This Valentine’s Day Practice Self-Care

It’s been nearly one year since the pandemic completely changed the ways in which families live, learn and play. Working mothers in particular have been recognized as champions for their children as they serve as nurturers, distance-learning facilitators and playmates while juggling unemployment, underemployment and working from home with childcare. Make no mistake, mothers are heroes. But, what about fathers? The pandemic is taking a mental and physical toll on ALL parents. Dads – we see you too.

Last month, we offered Five Things Dads Should Do in 2021 to be the best parents they can be for their children. On Valentine’s Day, we share our love for fathers, recognizing their work and sacrifices during this time and encouraging dads to do something historically men aren’t known for: practice self-care. It all starts with one of the hardest things for a father to do: ask for help.

Secure your own mask.

There is a reason that flight attendants instruct travelers to secure their own oxygen mask before helping others in the event of an emergency. You cannot help anyone else before you help yourself, especially minors. This logic should be applied to all aspects of life in the sense that parents need to ensure their basic needs, such as food, housing and healthcare, are met before they can provide the same solutions for their children. In fact, studies show parental poverty-fueled stress and subsequent alienation can deeply impact healthy child development.

As the coronavirus is increasing the barriers for Americans to access the basics, many working individuals and families are relying on public assistance, such as SNAP, WIC and P-EBT benefits, for the first time. We want fathers to understand there is no shame or blame in asking for help. If you are struggling to make ends meet, there are resources available to you. Contact your local community center to be connected to food, healthcare, technology and more.

Get your mind right.

Pre-pandemic, we saw famous fathers, including Prince Harry and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, share their own experiences grappling with grief and depression. Whether it was trauma from childhood or their current circumstances that took them to a lonely place, one by one male celebrities began to recognize where they need support, seek help and talk about the process in order to help normalize mental healthcare.

As stay-at-home orders, distance learning and remote working have some families learning to co-exist under one roof 24/7, in a divorced or separated situation, fathers can feel both overwhelmed having to care for their kids full-time as single parents and lonely when their children are quarantining with their mothers for extended periods of time. It’s important that fathers know they are not alone in their feelings. There are telehealth professionals you can speak with over the phone and video chat. There are also virtual parenting support platforms. Healthline defines online group therapy and where to find it.

Do things you love.

Lastly, it’s okay to give the reigns to someone else for a bit to make time to do something you love. It’s okay to enlist a friend, family member or paid professional to watch your kids so that you can have a few hours to yourself. Research shows doing what you enjoy, whether it be hobbies or a job, has benefits that go beyond entertainment value and a paycheck. The novel act also has health advantages and could extend your life.

As we practice social distancing, we know the villages we tend to rely on as parents are a bit smaller. However, if you do not have someone in your immediate circle who is available to help, you do have options. ChildCare.gov offers state-by-state resources and COVID-19 guidelines to ensure children are safe and cared for during the pandemic. Websites like Care.com also screen individuals as professional caregivers for hire. And, with many older students learning from home, you may have access to additional support right in your own backyard.

Happy Valentine’s Day! Dads, we appreciate you. Take care of yourselves. Ask for help!