My Parents Did Self-Care the Right Way, and Now, I'm Trying to Model That For My Kids

Photographer: Evan Kheraj Restrictions: Editorial and internal use only. No advertising or print allowed.
POPSUGAR Photography | Evan Kheraj
POPSUGAR Photography | Evan Kheraj

The other night, my husband and I nuzzled into our couch after tucking our two kids in for bed. I opened my book and he found a football game to watch on the TV. It dawned on me. We rarely sit down until the kids go to bed. "You know," I said nudging my husband, "I remember my parents sitting a hell of a lot more than we do — and they had four kids." He looked at me, shrugged his shoulders, and said, "Mine too, but what are we to do about it?"

It's true. My parents' generation, they did this whole self-care thing much better than we do. I mean, they didn't even need the phrase "self-care." They just did it. I have distinct memories of both of my parents relaxing in the evenings. My dad would come home from work, flop in his favorite chair, and whip the daily paper open. My mother would scoot into her favorite corner of the couch, flick the news on, chat on the phone, and discuss our days with us, too. Relaxing to them was as effortless as breathing. It was simply part of the family routine. And us kids, we didn't mess with it.

Come to think of it, my parents didn't care about perfection either. Stacks of magazines were strewn on the coffee table, laundry piles were left folded on the counter, and weeds grew between the landscaping rocks outside. But they weren't bothered. They didn't need to have the perfect lawn or home — everything felt perfectly comforting already because we were a family. That's all that mattered.

After dinner, my parents would either help us with our homework if we needed it, read a book, play a board game, or we'd all watch TV as a family. (Remember TGIF?) Today, it seems that if a parent does all that sitting, they'd be considered lazy. You look out the window and there's always the mythical Joneses mowing their already-immaculate lawn, pulling weeds, or teaching little Johnny to throw the perfect curveball. But frankly, I'm over keeping up with them.

I long for the way this whole self-care thing worked when I was a kid. No one needed to schedule a time to achieve it. So since this realization, I've committed to simply lounging more — not because I'm lazy, but because I think it's vital that my children see me doing just that. If all my children see is my husband and me hustling around the house nonstop, they won't learn how to relax, or understand how important it is to take a moment to recharge. I think giving my children the gift of relaxation is necessary. Without it, anyone's battery will quickly drain to E.

So, to accomplish my new dedication to self-care like my parents used to, I've put books on coffee tables all over the house. I'm not much of a TV viewer, so the books and journals simply remind me to slow down and relax. And I've done the same for my kids. Books, puzzles, coloring books, and board games are on shelves, in toy bins, tucked into cupboards, and more — always in sight so they're reminded to take a minute and recharge. I want them to see me do something that is calming to me and then figure out what works for them. But one thing I know is that being on the go every minute of every day until the final crash-landing is no sustainable way to live.

I'm thankful for the memories I have of my parents simply relaxing after a long day. They've reminded me that it's more than OK for parents to take a breather, and that it's essential to teach our children how to do the same, too. Because my husband and I want our kids to grow up to be healthy adults who not only practice self-care, but embrace all that it means for their well-being, too.