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Parenting should not be an act of self-sacrifice; helping kids grow into healthy, happy individuals requires healthy, happy parents
Parenting should not be a self-sacrificing role. As I’ve written about it before, I strongly believe that helping kids grow into healthy, happy individuals requires healthy and happy parents. But, that’s not to say that I don’t feel my fair share of parenting stress.
Sometimes, it’s from having a to-do list that’s not humanly possible to get through. Other times, it’s the result of the everyday obstacles that arise while raising two boys. And, for the past year, the source of the stress just happened to be the challenges of online school. But while I cannot avoid some stressful circumstances, I know that I can, and should, find effective ways to cope with parenting stress.
Do you find yourself wound up more often than you’d like? Would you like to find better ways of taking good care of yourself? If so, here are a few things you can do to manage the everyday pressures of being a parent.
The Research: Are Moms More Stressed Than Dads?
For the past few years, there’s been a steady increase in parenting stress levels. (Or, it may just be possible that we’re all more mindful of our emotional health and have gotten better at recognizing when we’re feeling overwhelmed).
According to the American Psychological Association, moms are particularly susceptible to experiencing overwhelm. In 2009, 15% rated their stress levels as a 10 out of 10. And, they often reported lying awake at night, stress eating, or skipping meals.
Of course, that isn’t to say that dads aren’t experiencing stress too. It just appears that their experiences didn’t reach the extreme level quite as often.
While it’s impossible to eliminate all stress from our lives, it is possible (and necessary) to manage the effect it has on our overall wellbeing. Fortunately, there are effective ways of giving ourselves some love and softening when we’re ready to snap.
What can you do to cope with parenting stress? Here are a few ideas that have worked for me.
1. Take a Break
Possibly the best way to prevent burnout of any kind is to make rest a regular part of your routine.
With two young boys at home, rest can be difficult for me to make time for. Sometimes, the only quiet moment I get in the day is at 5 A.M. as I’m sipping my pre-run coffee. But that doesn’t mean I’ve just accepted the fact that I’m a busy mom.
I try to schedule rest as often as I can. I have a strict “no work on the weekends” policy. I try to schedule some ‘me time’. Sometimes that means lunch with friends, other times it’s escaping to a quiet cafe to read and relax.The main idea is that I try to get in at least a couple of hours of uninterrupted relaxation time that’s reserved just for me.
2. Make Fun Part of Your Schedule
De-stressing doesn’t necessarily mean relaxing, sometimes getting out and having fun is the best way to unwind.
It can be a visit to the movies, a Saturday morning hike, or a family game night. If I get a precious chance to do something fun just for myself, I like to get together with girlfriends, attend a class, or (when I’m lucky) see a stage production at one of the local theaters.
3. Practice Self-Care
If you’re like most moms, you’re likely to put your kids’ needs before your own. And that’s a big sign of your dedication to your role as a parent. But, it can also be a great source of parenting stress. After all, how can you expect to be relaxed if you’re not taking care of your needs?
Self-care is NECESSARY for dealing with the ups and downs of parenthood.
For me, this means some regular pampering. It might be an at-home spa day, fresh flowers, lunch at my favorite restaurant, or a professional facial to erase the signs of stress from my skin. For others, it may be regular exercise or walks in nature.
Yet, the physical aspects of self-care won’t be enough to address extreme stress. Emotional self-care is just as important. That may mean practicing meditation, finding a creative outlet or seeking outside support. I’ve found carving out time for creative pursuits combined with bi-weekly therapist sessions to be extremely helpful.
4. Ask for Help
Lastly, parents must recognize that raising kids (and staying sane) is not a solo endeavor. We need to understand that asking for help isn’t a sign of our incompetence. It’s a way to give our kids the best without burning ourselves out in the process.
Try to get as much help as you can. It can come in the form of a babysitter from time to time, a much-needed sleepover, or even enrolling your kids in an after-school activity that gives you some extra time for yourself. If that’s not enough… seek professional help — there are both personal and family therapists, family support organizations, and many other resources available to you… but you’ve got to be willing to ask.
Does parenting ever become less stressful? To be honest, I have no idea.
I believe that investing in my own wellbeing allows me to be a better mom. But, it’s not always easy to take that step back, especially when we’re going through tough times as a family.
Still, doing everything I can to minimize my stress levels isn’t for nothing. It helps me keep my head level, it prevents me from becoming so overwhelmed that I’m at the point of breaking and it’s safe to say, everyone in the family benefits from that.
You may also enjoy reading It Takes a Village: A Look at the Parental Community from Africa to Your Home by Judy Marano