Are you a selfish parent? The difference between self-care and self-centeredness

Most of my life, I have had a difficult time handling situations that are out of my control. I have always tended to be preoccupied with my thoughts, and felt anxious all day long as a result. To feel better, I would usually do tons of research and obsess over every nuance of the situation I wanted to change. For example, when I was trying to get pregnant, I was obsessively on the website Fertility Friend, worrying and waiting to get pregnant. When it didn’t happen right away, I was devastated and it was all I could think about until I got pregnant 6 months later with my daughter.

Then, my dad died when my daughter was 18 months old. I was unable to process the grief, so afraid to feel it, I squashed it under, and eventually my emotional pain became physical pain. This physical pain became my undoing and I was so obsessed over curing myself, that I made it worse and couldn’t function because it was all I could think about, and as you can imagine, I wasn’t a very present mother to my daughter during that time.

Years have gone by, and after healing my body by changing my thought patterns and learning to process emotion, I have experienced what some call “post traumatic growth”. What this means is that I used my traumatic experience as the caveat for significant and profound personal growth. My husband actually said to me recently (on the cusp of his 40th, nostalgically looking back on our relationship), “you know, you have really changed a lot since I’ve known you and have become a different, better person.” And I take this as a huge compliment. I want to show up as the best version of me and that comes from looking at and questioning my thoughts.

I tell you these stories to illustrate a concept I have recently been thinking about. I’ve noticed that many of my clients struggle to maintain their identities when they become parents, make time for “self care” and do their best not to get lost in the shuffle, and when they start doing these things, they feel selfish. However, I believe this type of selfishness makes us better parents, and I encourage all of my clients to do so.

But where selfishness actually comes into play is when we do what I did as a new parent – get lost in our obsessions and negative thoughts about ourselves and our lives, to the point where we are no longer present with our children and our families. Giving in to negative self talk, focusing on trying to change our circumstances instead accepting them, resisting our emotions when things get hard, and not being self aware is where the real selfishness becomes evident.

Our families need us to get out of our heads and into the present moment and connect.

If we continue to fall for the thought loops that happen in worry and anxiety, we are really acting selfishly. When we can do the thought work that life coaching teaches, we free ourselves to use our thoughts to help us be present for our families, instead of preventing us from showing up as the parent and spouse that we want to be.

Being aware of how our thoughts (especially obsessive ones, called thought loops) keep us preoccupied and distant, and how they are affecting all the results we are getting in our lives is the work we do in life coaching. When I teach my clients to take the time to question their thoughts and notice why they react to their children and spouses the way they do, they can then make a conscious decision about who they want to be and how they want to show up and everything improves in their lives.

The work we do in life coaching not only will change your life, but also those around you because you will be able to show up as your best self for them, and can even become an example for your children on how to be emotionally mature.

So, ask yourself, are you being a selfish parent in this way?

Parenting our kids the way we want to only happens when we first can stop those thought loops of worry and obsession, and instead focus on loving others and being present.

BONUS: Get my free guide to learning what questions you can ask yourself to stay calm in the moment and be more present with your kids!

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You’ve got this!