Life gets busy and these periods of trying to keep all the balls in the air often make us stressed Mamas. When this happens, the stress trickles down to how we speak to our children, how we interact with our spouse and treat ourselves. There is hope, you can manage your everyday responsibilities and still meet the needs of your children without stress pushing you down. First, learn how you can change your approach to everyday trivialities, and begin to say Yes to more fun and No without feeling guilty.
I had a parenting wake-up call recently and realized it’s time I do a life overhaul in order to stop living as a stressed-out parent on the fringe of losing it… Of losing control of my temper and connection with my kids.
I loaded all three kids into the car and was backing out of the driveway getting ready to take them to the gym because I had signed up for an exercise class that started in 15 minutes. I still had to get there, sign in the kids at the child care area and hustle to the class on the second floor.
My oldest daughter abruptly popped out of her seat, saying she had to go to the bathroom and couldn’t hold it. I put the car in park, opened the garage door back up and told her to run into the house and do her business. Fast.
When she ran back to the car, my son promptly unbuckled himself, chimed in he had to go too.
That was it, that was when I lost it.
“I asked you guys to go potty five minutes ago, why didn’t you do it? Now I’m going to be late to my class!”
I opened the other car door for him to climb out but not before I heard my daughter whisper as he moved past her, “don’t worry about it Trenton, sometimes Mommy isn’t very nice when she’s frustrated.”
The drive to the gym was quiet as I fought back tears. She was right, I did get frustrated and it wasn’t because I had reminded them several times to go to the bathroom before we left the house. I was frustrated because they hadn’t listened and that made me mad, and here I was pulling up late to my class and would probably be stuck in the back corner of the gym with the wrong size equipment.
I had to remind myself my kids are only six and rushing to get out the door makes everyone forgetful of something. Maybe it’s the keys, phone, purse, or even the grocery shopping list when you’re heading to the store to go, errrr, grocery shopping.
Heck, I usually walk out of the house without the one thing I really need 90% of the time and have to run back inside to grab them.
The problem wasn’t them, it was my own issues which made me frustrated yet I had just taken it out on my kids, which I’m sad to admit, wasn’t the first time as of late.
I felt awful my stress had spilled over to my children. I usually keep it from affecting how I parent, but this year there have been a lot of things I can’t control like illness, last-minute work projects, a teething baby, night terrors and my husband’s travel schedule was over-the-top crazy.
These stressors have nothing to do with my children, yet, their little hearts bear the burden more often than I care to admit.
Kids are be aware of grown-up stress but should never be directly in the line of fire of it. I knew something needed to change and it wasn’t my kid’s bathroom habits. It was me. I didn’t want to be a stressed parent anymore.
These are my tips to help me keep my cool, and juggle the chaos and responsibilities of motherhood.
1) LET GO OF BEING IN CONTROL
You cannot control every aspect of your life or your children’s – no matter how hard you try.
This is the hardest truth to swallow. Sometimes you need to take a deep breath, and let it go. Remember to pause, consider the age of your children and what size expectations you place on them.
When my two year old wanted to wear a swimsuit over her clothes for the day, instead of thinking of the accidents she might have trying to get undressed to go to the bathroom on time, I had to look at it from her perspective. She loves her swimsuit, she feels good in it and man, she was rocking that outfit.. so I let it go.
When my son wanted to wear sweatpants to the school play, the size of the battle I knew I’d have making him march but upstairs to change just wasn’t worth it. When I ignored his mismatched outfit and let him wear brown sweatpants with orange stripes and a nicely pressed button-down shirt, I thought of the goofy pictures we’d have to look back on.
Being in control all the time is exhausting and can take a toll on your emotional, mental and physical health, as well as your children. When something doesn’t go as planned, this can easily ruin your mood and afternoon unless you learn to… let it go.
Kids are great at shaking things up and going against the plan, the sooner I learned to roll with it and be flexible, the better I felt and less stressed I became.
2) PICK YOUR BATTLES
My son will argue with me for the mere principle of needing to be right until he’s blue in the face. Even if it means arguing to wear shorts in a snowstorm because he’s “not cold.” (Thankfully teachers can usually persuade him to change at school.)
Not every battle will be worth it, so choose wisely. What are your non-negotiables and what are you willing to compromise on?
Sometimes we must pick battles with our spouses, children, colleagues and family but we can’t always tow the hard line and be inflexible if we want to live with less stress.
For example, if your mother is watching your kids, what are your non-negotiables? Non-negotiables may be not eating candy, sugar-packed food or making sure they nap and go to bed on their regular schedule. If these non-negotiables are agreed on, what are you be willing to be flexible with?
Another example is if your child doesn’t want to eat the dinner you prepared, would you be willing to accept a few bites instead of a clean plate as long as they still got something in their stomach? Something is always better than nothing, right?
This goes hand-in hand with being in control. When you try to be in control all the time, which is so taxing on your emotional and mental health, if something veers off course you’re more likely to become irritable and stressed.
