Don’t Fill Your Child’s Cup with ‘Dirty Water’

energy management gratitude parenting self-care
Don't Fill Your Child's Cup with Dirty Water

You know that old saying, “you can’t pour from an empty cup”? Or “fill your own cup first”? We all know the importance of “self-care” and of meeting your own needs before those in your care. It’s a hard concept to wrap your brain around at first – you mean I’m supposed to put myself first?! I thought I was supposed to put my kids’ needs first! 

But, of course, you can’t pour from an empty cup. 

What to do, then, if the water in your cup is dirty? (Eww, right?)  If your energy is staticky, you’re feeling depleted, exhausted, depressed, or just “off”? You’ve got some energy, but it’s tainted. 

Is no water better than dirty water? 

Ohhh, it’s SUCH an excellent question...because it does not have a straightforward answer. 

Here are my thoughts on this: 

  • Of course, you will sometimes have to interact with your kid when you’re feeling cranky or anxious or out of sorts. You have to feed them, help them, put them to bed. You can’t just not parent when you’re feeling off.  
  • That being said, perhaps when you feel like the water in your cup is dirty, it’s time to call in the reinforcements. Even if the reinforcements look like a little extra screen time or other activity that might not be the best use of your child’s time – if it buys you some time to get your own needs met, I say go for it! 
  • There might be things you normally do to fill your own emotional cup (date night with your spouse, going to the gym, grabbing coffee with a friend) that you aren’t able to do right now, BUT you can still clean the dirty water. Here’s how: 
  1. Shake it off! Get your body moving. Put on some music and dance like crazy. (Your kids might love to do this with you. Or just watch you and laugh!) 

  2. Write it out. Another great way to relieve stress and “clean the dirty water” is to write. This could look like journaling, writing a letter to a friend, or just jotting down a list of feelings.  

  3. Gratitude. Write a list of things you are grateful for. Research suggests that daily gratitude practice increases life satisfaction, empathy, and overall well-being. It is also associated with fewer physical complaints, improve sleep, and promote exercise. In other words, expressing gratitude is a really, really good way to clean your dirty water!  

When you are feeling like your energy is off but you don’t have time for a full refill of your emotional cup, try these simple strategies and see if you notice even small improvements. 

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