Despite all its wonder, weirdness and blessings, parenting is one of the most stressful things I’ve ever done. For someone who up until this point in life has struggled to keep a plant alive, the responsibility of nurturing a real live human can feel huge sometimes. And the job of parenting these days is further complicated by the amount of literature about different parenting methods, food dos and don’ts, how we are failing our kids if we don’t sign them up to every structured, play-based learning opportunity, the list continues. Sometimes amongst all that noise it’s hard to hear the steady beat of your own parenting drum.
And that, I think, is the key to stressing less about parenting. Forget what Aunt Mildred, your mother, whatever parenting expert everyone says you should read says – what is your heart telling you about raising your children?
I found it hard to block out the noise – and for the first couple of years of parenting just felt the uncomfortable bind of trying to do it all, without giving much thought about what was most important to me and my family. My activities consisted of a steady stream of ‘shoulds’ from the potentially perfect parenting handbook and as much as my hard work paid off in raising healthy and seemingly well-adjusted kids, I was on an endless treadmill of things that I should be doing. It was exhausting and more than a little debilitating. So, I stopped doing all of the things and slowed down. I stopped planning activities for every day I was at home and just made space to be with my children, I listened to the times I felt at ease and my kids felt at ease and decided to do more of that and less of the things that left us feeling strung out. All those little moments of peace led to more little moments of peace and so on until I felt more at ease in general with the parenting decisions I made.
So, if you’re feeling a bit stuck on the treadmill of perfect parenthood – switch it off! And start slowing walking towards the parent you’re meant to be.
1. Listen to your heart: What’s right for one parent, may not be right for the next. When making a parenting decision, stop and listen to what matters to you. Try and block out the noise of family, friends and popular opinion and ask yourself what truly matters to you and your family. The answer is always there.
2. Don’t feel the need to overschedule: At what times do you feel most at peace (yes, you’re allowed to say when the kids are asleep!!) What kind of activities do you enjoy doing with your kids. What activities do they enjoy most? You might find that there is a similarity between the two. There’s such a push towards organised activities that I always felt I was failing my kids by not enrolling them in this and that, so when we were at home I’d feel a bit of guilt creep in. However, what I found was that both my kids and I thrive with having at least one day to ourselves pottering around the house or neighbourhood.
3. Leave time to amble: I find that rushing really stresses me out, so by following the tip above I have a bit more space in my day to take my time and enjoy getting from point A to point B without shouting ‘hurry up’ ‘c’mon’ and ‘mum has to get to work’. It doesn’t always work, but I find if I’m able to leave more time, I feel a lot less stressed.
4. Stop judging yourself: If you’re anything like me, you are your harshest critic. So, you had a bad day and yelled at the kids a lot and served them up maccas for dinner because you were so exhausted? Don’t sweat it, tomorrow’s a new day! Let your focus be on the greater good and allow yourself moments of human failings. Nobody is perfect.
5. Don’t listen to the ‘shoulds’: The ‘shoulds’ will take over your parenting life if you let them and before you know it, you’re spending all your time on all the things you don’t enjoy but feel like you should do, while the enjoyable moments slip past unnoticed. Notice what follows a ‘should’ – is it something you even need to be doing? Can it wait, until you play with your kids, walk around your neighbourhood or go have a well-needed nap. Start prioritising your ‘I’d love tos’!
I’d love to hear what you think of these simple steps towards stress less parenting – have they worked for you? What are your top tips?