Parenting at the End of Your Rope
10 Tips for Coping
1. Go to bed when you’re tired. Of course this isn’t always possible, but if the only thing standing between you and some shut-eye is a sink full of dirty dishes and that unreturned call to your mother, let them wait. A good night’s sleep tonight means you’ll be a better mom and happier person tomorrow.
2. Make your health a priority. Time spent exercising and eating right will really pay off in extra energy. Make healthy habits part of your existing routine. For example, it’s fine to grab fast food if you make it a salad and milk rather than a burger and soda. And stop pressuring yourself to hit the gym each day—exercise can be as spontaneous as bouncing around with your kids in front of a Barney video.
3. Cut corners, big and small. Examples of small, time-saving tricks include cleaning the bathroom while the kids are in the tub or grabbing dinner from the deli once a week rather than cooking a big meal. On a larger scale, you may need to reduce the number of hours you put in at work or let go of the guilt many moms feel if they’re not engaging their kids in fun, educational activities around the clock.
4. Seek a community of other parents. Talking to other moms is a great way to vent frustrations, share laughter, and learn new tricks of the trade. Try checking local listings for community parent groups and playgroups. If your schedule leaves limited time for socializing, you can also find moms who share your interests via online message boards (try BabyZone’s community boards!).
5. Dress up a little. My husband once accidentally implied that I looked the part of someone who planned to spend her day picking Cheerios out of the couch cushions. After that I discovered that spending five extra minutes in the morning to throw on a skirt or some jewelry really made me feel more like a well-rounded person and less exclusively like a caregiver or a maid.
6. Practice balance everyday. Even on the busiest days, fight the urge to give 100 percent of your time to kids, cleaning, and work. Touch base with a friend or extended family member, and squeeze in something relaxing such as a manicure or 30 minutes of reading before bed. On weekends, try setting aside one day for chores and the other for family fun.
7. Make regular time for your partner. Be as creative about this as you need to be. (My husband and I get up early each day to have 30 minutes of coffee time in bed together.) Get out for a date alone with your mate at least once a month, or take the day off to do something fun together while the kids are at school or daycare. If you’re a single mom, you’re not off the hook—dedicate more time item number six above!
8. Ask for help. Many mothers feel uncomfortable asking for help or even accepting it from those who willingly offer it. But the reality is that moms simply can’t do it all on their own, and most friends, family members, or neighbors are happy to lend an occasional hand. If you’d rather not ask for a favor, set up a babysitting swap with another mom so that you can each get a break.
9. Accept the emotional roller coaster ride. There’s no denying it—sometimes parenting will make you feel frustrated, impatient, or even angry. The key is to recognize when you’re about to lose your cool and know how to deal with it. Step outside or into a room by yourself for a few minutes. Or keep a picture handy of your child doing something adorable to help remind yourself why you love that kid who’s currently screaming and biting you.
10. Don’t beat yourself up. Failed to achieve any balance today whatsoever? For all that you do, you deserve to fall of the balance beam now and then. Revel in the overindulgence, even if the only thing you overindulged in was doing laundry.
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