How to Pull it Together When You’re Parenting on Empty

stressed parent

Gretchen Rubin, Author of a book called “The Happiness Project” said that the days are long, but the years are short. I try to focus on the fact that the years are short.  As my six-year-old grandson is having surgery, I sit in the waiting room thinking how can he be six years old? He was just born yesterday.  In fact my twenty-five year old son was born just the day before. J These years are passing so quickly, and I want to enjoy every moment with my family\

But it’s also true that the days can be long. Long and loud and messy. We all have those days — or string of days — when we feel like we’re at the end of a very frayed and quickly unraveling rope.  You spent half of the night awake, cleaning up vomit or holding a baby who decided it was time to party.  Or maybe both.  In your bleary-eyed state, you enjoy a breakfast of Mountain Dew as you simultaneously listen to one child tell a compelling (and very detailed) story about how to defeat super-villains with ordinary household objects, soothe another whose path through the kitchen coincided perfectly with the refrigerator door you just opened, and watch your toddler set off a rapid chain reaction of destruction across the entire counter top that ends with dumping out the pitcher of milk.  The entire pitcher.   Sometimes you feel as empty as that darn pitcher.

 

It’s hard to be your kids’ everything when you feel like you’re running on nothing.  (Well, Mountain Dew and nothing.) Sometimes you might feel like you are the only one having those days.  But I guarantee you aren’t. Knowing there are plenty of other parents exhausted and dealing with the same strenuous days and weeks we all find ourselves in now and then I thought I’d share some thoughts with you.  Keep in mind you don’t have to wait for a crisis to take care of yourself!

 

Reassess Your Habits. Many of us, self-included, live by our calendars. But we forget to schedule fun.  Realizing that alone has salvaged several days for me.  A quick game of Uno with the boys before bed time, or a morning spent at the park can change the entire tone of the day.

 

Let it Go (You started singing to yourself there, didn’t you?)

The yellow ring around the bathroom sink will live to see another day. Remind yourself during those stressful days to pick just ONE task to try to accomplish each day (in addition to keeping everyone alive, of course).  A trip to the grocery store? Congratulations! Laundry done?  Major accomplishment!  Laundry only started?  Good enough! Sometimes the key to lowering stress is to reduce the demands or commitments from the outside, but often the biggest thing is simply lowering the expectations we issue from within ourselves.

 

Loosen Up, But Keep a Rhythm, as you let go a bit, don’t go too far.  Keep a “loose rhythm”.  In high-stress parenting seasons we are tempted to “throw routine out the window, but that always backfires.”  So instead I encourage you to keep an adjusted routine and go easy, particularly when it comes to managing expectations.

 

Feed Your Soul.   You know the analogy.  Airlines remind us to put on our own oxygen masks before attending to others.  We aren’t much help to others if we haven’t helped ourselves.  Though it seems counter-intuitive when stress is high, we benefit greatly from doing something for ourselves first so we can better serve our little ones. Try to create a moment now and then for something that feeds your soul.  Even if it has to take on an abbreviated form.

 

And finally, Let People Help. This advice came from my big brother, who shares the same genetic flaw I have that causes chronic and obstinate independence.  Like my own grandson, I have the tendency to stubbornly declare I will do it all myself.  And, just as I do with my grandson, the people around me stand by, waiting for me to finally realize I need their help.

 

Accept offers to help.  Dare to ask for help.  Hire help if you have to and can afford it. Asking for help isn’t a weakness.  It’s a strong cord that weaves us together with those around us in a sense of belonging and community.  Open yourself up to your village!

 

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