I know what you're thinking. "Oh no, another article telling me I need to be a better parent. I'm just dying to see what else I'm failing at." Well, you can rest easy and keep reading. There will be no guilting, no shaming, no list of 1000 activities you must do or foods you must never let your kids touch, and no over analysis of all child-rearing techniques here.
The fact that you are reading this shows that you care and are trying, which is probably the best thing you can do as a parent. Chances are you’re already spread thin by doing SO MUCH for your family.
These tips might actually make your job easier and don’t take a ton of effort. Furthermore, you can be assured that science confirms you are doing the right thing.
As a parent, you are always taking care of other people. The whirlwind of worry, cooking, feeding, diaper changing, snotty nose wiping, cleaning, scheduling, shopping, working, and sleepless nights leaves you feeling frazzled and drained. The cycle of constantly tending to others’ needs leaves no time for your own.
But you can’t pour from an empty cup. Quit being such a martyr, you’re not impressing anyone and are in fact setting an example that you probably don’t want your kids to adopt as adults. Running yourself ragged all the time contributes to increased stress, sick time, and health problems and hinders your ability to function overall.
In reality, serving yourself first will allow you to best serve others. It is not selfish, it’s just basic self-respect. Something you want your kids to learn, right?
So find a way to make self-care a priority. The world can wait while you take a little break to go for a walk, read a book, pursue a hobby you enjoy, do some yoga, prep healthy meals, or even take a freaking fantastic nap.
On a personal note, one thing I absolutely need is to get up a little earlier (nothing crazy, only 15 minutes or so) before my three boys wake up. This way I have time to drink my much-needed coffee in relative peace and start the day on the right foot. Literally filling my cup first! And everyone wins since I’m not a raging mean momma bear at first sight.
One of the single most important ways to implement self-care is to exercise. I know, I know, you’ve heard this one a million times.
"But I don’t have the energy or time, it’s hard, it’s boring." Blah, blah, blah.
Stop overcomplicating it. You don’t have to spend hours a day, buy expensive equipment, join a class, kill yourself boot camp-style, or even go to the gym (unless that’s your thing, of course).
Just get your body moving. Find something that you actually enjoy. Walk, dance, or follow a simple at-home workout plan in your living room. You’ll find it invigorating and will be surprised at all the wonderful things it will do in your life, like boost energy and immunity, improve your sleep, and even help you think more clearly. Not to mention you’ll be setting a great example for your kids to follow, double win!
Two little words every parent dreads hearing. That phrase sends us into a frenzy of googling activities to do, Pinterest-y snacks to make, local events to go to, and crafts to make out of toilet paper tubes. Then, when our ungrateful offspring decide none of this stuff is acceptable, we throw up our hands and just give them another hour of screen time.
Why do we think we need to entertain our kids at all times?
LET THEM BE BORED.
Everyone experiences it. No one ever died from it. It’s not something you need to protect your children from.
There are actually all kinds of benefits to getting bored. Boredom fosters creativity. When a kid hits that state of nothing left to do, their brain starts really firing. Bored thoughts lead to innovative thoughts, which are a good thing. (Well, usually. In my house, such creativity usually involves a quest for paint, scissors, nails, massive amounts of tape, or some other permission-only item. We are working on the whole concept of “find something to do that WON’T get you in trouble!”)
They will come up with something to do, no matter how much whining happens first. If they really need help (and you can’t tune out the complaining), create a list with them that they can always go back to. If that doesn’t work, you can always make a list of chores or ask them to help you clean. Suddenly anything else becomes oh-so-fun!
If they’re always handed things to do, how are they ever going to handle themselves? Constant doting and attention can lead to them feeling entitled throughout life. Let them start thinking for themselves a little.
Furthermore, learning to amuse themselves helps develop problem-solving skills, motivation, and interests of their own - all contributing to healthy psychological development and a clear sense of self.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying to ignore your children. It’s great to spend time and do things with them, but it’s also okay and even beneficial to let them figure things out for themselves sometimes.
Bonus: You might even be able to get some valuable me-time out of it.
It’s so unfair, the things we as adults would die to have - like time-outs and naps - kids outright despise. Little buggers don’t know how good they have it.
Although you probably can’t take a daily nap or excuse yourself from frustrating moments in most situations, you can give yourself a little time out when you need it at home. When your bratty brood is driving you batcrap crazy and you’re about to explode in anger, just go to another room and cool down a bit. Breathe. Think it through before you threaten consequences you know you won’t follow through on or do something you might regret.
The little troublemakers will still be there when you're ready (unless they’ve gotten bored and are getting their creativity on elsewhere, ha). You’ll likely be more reasonable and collected in dealing with them at that point and better able to remember that yelling, threatening, and being aggressive help no one.
Hygge (pronounced hoo-gah) is a Danish term meaning “a quality of coziness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being.” It’s likely a factor in why Denmark is considered the happiest country in the world.
Unfortunately, in our fast-paced culture, relaxing can be viewed as laziness or underachievement. Silence your inner critic and anyone else whose opinion you don’t need. Taking a break is not only nice, it’s necessary.
“Take rest; a field that has rested gives a bountiful crop.” - Ovid
Okay, so you’re not a plot of dirt, but you get the point. It all goes back to that whole self-care thing. Just as adequate sleep is vital to overall health and functioning, a hygge-style mental rest can make you feel refreshed, full of joy, and more productive, among other things.
So have a hefty helping of hygge however it suits you. Slow down to savor a mug of hot cocoa or coffee, enjoy family movie night, slip on some warm fuzzy slippers, listen to music, Netflix and chill, go on a date night, get together with friends, bake cookies, chill on the beach...whatever makes you feel comforted and cozy. Try to make this a regular thing in your life. It’s a lifestyle, not just an occasional thing.
I don’t know about you, but this spring season I’m going easy on the household cleaning and focusing on simplifying my mom-mind. Yes, easier said than done. But it's important to disregard the idea that your needs don’t matter and tending to them is somehow selfish.
Just think about how you want your kids to treat themselves when they're in your shoes. Do you want them to be overworked, exhausted, anxious, frazzled hot messes?
Didn’t think so.
It takes a village!
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