By: Katy Martin, LPC
“You know, pull ups and training potties should come with a Xanax prescription.”
This is what I texted a friend a few weeks ago while I was in the throws of potty training my almost 3 year old.
(Side note: that statement in no way is trying to make light of medication. It can be a powerful tool when prescribed and taken appropriately.)
Raising children is hard work whether you stay home full time, work part time, or work full time. No matter where you are, those kids are yours ALL THE TIME. Sure, it sometimes sounds easy and fun (can I get an Amen for nap time!) but these small people are reliant on you all the time. And there are a lot of really wonderful moments and seasons, but it’s a 24/7 job that can also be overwhelming.
How do you react during those moments of incessant whining, crying, fighting, or boredom? Maybe it’s your sweet new baby with acid reflux. Those moments of feeling utterly useless to make your baby or child feel better. Or the seasons when it just seems impossible to get a moment to yourself. Or the questions, the millions of questions, from your toddler.
Self-care and coping are so important in these situations. You can only give what you have, right? If you’re spent, overwhelmed, at the end of your rope, you just don’t have anything else to give. Sometimes we can muster up something to get by, but why should we settle for just getting by?
Here is a self-care list I came up with to start you and I out. Maybe you could add to it. Maybe you could tailor it to your personality or to your phase of life. Consider what this would look like in your life.
*Connect with other people your age. Regularly. Play groups, church, work, time out with friends, etc
*Reach out via text, email, phone when you need it. This is where social media is on our side. Vent to a friend instead of taking it out on your spouse or kid. Talk to you someone so you’re reminded you’re not alone.
*Take a break. Turn the TV on for your kids for a bit without feeling guilty. Put yourself in time out for a few minutes to breathe, calm down, have one complete thought. Take a shower. Go outside.
*Practice mindfulness: take deep breaths, count to 10, direct your thoughts to the present moment and not the craziness.
*Eat healthy, get your body moving, and get enough sleep.
*What do you enjoy? What energizes you? Find a way to do those things even if it looks different than before you had kids. You are still YOU.
*Don’t compare yourself to other parents. Just don’t do it. We are all different and unique. Learn from each other but own your own decision and beliefs.
*Date your spouse. Your kids need this from you.
*If you mess up, lose it, or have a bad day, just start again. Apologize to your kids if you need. Don’t beat yourself up.
*If you start to feel completely out of control or that you just can’t manage, seek out a mentor, a therapist, a friend, or pastor. Don’t be afraid to ask for help or investigate your feelings. Maybe more is going on.
You’re not alone, parents. In the moment I sent that text to a friend of mine, I felt better because I invited someone into my chaos which made me feel less alone, less crazy, and I was able to laugh at the tower of antibacterial wipes on my counter and the growing pile of laundry. I’m definitely not prefect at this but we all have to start somewhere.
What are you going to start today?