Thursday, August 20, 2015

Moms (Parents) and Stress

The other night, I took a bath in the evening without my kids screaming and banging on the door. My husband is a saint. And I'm not one of those people who call time spent with Dad, babysitting. I believe fathers should play a very active role in their child's growth and development. However, it does take a special hand to keep young kids away from their Mom, when they know she's in the house.

The bath was part of my new attempt at handling my stress. Since I'm currently trying to deal with my sugar addiction (and maybe sometime soon, my smart phone addiction), I was not handling the stress of our second week of homeschool plus a sick 2-year old very well.

Our second week of homeschool had a few more hiccups, mainly due to my youngest child's illness and me not getting to the library. However, I feel like I saved the day a couple times with some fun "couch time" activities such as guess and spell the word (Hangman + I Spy + phonics) and some good old-fashioned sticker bribery. My oldest son also saved my sanity a few times by being an excellent helper, getting things I needed when I was holding the sick boy, touching him gently and using a sweet gently voice to try to calm him down when there wasn't anything I could do. It's amazing that they do actually start growing up.

But when they are still little, it can be really difficult being a full-time parent. Working parents certainly have times that it's difficult too, and they have the stress of balancing and juggling schedules, but they also have the ability to get out of the house more frequently. Since we've been stuck inside, even though I'm not 100% sure it's a virus (no one else is sick), it's been really difficult.

I think the main difficulty for me, during the course of a normal day, is that there are a few times of not doing anything, so I try to do a little de-stressing (or even get something done around the house), but then there's a sudden interruption (kids screaming, getting sick, getting hurt, wanting something else to eat or drink or spilling food or drink). I think it's that constant ebb and flow, and the fact that, as mom's, we feel completely responsible for our children at all times. I've heard people call it hyper-vigilance before, but I don't think that's entirely true. Although, I do usually have my kids in the back of my mind, I think the real problem is what I call 24-7 syndrome.

Most people, when faced with a stress, are able to leave the situation for a few hours everyday (whether that's leaving a stressful job to return to a calm home or at least a calm car ride home or leaving a stressful home to go to a calm job). Certain people don't have that luxury - two prime examples are stay-at-home parents and deployed military personnel. I'm sure everyone is thrilled with that comparison, but I think it's true, at least to a small extent. Yes, stay-at-home parents aren't dealing with the same threats to our own life (depending on the child) but we have that same inability to leave if the situation gets stressful.

I was shopping for school supplies the other day, with my two small kids, and the checkout clerk was seriously concerned for my well-being (or at least my sanity). He asked multiple times if I was doing okay or needed any help (probably because I couldn't answer the first time, because the 2-year old was about to get into the permanent markers near the checkout). I could tell from his expression that he truly cared, but honestly, unless he wanted to babysit my kids for an hour so I could decompress somewhere else, it wasn't going to help.

What's the point of all this, then? If we all know that parents of young kids are stressed, then how can we help relieve this stress?

  1. Free wine for all parents! Actually, I'm totally kidding on this one. While an occasional glass of wine (no more than 1-2 per week for women) can be a great stress relief, there are a lot of people for whom it can become an addiction. Feeding or fueling your addictions is not the answer.
  2. Free babysitting! There should be a requirement that every town or city should have a quality, drop-off childcare location with short-term babysitting offered. I cannot wait until our new YMCA opens up in town. They do have some classes available already, with child-care, but I'm just not comfortable with the current set-up, and most of the local gyms in the area don't have childcare. My point is, whether you are a working parent or not, you need some time to decompress. If you don't already have that time, find it!
  3. Meditation/bubble baths/massage. I used to get a monthly massage, and my family could definitely tell you when I was overdue for one. Lately, I haven't found a great massage therapist that's close to where we live. I did, however, find an amazing machine called a HydroMassage bed. They have them at the local Planet Fitness, so I'm very tempted to join, but there's no childcare (see # 2).
  4. Adjust your schedule. This is probably the most difficult, but if you are truly stressed out all the time, you may need to make some adjustments to your schedule. Change your work hours (especially if you work from home and your kids schedule has changed), change your errands (try not to bring the kids with you, if possible), and make sure that you're taking care of yourself by eating right, exercising, and making time for stress-relieving activities.
  5. Eat right, exercise, sleep. These three are probably the most important, and also the most difficult for me personally. The sleep I would normally do okay with, but my 2-year old has taken to staying up until 10:30 or later every night, so if my husband and I need some "us" time, it has to wait until 11 or 11:30. I normally deal with my stress by eating lots of sugar, but since my doctor said that was an awful idea, I've been trying to change my habits. I made some energy bites to get my chocolate fix in a marginally healthy way, and have been trying to buy more fresh produce and eat more fish. The exercise I would normally do okay with, but with my ankle injury, I'm trying to take it easy for a little while. I have been meaning to try out my new yoga video, but we'll see how that goes.
  6. Know that you don't control your child's future. No matter how much we worry, prepare, plan, and stress over our kids and whether we are harming them or helping them, God's plans will prevail. We will all have a part to play in that future, but we also will all have good and bad in our parenting experience. We are not experts, we are not perfect, we are all just doing the best we can everyday for our kids and ourselves. And it's enough.

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