5 Keys to Taking Care of Your Family Without Neglecting Yourself

Taking care of your family doesn't have to mean forgetting about yourself. Balancing responsibilities is beneficial for everyone.
5 Keys to Taking Care of Your Family Without Neglecting Yourself
Maria Fátima Seppi Vinuales

Written and verified by the psychologist Maria Fátima Seppi Vinuales.

Last update: 24 August, 2023

Balancing taking care of your family and caring for yourself can be a constant challenge in daily life. Often, we immerse ourselves in the needs and responsibilities of our loved ones, forgetting to dedicate time and energy to ourselves.

That’s why comments like “I need my old life back” or “Having a family was something I wanted, and now I can’t enjoy it” abound among women. What solution can we offer them? How can we help them? First of all, a real alternative contemplates action on many fronts.

From public policies that put family care on the agenda and make life more compatible with employment, to co-responsibility practices among family members that allow time for self-care. Keep reading, as in this article, you’ll find some tips for taking care of your family without neglecting yourself along the way.

You shouldn’t have to choose between taking care of yourself and taking care of your family

Self-care and family responsibilities don’t have to be mutually exclusive. Although caregiving is usually associated with motherhood, we shouldn’t forget about those people who also care for older adults and people with disabilities, among others.

In general, when caregiving is unequal, it’s usually accompanied by caregiver stress syndrome, which involves symptoms such as:

  • Anxiety
  • Physical and mental exhaustion
  • Anguish
  • Irritability
  • Loss of enjoyment
  • Depersonalization
  • Loss of sense of self

In this regard, the experience of caregiving isn’t linear nor does it have to go in one direction. It’s an experience, therefore, it’s singular and very personal. And while it’s good to hear other people’s stories, it’s not good to compare yourself to them.

Just as it’s not good to try to rigorously conform to an “ideal of motherhood” or be the “perfect daughter,” as the case may be. Caring for others can be a rewarding and satisfying experience, it can make you feel useful, and it may be a way of thanking and being there for someone else. But there are ups and downs with emotions as varied as they are intense.

Recommendations for taking care of your family and not neglecting yourself in the process

When it comes to caring for your family without neglecting yourself, it’s essential to recognize that your own well-being is just as important. Often, we get lost in daily demands and responsibilities, leaving little time and energy to tend to our own needs.

Below, we’ll explore valuable tips and practices that will help you prioritize yourself, cultivate effective self-care, and strengthen your ability to care for others in a healthy and balanced way.

1. Encourage co-responsibility

It’s good for everyone in the family to be involved and have an assigned task. This allows you to maintain order and organization, without overloading anyone in particular. Of course, it must be taken into account that not everyone will be able to collaborate in the same way.

For example, the age factor has an influence. Yes, you can ask your child to tidy up their toys, but maybe not to do the laundry.

In addition, it’s important to work on gender stereotypes, as there’s no task that women are “naturally” good at. Women aren’t born knowing how to iron, for example, but learn it. Therefore, other people in the household can also learn it.

2. Work on your own beliefs, prejudices, and limitations

Many times, personal experiences teach you. For example, if you grew up in an environment where your grandmother and mother did all the housework, you may have internalized that model. Therefore, you’ll surely try to imitate it and fulfill those “motherhood expectations.”

However, more than repeating other people’s models, it’s worth asking yourself what you want for your life and what your interests are. You have to allow yourself to accept who you want to be, and that doesn’t make you less of a woman or less of a mother. On the contrary, it makes you more genuine and respectful of yourself.

At the same time, it’s also convenient that you identify what those limiting beliefs are that tie you down or that lead you to justify your behavior. For example, “If I don’t do it, nobody does it”, “Only I know how to prepare breakfast”, or “My child won’t go to sleep unless I read them a story“…

You may have created a labyrinth, one with no apparent way out, where only you have the master key to solve everything. “Women = mothers = caregivers” is an equation that doesn’t come naturally, but is constructed.

Also, it’s important that you can learn to ask for and accept help and understand that there are multiple paths and ways to solve to get to the same result.

3. Practice self-compassion

Sometimes, it’s very easy to compare yourself to other women and mothers and feel guilty for “not measuring up.” That’s why, even when you feel tired, you don’t respect yourself and keep going, as if nothing’s wrong.

It’s important that you learn to validate your own emotions and understand that every circumstance is different. Also, accept that sometimes you do what you can with the resources you have. Learn not to be so hard on yourself.

4. Set boundaries

In order to respect your own space and time, it’s important to set certain limits. For example, you can start by “blocking out” a schedule for your activities. That’s to say, on Tuesdays at 12 o’clock, you’ll set aside time to go to the gym and not miss or postpone your plan. This way, your family will also be able to organize itself around your activity, without thinking that you’re available all the time.

Sometimes, you can be flexible if necessary or if the occasion warrants it. For example, missing class because your child is feeling sick and you have to take them out of school. However, the goal is for you to learn not to give in to your activities.

5. Manage your own projects and spaces

It’s true that motherhood can be a transformative experience. However, beyond being a mother or caregiver, you also occupy other roles: Now that you’re a mother, you’re still you, you’re still a friend, a partner, a professional, etc. Your identity, interests, and time are also important and necessary. Even restorative.

In the beginning, it can be difficult to try to coordinate your activities, your time, and your children’s time. You may even feel overwhelmed trying to do so. However, little by little, it’s important that you learn to set aside time and space where you can continue to indulge in what interests you and helps you feel good.

Sports, reading, yoga classes? All are valid. Without a doubt, finding yourself again will be positive for your emotional state and will even allow you to connect better with those around you and take care of your family in a better way.

You may be interested in: Co-Responsibility in Parenting

Self-care: The key to taking care of your family

Finally, it’s also important to warn you against falling into the trap of self-care as a mandate or as just another chore. Sometimes, society tells mothers that they should be well, take care of themselves, and take time to rest and connect with themselves.

However, the labor market pressures them to work twice as hard and tend to multiple tasks. The State doesn’t offer public policies or laws that allow them to think of caregiving as what it really is, a job. Nor does society provide or encourage care and support networks.

When we see motherhood as an experience that’s both individual and shared, we can make it more friendly and compatible with the times we live in.

By recognizing that each person has their own way of being a mother and that there are different ways of approaching it, we can adapt it to our needs and desires. This allows us to pursue motherhood in a more positive and achievable way in today’s world.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

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This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.