When a child is born all eyes focus on him. His beautiful eyes, the softness of his skin, the curls in his hair and the warmth of his embrace. When your infant snuggles into the crook of your neck the world disappears and all you see and hear is your child. Whether a product of our genes or emotional drives this focus drives a parent to protect a child who is unable to protect or nourish themselves. Without your love, affection and attention he could not survive. This is one of the reasons why he responds to your care and love. He not only wants you he needs you.
From the moment of birth your infant’s behavior shapes your life. Your drives and their behavior force you to attend and respond to them. This is good. As parent you want to feel attached and needed by your newborn. A problem arises, however, when you allow this desire to override the respect you have for yourself and the pursuit of your own needs.
As a new parent you must learn to recognize, understand and respond to the needs of your infant. By doing so, you will allow him to begin his lifelong journey of self-discovery. During his life your encouragement will allow him to develop a sense of self, a sense of others and eventually pursue the question of who he is and what he can do. This passionate pursuit of what inspires him can only happen, however, if he is taught to be recognized and pursue his own needs.
Parents usually neglect their own and their spouse’s needs while caring for their new child. This places them at risk to undermine the goal they seek. Every parent wants their child to grow up with the self-awareness and strength to find their own place in the world. To have the ability to maintain relationships built out of mutual cooperation and respect. As an infant your child learns how to interact with all the people and things around him. Just as he is preparing himself for the future so to must you. As he moves into the toddler years he will begin to assert his own decision making and you must be there ready to help him with guidance and teaching. To set an example for him you must not allow your own self-care to evaporate under the heat of his needs. You must not neglect your needs or you will be unable to provide the independence and self-care modeling necessary for your toddler and his later years. Your child learns most from watching you. He must from the earliest age believe that you provide him safety and security without losing yourself within the life of another.
You and your spouse must continue to chase your passions. You both deserve this. Seek what inspires you beyond the touch, sight and sound of your infant. To do less results in a sense of loss and anger. This anger cannot be directed at your new infant and so it is redirected to oneself or someone else, including your spouse. When a parent stops performing self-care she justifies it as a necessary requirement of parenthood . Yet, deep within, they mourn at the loss of self. Mothers and fathers often feel selfish when they think about the independence they have given up. This remorse is normal and expected. What you cannot do is stop your pursuit of self-care. Every parent must continue to seek the time and the opportunities to continue their own life journey. Look to the arts and to nature to help you see the magnificence of the world around you. Rent a video and make yourself your favorite dinner. Read a new book or start a new hobby. Call an old friend, go for a walk in the park, start a scrapbook or take up a new sport. Eat healthy, stay physically active, get your sleep and find someone to talk to who will listen to you non-judgmentally.
Parent self-care is best for both you and your child.