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Caring for yourself in parenthood

Psychologist Dr Ritz Birah shares her tips to encourage self-compassion in your parenting journey

Author Dr Ritz Birah
Categories   Wellbeing

The Edit

Parents and parents-to-be are often so focused on what they need to give to their little ones, they can bypass tending to their own needs.

I’m Dr Ritz Birah, a Consultant Counselling Psychologist and a mother to two little boys aged 1 and 4. I balance my time between delivering resilience and mental health workshops to companies, seeing clients for psychological therapy, and recording my podcast, The Therapy Floor. 
I am going to share with you some tips to encourage self-compassion as you go through your parenting journey. It is a beautiful transformative journey filled with joy, challenges, and countless moments of growth. I hope these tips will provide you with some help along the way.
1. Acknowledge your efforts
When you become a parent, the responsibilities placed on you can feel demanding. From sleepless nights to attending appointments, it can feel like a constant juggling act. It is crucial to pause and recognise the effort you put into nurturing your little one. Take moments to celebrate the small wins. Every effort you make as a parent matters. You may not always get it right, but the love and dedication you pour into your child's life are worth celebrating. Try and focus on one thing at the end of the day that was a victory for you. For me, it was remembering that even though it was hard at the time, I was able to calm my baby when he fussed. 
2. Embrace imperfection
We need to give more time to conversations around imperfect parenting. Parenting can be so unpredictable that mistakes become inevitable, but they can provide valuable opportunities for learning and growth. I remember I was so cross with myself when I spilt a bottle of pumped breastmilk on the counter. However, it led to a learning experience for me as I discovered that I could add this to my baby’s bath time to help soothe his skin. So rather than dwelling on things we mess up or get wrong, we can view them as stepping stones in the parenting journey.
3. Take breaks without shame
Self-care is a cornerstone of effective parenting. Allocating time for yourself is not only beneficial but necessary. People often don’t take breaks because they feel guilty. But guilt is a normal emotion to feel, it just needs to be tolerated. It is shame that ends up holding you back from giving yourself some time. This could be a brief walk, reading a book, or engaging in a hobby, these moments of respite are essential for recharging your physical and mental wellbeing. A parent who takes time to take care of themselves will be better equipped to face any challenges ahead. You can’t fill up someone else from an empty cup.
4. Seek support 
Parenthood is a shared experience. Building a village is vital for emotional wellbeing. Reach out to friends, family, or parenting groups to share experiences, gain insights, and receive encouragement. You can start doing this even before your baby arrives. The power of a supportive community cannot be overstated. Share your struggles, swap stories, and lend a listening ear. You'll be amazed at how much lighter the load feels when you have a shoulder to lean on.
5. Practise mindfulness
When looking after your child it can feel as though you are on autopilot mode. Practising mindfulness can be a game-changer. Incorporate simple mindfulness techniques, such as deep breathing or meditation, into your daily routine. These practices can help you stay present, reduce stress, and respond to challenges with a calmer mind. I take 10 minutes when I do the morning nappy change to put on a mindfulness audio exercise for me and my little ones. The benefits of mindfulness extend beyond your wellbeing and positively impact the atmosphere you create for your child.
6. Set realistic expectations
"I am only human." Set realistic expectations for yourself and your child. Remember that nobody has it all figured out, and that's perfectly fine. Give yourself permission to make mistakes, learn from them, and keep moving forward. Recognise that adaptability is a strength that fosters resilience and allows for a more positive and fulfilling parenting experience.
7. Learn to say no
Your time and energy are precious commodities. Learn to say no to commitments that drain you or don't align with your values. It's OK to prioritise your wellbeing and your family's needs over external demands. This approach not only prevents burnout, but also allows you to prioritise your mental and emotional health. Focus on what truly matters to you. You can’t do it all and you should not have to either. 
8. Celebrate your growth 
Parenthood is not just a journey for your child's growth, but a continuous path of personal and emotional development for yourself. Take the time to reflect on your progress, the lessons learned, and the positive changes you've experienced as a parent. Celebrating your growth reinforces a sense of self-appreciation and resilience, acknowledging that the journey of parenthood is also a journey of self-discovery. 
Practising self-compassion in parenthood is a powerful tool for navigating challenges with resilience and grace. By acknowledging efforts, embracing imperfections, seeking support, and incorporating mindfulness, you can cultivate a kinder relationship with yourself, creating a nurturing environment for both you and your child. You are probably doing better than you think, and every stumble along the way is just another step in the journey of parenthood. 

Author Dr Ritz Birah

My name is Dr Ritz Birah and I am a Consultant Counselling Psychologist. I balance my time between delivering resilience and mental health workshops to companies, seeing clients for psychological therapy, and raising two little people aged 4 and 1. I am passionate about mental health in parenting and child development.


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