On the flip side, if you’re more flexible and maybe letting your kids go to sleep a little later than normal versus getting upset they’re off schedule, you’ll limit the stress you feel and stop it from trickling down to your children.
3) PREPARE AHEAD OF TIME
I get the most stressed when things happen last minute and I’m rushing around like a frazzled crazy person trying to gather everything I need and still get out the door on time.
Packing lunches at night, cleaning your house the day before guests arrive so you’re not scrubbing toilets down to the wire or setting out everyone’s clothes the night before so they get dressed and out the door on time are all easy ways to prepare so you’re not rushing around last minute.
- Pack lunches the night before
- Set out clothes the night before so getting dressed in the morning is quick & painless
- Shower the night before
- Pack up backpacks, papers and school supplies the night before
- Keep your home organized and items always in the same spot to easily find everything when you need it
- Keep a bag or bin in your car with extra supplies you might need (change out seasonally)
- Pack and set out all your supplies for the next day, the night before
I like keeping a to do list and paper planner to stay organized. I have a daily to do list, a calendar of our family’s activities so we never overschedule or overlap, and weekly meal plans to keep grocery shopping and dinner as organized (and painless) as possible.
When you know something is coming up, you can prepare and be ready ahead of time. This is the easiest way to keep stress away.
Sure, sometimes things pop up and plans don’t always go as planned but if you’re organized when things come up, you can handle them without feeling burdened by one more thing.
4) STOP BEING A PEOPLE PLEASER & SAY NO
Learn the power of saying no and setting healthy boundaries – for your work, for your personal life, and for your family.
Boundaries are necessary to increasing your own happiness and living as a less stressed parent. Boundaries are important for those things that make you uncomfortable, you feel obligated to do like another volunteer committee or commitment you feel more obligated than compelled to. Obligations can turn into burdens and cause the stress monster to come out.
Cancel some plans and spend your time doing something fun and you really want to do, not things you always feel obligated to do.
Stop feeling guilty about saying No to obligations and time stealers which take you away from the things you really want to be doing whether that’s spending time with your family or taking care of yourself. Saying no is saying yes to healthy boundaries.
One easy mantra to remember is:
Unless it’s a Hell Yes, it’s a Hell No!
5) GET ENOUGH SLEEP
I like staying up late after my kids have gone to bed because I really savor the time I have by myself. However, sometimes this means I only get six hours of sleep before the kids are running and jumping in my bed the next morning. The less sleep I get, the more irritable I am and more likely I am to get stressed and overreact to little inconsequential things.
When I’m feeling like a stressed out Mom, I make a serious effort to go to sleep earlier for a few nights and turn off my electronics an hour before bed so I can get a good night’s rest.
6) ASK FOR HELP
When you’re feeling overwhelmed, or juggling a full plate, ask for help from your village. My husband lets me take the lead on caring for our children because I stay at home with them, but when I’m feeling overwhelmed or need a break, he gladly steps in and takes the kids outside or out of the house to do something fun for an hour or two.
Ask your spouse, your family, friends or neighbors for help when you’re feeling overwhelmed. If you don’t have a village, look for a babysitting swap, hire a babysitter for a few hours or a place to drop off the kids for a couple hours here and there to get things back in order.
Pay attention to what you’re feeling and watch your internal gauge for signs of overwhelm. Don’t wait until you’re burnt out, be proactive in asking for help and making sure you take care of your own needs before the stress reaches your children.
7) TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF
We spend so much of our time taking care of our children that oftentimes we forget to take care of ourselves and can feel lost in creating and maintaining own identity outside of being a Mom.
When you go for long periods without taking care of yourself – your physical, emotion well-being – this can lead down a path to Mom Burnout which can be difficult to dig yourself out of.
Find things which make you feel happy and give you a sense of accomplishment. Think back to what you enjoyed doing before you had kids or hobbies you can indulge in. Even simpler, what makes you feel refreshed and happy? Is it reading a book, going on a run or having drinks with girlfriends?
Taking care of yourself is essential to giving your children a Mom who is whole and fully engaged in taking care of her family.
8) LET GO OF NEGATIVE TALK & COMPLAINING
The way you speak to yourself impedes your thoughts, it manifests in your body and negative self-talk is harmful to your happiness. This can be feeling badly about our parenting, as a mother, a friend, wife, or body-shaming and negative talk and focusing on our faults.
Ask yourself this: Do you speak to yourself like you speak to someone you love?
Positive, “feel-good” hormones are released every time we speak in a positive way and think positive thoughts. These neurotransmitters literally help to make our body feel good but are immediately stopped by negative talk and thoughts.
What would happen instead of criticizing and putting yourself down, you started improving your thoughts and words. Encourage and support, be a cheerleader and positive influence and see what happens. Practice positive thinking to stop negative thinking and see how you can transform how you feel.
The law of attraction states, “like attracts like.” When you’re stressed, if you complain and are miserable, you will attract more negativity and misery to you. When you turn a situation upside down and look for the positive, not only do your kids pick up on doing this, but at alleviates some of the stress whether it’s at work or home.