So Much for Self-care

There will be days where you don’t feel like a good parent. There will be days where you don’t even feel like being a parent. Generally, these are the same days. I’m having one of these days today. As I type this, I’m sitting in our mini-van in the pouring rain out in Sooke, a region of the Island I had exactly zero experience with before having kids, before the pandemic, I was here every week, killing time for an hour while my daughter was in a weekly practice.

I am by no means a procrastinator; I’m actually just the opposite. But when you have three kids you sometimes end up putting things off until you just can’t anymore. Hence, this column, and me writing it today, in my van in the pouring rain and in the midst of a wind warning making my life feel like an amusement park ride. And, like other days that have happened, like days we all have, I don’t feel like a good parent today.

This happens. I have three kids, so between us all, someone is going to wake up on the wrong side of the bed some days. That can be contagious, as you know. So I think it wasn’t even 6 a.m. yet and I had determined I was in a garbage mood. Apparently it wasn’t just me. I’m trying but it’s 3 p.m. and I’m just looking forward to the day being over.

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The thing is, we need to acknowledge this and we need to realize it happens to us all. There’s lots of talk of “self-care” these days, but the reality of being a dad of three is that you go through whole stretches—entire eras—where you just don’t have time to administer said self-care. Sometimes it’s just not a reality.

I suppose me sitting in this cold van right now typing this is almost self-care because there’s not a kid in sight and although I’m working right now I’m also happy to be crossing this off my to-do list so it’s sort of “me time.” Oh, who am I kidding? We’re in the heat of things; there might not be sufficient me time for the next 10 years. This is what we signed up for, but it’s absolutely not easy some days.

It’s funny to think back to being a kid and to realize that everyone’s parents felt this way sometimes. Sure, we all watched our parents have good moods and bad moods but you didn’t think about it much further than that. You didn’t think they had days where they just wanted to be alone for a few hours, where the sound of one more crying child could just ramp up their stress to levels previously thought unknown. You thought they were just, you know, your parents.

Which most people reading this are: we are someone’s parents. Unfortunately, some days you just can’t take a break from that. You need to bite the bullet and keep on parenting, keep on ignoring the world’s insistence you take some me time and engage in some goddamn self-care, because there’s just no room in the busy day for self-care sometimes.

And you know what? There will be time for lots of self-care later. From what I understand, once the kids have grown up and moved out of the house, there’s nothing but time for self-care. To be honest, even in my darkest hours, that sounds kinda grim. I’d rather be stressed out because I have kids all over the damn place than have hours of silence every day. Because after knowing the wonderful chaos of kids, that silence must be paralyzing.

So, even on the days like today, I try to bear that in mind as I plow through everything and eagerly await my end-of-day beer so I can finally get my 30 minutes of, sure, self-care and try to tackle things a bit better tomorrow.

Greg Pratt
Greg Pratt
Greg Pratt is the father of two children and a local journalist and editor. His writing has appeared in, among other places, Today’s Parent, Wired, Revolver, and Douglas.