This is me leaning into a few hours at a spa when my son was a few months old – best birthday gift EVER! I felt so exhausted and fed up when I went in. When I left, I was so much more resourced. I felt so calm when I came out to find him starting to cry for me.
Why Self Love and Compassion are Important Building Blocks for Loving Parenting
I’ll be real with you – I’m not suggesting that you’re going to love every minute of parenting. Right now, I’m thinking about that dirty nappy just as you are finally about to get out the door. Or the day where you’re feeling absolutely exhausted and wondering why you just can’t convince your baby to go to sleep. Or possibly the times during pregnancy when you just feel uncomfortable and a bit teary.
It can be even harder to enjoy being pregnant or spending time with your baby if you feel fearful, sad, on edge, numb, are struggling to sleep, or are having distressing thoughts or seeing disturbing images. Some of you might also be struggling with feelings of isolation and loneliness if your relationship is suffering or you don’t feel there is someone who understands what you are feeling.
But loving ourselves and showing ourselves compassion can really help us during these difficult times as a parent. When we are able to feel love for ourselves, we are often better at valuing our worth which boosts our confidence. When we truly value ourselves, we are better at making time for self care and making decisions that feel aligned with what we really want.
When we value and love ourselves in this way, it is also often easier for us to be compassionate towards ourselves in tough situations. This self compassion can help us to be more resilient when we are faced with difficult situations or feelings. It can help us to heal from distress and trauma. And it can help us to feel more joy and love during our parenting journey. I have shared my experience below of how showing myself love and compassion has helped me parent during a very distressing time.
How Self Love and Compassion Help Me to Parent and Grieve
Self love and compassion have benefited me recently during some tricky parenting moments. In fact, they continue to be crucial during this very tender time.
After learning my sister died, I was faced with the prospect of taking a transatlantic flight on my own with my 13 month old son. Unfortunately, this also involved being creative with the route as there are no direct flights to my home province at this time of year. As a result, we had to split our travel in each direction over two days.
It was already an emotionally difficult trip to make. So I decided to invest in myself by staying in a more expensive airport hotel between flights because it was located in the terminal at Heathrow airport. While it cost more than we could really afford, I decided that this was important for my wellbeing in the situation and really acknowledged that I was worth this investment.
As a result of this decision, I was better rested and had less travel as I did not need to take a shuttle to a cheaper hotel. This meant that I felt better able to respond to my son’s needs and I felt more positive and supported in my travels. Showing myself love in this way also paid off as I was able to deal with a rather stressful experience at security and we had a pretty pleasant flight. When we arrived in Canada, my son had really bad separation anxiety and I was unable to leave him with any of the kind people who offered to watch him. In this situation, I showed myself kindness and love in the moments where I became grumpy, felt overstretched or just wanted to scream as we planned a funeral with a toddler in tow. Having this self compassion meant I accepted that how I was feeling was understandable. As a result, the situation felt a lot less difficult as I focused on how I was managing very well in a really difficult situation. Rather than giving myself a hard time for how I was feeling. (Although I will admit that I was very pleased when my partner was able to join us a few days later.) When I got home to Scotland, I also noticed that I was giving myself a hard time for taking a break from work. I was telling myself that I should be working and that I had already had long enough off.
The reality was that I was exhausted, numb and had not been able to grieve. I decided to show myself love and get a sick line and let go of getting this newsletter out “in time”. I also later decided that I needed a second week off as the first week was spent settling my son back at his nursery and rearranging his medical appointments. It was only after that week that the tears were ready to flow and the real exhaustion set in.
By showing myself that love and compassion, I was able to give myself space to really start grieving which is so hard with a young child. While my grieving process is far from being over, I feel that I am able to get back to my work in a way that is healthy and supportive for me. And I am able to give you the amazing support that I want to offer. So I want to ask you this: How could showing yourself love and kindness make your parenting journey easier and more enjoyable (even at difficult times)?
When Loving Yourself Feels Hard
Many of us can find it hard to feel love for ourselves and we are often our own worst critic. But when you have had a distressing or traumatic experience, feeling self love can sometimes feel even harder.
Loving ourselves can feel hard if we blame ourselves for what happened or we are criticising ourselves for how we are now acting as a result of our experience. For example, if we think we should have done something differently to prevent a traumatic experience; if we are struggling with daily activities; if we are afraid to do things; if we do not want to be pregnant; or if we do not feel that we are bonding with our baby.
How Self Love and Compassion Help Us to Heal
If you are having any of these difficult types of feelings, learning to show yourself compassion can be even more important to help you heal from this experience.
Self compassion helps you to understand why you are feeling the way that you feel.
It also helps you to be kinder to yourself when you are struggling, not being the way you want to be or not doing the things you think you should be doing.
When we feel love for ourselves, it is also easier to feel this compassion towards ourselves which helps us to heal.
Learning to Show Ourselves Love and Compassion
Loving ourselves and being self compassionate is a skill that we need to learn and practice. For many of us, we may also need to challenge unhelpful stories that we tell about ourselves and our worth.
I have included ideas on how to build self love in 10 Ways to Build Self Love in this month’s newsletter.
To start focusing on self compassion, think about how you would respond to someone you love who is having a similar experience.
Would you be more loving and compassionate towards them than you are being toward yourself?
How would it feel to give yourself that same love and compassion?
How would it affect your experience on your parenting journey to feel that love and kindness towards yourself? And how would your loved ones also benefit?
How I Can Help You to Build Self Love and Compassion
I can offer support if you are finding it difficult to feel love and compassion for yourself, particularly in relation to any distressing or traumatic experiences that you have had on your journey to parenthood.
The TBR 3 Step Rewind technique can help you to increase your understanding of your experience and reframe it in a loving and compassionate way that will help you on your healing journey.
Transformational Coaching is also a powerful tool to help you challenge any beliefs that you may have about yourself that cause you to to be self critical or that make it hard for you to feel love for yourself.
I also offer support packages which offer you support using both approaches.