As a doula and sleep educator, I work with a lot of parents when they are at their most tapped out.
As a parent myself, I have plenty of moments that seem more like surviving than thriving.
I coach my clients to uncover areas where they can find balance and meaning, and self-care is often a pivot point that can tip survival mode into flourishing for the whole family.
When I take a fair assessment of my own life, I find that my moments of frustration with my children or my partner often emerge from my own lack of balance. As the saying goes, you can't give from an empty cup. And, no one knows that truth more deeply than a parent of young children.
As important as self-care is to overall wellness, there is another piece that I suggest can be just as significant - finding joy WITH your children. Here, I'm not talking about delighting in every moment - some are challenging and some are just plain hard - no one needs the pressure of loving every second.
Instead, try to find mutual points of joy in your life. Maybe you all enjoy a particular series of stories or chapter book read alouds. Maybe you all love your routine of getting a donut on Saturday morning. Maybe each of you can relish the feeling of sand between your toes at the beach. Maybe you geek out together over the same comic book.
Whatever that source of joy is for all of you, seek it out. Be intentional. Make time for it, and soak it in.
For me, I am my happiest when I'm outside, and I discovered early on with my first child that she loved to be outside, too. Now that I've got a busy trio, I plan to be outside every day, if possible, and make a couple significant excursions to local trails and parks every week.
On the best of days, I can carry that feeling with me through the tricky pre-dinner time and all the way until my kiddos are at rest. And, my ease sets the tone for everyone. Most importantly, we all find joy together.
How do you find joy with your little ones?
Johanna received a Ph.D. in English in 2014. Now a postpartum doula and educator of childbirth, breastfeeding, and infant sleep, she blogs about pregnancy, birth, postpartum, and parenting.