Attitudes about raising kids have changed since the days when children were to be seen and not heard. They are even different from I was growing up in the ’70’s (which my kids call the Olden Days).
My parents never knew I had homework, never mind helping me with it. These days’ kids expect parents to entertain them and organize play dates. And take them to after school activities several nights a week (per kid!). It’s considered child neglect if kids play at the park without supervision. So, instead kids are making permanent dents in the couch while playing with the video game babysitter. No wonder obesity rates are soaring! And, of course, because of this experts are advising serving only home-cooked, wholesome meals.
We parents need to clone ourselves at least twice to realistically meet the demands of work and family, but so far science is failing us.
Despair not, my fellow weary parents. When your mother-in-law criticizes your messy house, you can soothe the sting by making her look and sound like a laughable cartoon character. Then take a step back and get some clarity, so you can see the proverbial forest from the trees.
Get Clear On Your Values
The question my husband and I ask ourselves is: What do our kids need to learn and experience to grow into happy, healthy, productive adults? Who do we need to be as role models? Would we want them to have the kind of lives we are Healthy Living?
From this point of view, neglecting ourselves so our kids can become child prodigies looks ridiculous. So does being a workaholic, a self-flagellating perfectionist, or an exhausted couch potato.
Once you are clear on your values, get rid of all the stress that has very little or nothing to do with reality.
Dump the Guilt & Say No
Be willing to say no nicely but firmly whenever possible – to your kids, your in-laws, your employer, your client. They may not be happy about it but they’ll get used to it. See yourself as a chooser.
Many parents say yes to their children out of exhaustion or to make up for not spending enough time with them. Remember your child’s future spouse is going to be left with the aftermath of you picking your 10 year old’s underwear off the floor. Buying your child that chocolate bar because they are having a temper tantrum will guarantee that your future is filled with temper tantrums. So nip it in the bud and be a cool cucumber while your child burns up the tantrum, no matter how tired you are.
You are not your child’s waiter. Saying no to your kids builds character and matures them. Eventually it will make your life easier too. In the meantime it is an excellent training ground for you to keep calm and carry on.
Trim the Fat
What can you give up that sucks time, money, energy or quality time from your life? Keeping up with the Jones’s, completing that survey for your chance to win, that extra errand you can live without – you get the idea.
Remind Yourself That Good Enough Really Is Good Enough
Men tend to be better at this than women. They know when they need a break and they simply take it, even with a sink full of dirty dishes. Treat yourself like a real human being. There was a reason for establishing the 40 hour work week.
The whole family can help with household chores. Put on some fun music and get ‘er done together.
Find Your Zone
In sports, athletic performance is best when the athlete is calm yet focused, and has just the right amount of tension for peak performance. I am sure you have had at least a glimmer of this somewhere in your life – in sports, arts, work, or doing a hobby. So find that sweet spot, use your imagination to get into that mood, and make it your reset button.
The main cause of internal stress is wanting things to be different than they actually are. Put the Serenity Prayer on your fridge, your screensaver, your phone:
“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.”
— Reinhold Niebuhr
Become A Good Actor
A key skill as a parent is to sound angry without actually feeling angry. This will help you discipline your kids for their benefit. AND keep your stress at a reasonable level.
As a parent, you are in it for the long haul. Kids need a ton of repetition, often over years, to finally get it.
An old-fashioned pillow fight can do wonders.
Bond with Your Partner
Sex, romance, intimacy, adult fun. It’s the glue that holds it all together. Plus it gets those feel-good hormones going.
Run on the spot as fast as you can for 30 seconds. Punch a pillow. Yell at the top of your lungs in an empty field. These are miracle stress busters.
Stop To Smell the Roses
I once literally did this, and gave the man passing by a good laugh. But the cliché really is spot on. A grandma once told me that her biggest regret is that she spent too much time with the vacuum cleaner and too little time enjoying her kids.