Putting Myself First Made Me a Better Parent—Here's Why Other Latinxs Should too
Like many Latinxs I've met throughout my life, I was raised by a tribe of women. For me this included my Puerto Rican mom, grandma, and several tias. As a kid I watched as my family matriarchs continuously stayed in motion, cooking, cleaning, caring for their children, and never prioritizing themselves—a learned behavior passed down from the generations that came before them and ultimately down to me. So, when I became a first-time parent 15 years ago I struggled with putting my needs first. Anytime I would even think of resting I was immediately filled with anxiety and guilt.
But as someone who lives in a city with no biological family nearby, I didn't have a net of relatives to tag team in and out of childcare duties. I needed to release my expectations of how a mother should spend their time taking care of everyone else and instead make myself a top priority. Thankfully I discovered yoga, where I was able to redirect my emotions and let go of the guilt I felt from practicing self-care. The stillness of the meditations at the end of each class and the mindful movements paired with the breath in yoga were new ways for me to relax, and when I allowed myself to do so, I saw the impact in all areas of my life.
Seeing the effects, particularly how much more present I've become over the years with my three kids, 4-year-old twins and a 15-year-old, has made finding time to rest at home feel less daunting. And when the pandemic hit, having that daily meditation helped ease the anxiety and grief I was feeling.
This is no coincidence. Self-care can reduce stress, boost your self-esteem, and lead to better relationships. But, the best part about me learning to make space for self-nurturing? Watching my kids mirror my actions. Unlike my urge to keep "go, go, going" from watching my caregivers growing up, my children have learned the importance of slowing down from watching me. My oldest, now 15-years-old, began meditating at the age of 6! They didn't stick to the daily practice but found mindfulness in spending hours dedicated to drawing and animation.
My twins have also found their ways to stillness. I've even walked into a room to find my 4-year-old daughter meditating on her own—and her twin brother loves to meditate when we're outside so that he can feel the sun in his face. It's in those moments, I'm reminded that taking care of me means taking care of my children. Turns out the next generation is taking notes after all.
Here are four ways that you can also start putting yourself first.
Meditation Is Key
When I started meditating after having my first child I didn't have the confidence nor could I truly grasp the concept of going within. I would have to constantly remind myself to return to the breath whenever my mind began to wander. But the more I practiced, the more space I created for stillness, and one day my mind wandered less and less.
Movement Is Life
Yes, exercise may sound counterintuitive when we're talking about rest, but sometimes by focusing on your body, your mind gets to be present. And no I don't mean racing around the kitchen or chasing after your niños. Carve out just 15 minutes a day for intentional movement. Whether you're drawn to yoga, cardio, or get the urge to dance to your favorite music, you'll soon notice a shift in the energy in and around you.
Breathwork Is Calming
What if I told you it takes just a few deep breaths to center and ground yourself? Deep breathing can mean the difference between an emotional explosion and a cool, calm, and collected approach. So, next time your kid screams "mommy!" for the 1,000th time in a single day, take a few deep breaths. Not only will it help regulate your blood pressure and put you in relaxation mode, but also lower your heart rate, too.
Doing Absolutely Nothing Is Healing
Want to really show yourself some love? Schedule yourself a day when doing nothing is the only thing on the agenda. Whether you're binge-watching your favorite show, lying on the sofa reading a good book, or being silly with your little ones, there are actual health benefits to doing nada, including immense clarity.
Rest, relax, and recharge. You are worth it, and your familia will thank you for it, too.