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Putting Yourself First - A Life-Jacket Analogy Series Part 1

Updated: Jun 29, 2022

It seems every generation or so we pendulum swing parenting styles - doting 50’s mother, 80’ and 90’s latch-key kids, helicopter parents of the late 90’s and early 2000s, and now moving into the emotionally healthy, positive parenting style, the later being our personal favorite here at Whole Family ADHD.

Somewhere in all of these shifting styles the focus continued in the trajectory of putting the children at the center of our lives; the sun in which all other planets orbit; the gravitational pull of being able to witness a life unfolding, growing, and shaping; molded by our unique perspectives and loving guidance. In and of itself, this is not a bad thing at all - unless it comes at the price of our own health and well-being. Forsaking ourselves for the good of our children is not actually good for the children. It models for them that the ultimate gift you can give someone is to lose yourself for the benefit of their happiness, and it teaches them to expect that from others. That is the start of a trend in unhealthy relationships.

I was working with a wonderful behavioral specialist for my children, and he used the analogy of a Life Jacket - what you need to stay afloat in this bright messy spinning orb called Earth. And I was surprised when children weren’t first, or even second or third… This is a long, complicated and obviously controversial topic, so we’ll carry it on over several blog posts - but I wanted to really spend this post talking about the number one most important first belt in your life jacket - YOU!

“Selfcare means giving the world the BEST of YOU, instead of what’s left of you.” ~Katie Reed @IAmMothering

Stop and think about that quote for a moment. If you are always putting your children first, they are only getting what’s left when you spread yourself thin, when you neglect what brings you joy (and yes, we know children are the source of so much of our joy - but we had joy before them as well); they are getting burnt-out, trying to be everything to everyone, overwhelmed, not truly fulfilled in their soul version of you; they are getting the mom who appears to have it all together while hiding the mess in the closet.

As I mentioned in our post about The ADHD Parent Raising the ADHD Child, one of the best gifts you can give your children is the ability for them to witness you doing what YOU love most. Watching a parent thrive in their element, follow their passions, embody true joy models for them that that is not only possible but important, critical even to our existence in this time and place.

Are we advocating for neglecting your child? Putting them on the back-burner, so to speak? Absolutely NOT! Your role as a parent is the single most important role in your early child’s life, and we would never advocate for diminishing or neglecting that role. Being a loving, emotionally healthy parent is the single best gift you can give your child. We are only advocating to focus a little more on the “emotionally healthy parent” aspect.

This is especially true for parents of children who have ADHD. Life can be hard. And you have to use your super parenting skills all the time. That's why selfcare is so important - so you can show up for them the way they need you to.

Here are some easy, practical ways to begin putting yourself first:

Don’t neglect your nutrition
  1. Eat what your children eat when they eat it; or at least eat with them if you are eating something different

  2. We are obsessed with making sure our children eat the BEST, least overly processed food; then we eat take-out or a box of cereal. Why don’t we care as much about what we put in OUR body as we do about what we put in theirs? It does the same thing to us as it does to them - it just manifests itself slightly differently.

  3. Quick check-in test: if your child called you from college and told you they were consisting on a diet of whatever you have been eating the past few days, months, years… how would you react?

    1. If you would be worried… It’s time to change your diet and start investing in your own nutrition

    2. If you would be happy and proud… Congratulations! You’re taking care of yourself!

Sleep / Rest!
  1. When I was pregnant my OBGYN said on repeat - “When the baby sleeps YOU sleep.”

    1. Did I? No.

    2. Should I have? YES!

  2. My kids are asleep by 8:30 every night. Why?

    1. I need my nights to MYSELF! Peace out children - it’s Mommy Time! I need the world to stop and my brain to re-balance (see 3 and 4 below).

    2. Its a huge benefit to my children (see 3 below).

  3. I am determined for my children to get the 10-12 hours they need per night.

    1. Yes - elementary schools kids need 10-12 hours PER NIGHT. For teenagers it's a minimum of 8*.

    2. Meanwhile I’m over here trying to live on 4-5 hours of sleep per night. Why? Because I can do it all! (or so I tell myself). As moms we can wear the act of being up all night long, getting everything done, like a badge of honor, but it takes a toll.

    3. I tracked my mood daily for several months - and the number one factor that affected my mood, other than my monthly hormonal roller coaster, was the amount of sleep I got the night before, and the quality of that sleep

      1. Now I know I have to get a good night’s sleep and if I don’t - I have to work extra hard at giving myself and my kids compassion the next day

Quiet Time
  1. My kids have ADHD - they NEED their quiet time to power down their overly stimulated wheels - but guess what parents - YOU need quiet time too.

  2. But quiet time is not “you” time that you use up with all the other To-Dos and tasks on your never-ending list. It's a moment to shut the world out, allow your inner mechanics to smooth out and the grinding gears to slow down. Think of them as pockets of solitude. It opens a more emotionally aligned line of communication with yourself, with your inner self.

    1. Meditate, do yoga stretches quietly, sit in your garden, take a hot bath, relax in your “thinking chair” (my father has one of these…)

YOU Time / Finding your Joy
  1. Different from Quiet Time - this is where you have FUN and find your JOY!

  2. This can be a whole smorgasbord of things:

    1. Quality time out and about (or just relaxing in) with your spouse, close family and close friends

    2. Working on your side hustles / projects

    3. Being out in nature

    4. Travel (alone, if you need it)

    5. Blogging, journaling, reading, dancing, listening to music

A lack of the above items leads to Speed Bump Triggers (see our video on Triggers here)- you know they’re there, you know you’re vulnerable, but you step on the gas and hit them at 100 mph and break your shocks and throw off your alignment. Prioritize YOURSELF. I guarantee your kids will thank you for it.

If you read this and thought - YES - this is amazing - Great! Reach out and let us help you get started prioritizing yourself.

If you read this and thought - No way - I could never do that - Reach out and let us show you the science (and the art) of selfcare.

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