Our Story Begins:
The Pains of Parenting
I always thought being a parent was painful.
Rewarding, sure. Loving, definitely. Painful . . . that’s just part and parcel with all of it.
Now, there’s apparently proof it’s the case.
The pain comes when you are empathetic, which I like to hope that I am. When your kids hurt, you do your absolute best to take care of whatever ails them. When they are injured, you repair. When they are sick you comfort them.
When they are distraught, you stand strong with them without ever showing how much more it hurts you to see them in the shape they are in.
A study published by the American Psychological Association showed there’s a correlation to empathetic parenting having two different reactions: one in the children and one in the parents. That reaction, you see, is physiological.
Being empathetic . . . meaning you react and create an environment where you care for and try your best to understand what’s hurting your children actually helps your children. When kids were having issues the authors of the study drew blood and checked. In the end, kids are more empathetic, have fewer incidents of depression and are better off both physically and emotionally.
Checking the blood of 247 parents of adolescents they found that there was higher incidents of inflammation in the blood of those empathetic parents. This doesn’t mean that there aren’t benefits to being empathetic, they themselves were healthier emotionally, had less depression, all that. But physiologically the need to help those kids is causing pain to their parents.
Not that this is a surprise to many of you, I suppose.
So what do we need to take from this?
We need to take care of ourselves, too. Bottom line. Parents of kids have all kinds of stresses on their bodies. We get up, get the kids, going, out the door, and into school. Then we go to work, do our 8 hours (if we’re lucky it’s only 8) and then go home. Change clothes, put dinner on the table, do laundry, make lunches, clean up, tuck in the kids, check the homework, all that. We get to bed when we get to bed.
Do that over and over again for years and what toll do you think that takes on your body? Add in the emotional roller coaster of puberty and how much more? When you see that you are being hurt internally as well as externally . . . it becomes even more clear.
I started a couple things this last year. I started dating, going out, and doing things that make me emotionally happy. Being with another adult human being is an amazing thing, particularly one you have something in common with. You can’t just spend time all day with your kids. You have to leave, go to dinner, take a vacation, have one day where you aren’t just beholding to someone else for a portion of the day at least.
I also started playing guitar and recording material for a record again, which makes my emotional health even better.
We need to take care of ourselves as parents. We spend all day long changing diapers or fixing cuts or hugging crying kids or saying “he/she has no idea what she’s missing” or taking on the baggage that our kids carry to help them make it to the station of adulthood. What we need to see is that sometimes we need to work off some of that baggage ourselves or we’ll pay the price both internally and externally.
What about you? Do you make time for yourself? Do you see the toll it may take if you don’t?