[Yet another re-post from my Sidelines writing. The original title was “Handling Parenting and Stress at the Same Time.” Your input, please! Thanks!]
Let’s talk about stress and parenting for a moment. They go hand in hand, don’t they?
In 2011, with seven active and inquisitive children at home ranging from a preschooler to a high schooler, with a flourishing career and spiritual life, plus a busy husband who also worked full-time, not only was I well-acquainted with “Stress,” but so on a first-name basis with it that I wrote and published a book on Amazon, entitled “Real Life Stressbusters for Moms on the Go.” I offered it free as an e-book for the first week and it got downloaded over 400 times in the US, the UK and in Australia. Does anybody wonder why? Parents are stressed. It’s the nature of the game.
There are so many clichés about stress out there, how to handle it, why it can be good for you, how it can kill you. I think the best cliché – one so based in truth that it bears repeating beyond nauseum – is this one:
Take care of yourself, or you will not be able to take care of anyone else, including your children.
It’s that old airplane emergency analogy: Don’t the airline attendants always caution passengers to put on our masks FIRST, and then tend to our children? We’d better listen.
In any case, I have my top five pieces of advice for parents, at least, that I can share here very quickly off the top of my head (my book is on the shelf somewhere – even I need to read it again occasionally, and I WROTE the thing. Stress is never-ending). Nevertheless, I think readers may be even more interested in what other parents out there have to say.
Please share your strategies for handling and/or avoiding stress. Yours may save a parent’s sanity today, and/or improve the bond between some child and his or her mother or father. Always worthwhile.
My Top Five (in no particular order):
1. Make a point to enjoy your children. Especially when they are getting on your last nerve, think of one or two things you like about them and focus on it. Appreciate them while you have them. Time passes quickly.
2. Teach them at an early age to be respectful and to show manners. It will make your days happier and more pleasant, as well as save some public embarrassment. Think about how stressful a grocery store meltdown can be, and you’ll understand why I include this. If you didn’t do a good job at teaching manners and respect when they were still in their twos and threes, don’t give up. Even a teenager can learn. (You may age ten years in a day, but do it anyway. Society will thank you, and so will your cortisol level.)
3. Always schedule in some time for yourself. Make sure you have a “Man Cave” or a “Mama Cave” somewhere (even if it’s just a closet with your favorite things stashed in it and a pillow to sit on). Retreat there for even 15 minutes of de-stress time. Or leave and go grab a coffee or tea for a half an hour while your significant other or a friend you trust watches your children for a bit. Watch a movie just for you when they’ve fallen asleep. Don’t neglect your personal time. You need it every day.
4. Exercise, dance, or somehow move your body. Get those endorphins rolling. It is said that endorphins are your natural “stress-busters.”
5. Seek and accept help whenever it is offered (as long as you trust the person who is offering it). You don’t have to parent alone. Get some books. Take a class. Ask some old people. Get those villagers involved when you’re feeling too alone.
In other words, do what you have to in order to learn to love and trust yourself enough to enjoy this thing called Parenting. It takes a lot of self-forgiveness in order to raise a healthy child. Nobody is perfect. Don’t believe anyone who claims to be.
Oh yeah, I was voted “National Parent of the Year” in 2010 along with my husband of 21 years. So what. We’re still learning, just like you.
What are your tips? We’d all appreciate reading them.