The last in the 5 Steps to Positive Parenting is one of the easiest steps to overlook: Taking care of yourself as a parent.

Some days, between cluster feedings, an infant who will only sleep in your arms, and toddler potty training and upsets, you’re lucky if you can eat a piece of leftover, cold pizza for lunch or manage a shower.

But, as the saying goes, you can’t pour from an empty glass. It’s important that you look after your own needs too, whether that means asking for help, spending time with friends, or spending some quiet moments alone. It is not selfish to take good care of yourself. On the contrary, it is vital to your health and the health of your family.

Because Science Says So

The research is in! A recent study revealed that moms who have a solid support system in place have toddlers who perform better on cognitive tests, demonstrating that there is a connection between a mom’s support system and a baby’s brain development. So whether it’s friends, family, or peers in a parenting group, having 3 or 4 people in your life who you can turn to for support can positively impact your well-being, as well as your child’s.

But it’s not uncommon for parents to feel alone in their parenting journey and many things can contribute to this: living far from extended family, taking a break from your job to be a stay-at-home parent, moving to a new town, not having friends with young children.

If this sounds like your situation, there is hope for you. Locally, there are lots of options for making new parent friends. A parenting group, such as those offered at Parenting Now!, is a great place to not only meet new parents but also learn about your child’s development. If you’d like more casual drop-in programs, you could try storytime at the library, Baby Pop music time or the nursing nook at Daisy C.H.A.I.N, Playtime for Children and Parents at Parenting Now!, or a toddler playtime at one of our local gymnastic centers. Try out a few activities and find one that both you and your child enjoy. It can be helpful to stay consistent with your activity of choice so you have the opportunity to see familiar faces week after week.

Help is on the way

As a new parent, it is helpful to have more than just social support. Bringing home a new baby can feel scary, especially if you are worried that your newborn isn’t feeding properly or you are experiencing a postpartum mood disorder. Never feel afraid to ask for help. Your doctor or child’s pediatrician is a good place to start, but you can also reach out to local resources that are well-equipped to help with a variety of circumstances:

  • Baby Connection: A free drop-in feeding clinic and lactation support group offered at Parenting Now!
  • WellMama: Support for parents experiencing postpartum mood disorders, such as postpartum depression and anxiety.
  • Daisy C.H.A.I.N: In-home postpartum recovery, as well as lactation consulting.
  • Healthy Families: Support that comes to you. You can access prenatally, and need to enroll before baby turns three months old.

For a full list of resources, visit the Parenting Now! Resources for Families Website.

Other ways to support yourself

Being a parent doesn’t mean putting your own needs aside for the next 18 years. Yes, infants and toddlers require a lot from us—as it should be—but there are little things you can do in your day to help maintain your sense of self, as well as your sanity!

  • Get moving: Whether it’s a brisk walk or indoor dance party on a raining day, exercise is proven to improve your mood and keep you healthy.
  • Get outside: Sure it rains on average 210 days a year in Lane County, but finding those pockets during the day when the rain lets up can be a great time for getting in a walk or spending time at the park. Remember to take in some deep breathes in the fresh air. Even on cloudy days, just getting some natural light releases feel-good, calming chemicals in your body and helps to balance your mood.
  • Carve out time for your hobbies: Love to read, dance, or paint? Don’t give up on what makes you happy. Schedule time every week to cozy up in a bookstore or attend a dance class.
  • Set realistic expectations: This is not the season in your life to “Marie Kondo” your house or become a gourmet chef. Clean when you have time, but don’t stress that your house has to be picture perfect at all times. And know that your family will survive without a 4-course meal for dinner every night. If you can manage grilled cheese and tomato soup, then consider it a win. Especially during high stress times, it is helpful to simplify routines.

You can also learn more about Triple P by going to LaneKids at www.lanekids.org

If you or your child are on Oregon Health Plan (OHP) through Trillium Community Health Plan, you can get Triple P Online for free by filling out the form below or at https://www.lanekids.org/triplep/. A staff person from Parenting Now! will send you an access code within 24 hours and you’ll be able to start using the program right away!

If you are not on OHP, you may purchase the program for $79.99. Please click here to visit the Triple P website.

This article is brought to you by Parenting Now! Parenting Educators and authors Amanda Bedortha, Claire Davis and Lynne Swartz and consultant Jay Thompson (andupdatemywebsite.com).  Parenting Now! is passionate about happy, healthy families. For more information about Parenting Now! please visit their website (https://parentingnow.org/) or contact us at info@parentingnow.org