Recharge and Renew Yourself
Parenting is tiring, and is sometimes absolutely exhausting – especially if you are trying hard enough. One of the biggest dangers of overscheduled parents is that the exhaustion can turn into a collapse of everything you have been working so hard to teach, share with, and learn from your children. This balance beam of working hard as a parent and falling asleep and crashing at the wheel is one of my personal demons I have faced as a parent, and have finally found some solutions.
Find the Quiet in Your Days
While I don’t recommend trying this one first, it does highlight the need for parents to experience quiet. I recently asked my husband to just leave me to bask in the winter sunshine of the surprisingly warm cab of his truck parked in our driveway so that I could take a nap, or at least steal a few quiet moments before the barrage of “What’s for dinner? Want to see me yo-yo? Where is my hat?” began. My husband smiled and said sure. I sat for a few moments and then eventually meandered my way to the door, and the barrage. Even those beautiful moments curled on the seat gave me reprieve, but there are some even more practical ways to find quiet in your days.
1. Make a Do Not Disturb sign for the door. If your kids are old enough to monitor themselves for even 15 minutes while you are in a nearby room, clearly explain that when this sign is on the door, this means that Mom needs 15 minutes of quiet. Use it to take an uninterrupted bath, sit on your bed and read a book, or talk on the phone with a friend. Don’t overuse the sign and be sure to give your kids positive attention when you emerge – they will learn that Mom comes out of her personal time-out refreshed and happy.
2. Swap driving time with friends. Sometimes the best quiet time is behind the wheel of the mini-van, driving along and singing to whatever radio station I choose, or just being content with my own thoughts. If you deliver a vanload of children to an activity and then another parent brings them home, you both saved yourself gas money and time, and bought yourself a quiet ride home.
3. Find an errand buddy. This is a great plan, especially because it is valuable from the time your kids are babes until much older (and louder). Set aside a few hours each week where you take turns with each other’s children, perhaps you taking hers on Monday from 2-4 and she takes yours on Thursday from 9-11. You get to grocery shop, go to hair appointments, or just breathe.
4. Install the feet off the floor rule, courtesy of my 92-year-old grandmother. Until her children were graduated she instituted this rule each summer they were home from school, just so she had 30 minutes to an hour of quiet time each afternoon. The rule was that the kids didn’t have to nap, but they had to keep their feet off the floor. Grab a book, a sketch pad, or anything else, and get busy getting quiet. I have used this and it is a great way to get the kids to slow down their own frantic pace as well, I don’t hear the constant thundering in the house, and we all feel recharged afterward.
Become Your Own Best Friend
One of the most important and influential relationships you will ever have is the one you create with yourself. If you feel exhausted, ragged, and worn down, it is really challenging to move from that place to one that has energy for positive parenting, and a negative cycle can easily suck you into frustrated outbursts, arguments, and short-tempers. Begin by giving yourself what you need to be the kind of person you want to be around, and your family will be better able to honor that special person who you are.
5. Define you – and accept your partner’s definition of himself. Think about what makes you tick and what gets your mind excited. My husband and I recently had a great conversation about the differences he and I have about this. He needs more time alone than I do, and has very specific ways he wants to spend this time – hunting (which he does do with the boys), working on his truck, exercising, and watching movies I just don’t get. On the other hand, I thrive on spending time with my kids as they participate in activities, gardening and yard-work, writing, and trying new recipes in the kitchen.
6. Exercise. Sigh. I know it sounds mundane, but hear me out. Exercise is great for your body, can improve your self-image, will give you more energy (in the long-run), and sets a great example for your kids. When I exercise also don’t have to carry on conversations about things like the reasons why we are not using the stairs for an indoor sledding hill – I’m puffing and grunting too much to make conversing worthwhile for anyone. Bonus!
7. Treat yourself in small ways each day. I treat myself with a cup (or 5) of tea, phone calls and emails with friends, and a hot bath on a cold MN night, new favorite book in hand. Some days I even go wild and crazy and leave my kids in the children’s wing of the library and go to the adult section and find what I would love for my own bedtime story. Find small ways that give you what you need each day to help you remain true to yourself, and your children will have a calmer, more loving and capable parent.
My parents once told me about a décor sign that made them chuckle – parenting is like being pecked to death by a chicken. Some days it just feels like that! All parents, whether working full-time outside of the home, stay-at-home mammas, or work-at-home dads, need to recharge. I hope I won’t have to resort to requesting quiet time in the cab of the truck anytime soon, but you never know!
How do you recharge as a parent?