Better still, make it a family activity – it will demonstrate good habits to help your kids learn to look after their bodies too.
Exercise and 4. Time
Problem: Finding time to exercise
Meaningful cardiovascular exercise takes time. It takes time, commitment, and energy. Three things that parents of young kids struggle with.
My kids forget how to dress themselves most days. Sometimes even forget how to feed themselves. How in the world do I have time for a 2-hour cycle twice a week, 2 runs and 2 gym sessions? Whilst working full time and keeping up with my wife and three young kids?
The worst thing about finding time for my exercise as a parent is that I am plagued with guilt – because my wife gets to do even less than me.
Lesson: Be an example
I’ve realised that to have a long, healthy meaningful life with my family – I just need to find time to look after myself. As hard as that can be some weeks, it is a sacrifice worth making. To be mobile and able to exercise is a privilege. Also, a necessity. Many studies coming out today talk about the need to be mobile to optimise the function of your body.
I want to be an example to my children about the importance of setting aside time to exercise and focus on self-improvement. It will also teach them about the importance of working hard toward a goal and keeping yourself accountable. Self-governance is always the best! Or, even better – exercise with your kids. Kill two birds with one stone!
Problem: Day to day pressure
Because children take away the gift of time, everything has just a little more added pressure. Financial worries, work pressure, juggling school drop offs and pick-ups, constant demands from your children and spouse can play a significant role in stress.
Lesson: Focus on what you can control
Just let the things that are out of your control go. Spend time doing things that make you happy. All the other stuff will melt away.
My favourite stress release is spending time with my family. Exercise and work come a close second and third, believe it or not. But what I can say, is that parenthood has taught me how I want to fill my days to live a long and meaningful life. It’s just a paradox that the greatest stressors in my life, also provide my stress relief!
At Sydney Spine and Sports Clinic, we put you first. We believe in offering chiropractic care that enables you to make informed and educated choices about your health. If you are suffering pain or injury and would like to talk to us about how we can help you get mobile and active again – get in touch right here.