Being a parent is hard at the best of times, but when you’re feeling stressed out and having to deal with other stuff it becomes an extremely hard task. When you yourself feel you need a hug and a bit of an easy time, just wanting to get through the normal daily stuff without too much of a fight, that’s when kids really tend to kick up a fuss.
Well that’s how it’s happening here anyway. With my husband’s illness and recent stay in hospital, we’ve been under a fair bit of strain to say the least. He may be back at home, but he’s no better, which is meaning life at home isn’t the same old fun and games it once was. Not only am I looking after a toddler who is just starting to express herself (ahem terrible twos ahoy) and an energetic, demanding five-year-old with no volume control, but I’ve got the worry of how their dad is coping too.
I’m doing all the housework, shopping, homework and going to work three days a week too. Those work days are a welcome break – for all the stress of having to get everyone out of the house for 7.30, there is the reward of being able to sit down and focus on work, with a coffee in hand when I get there.
All this is normal stuff for parents, it’s nothing my friends don’t experience day to day too. But because my stress levels are high, I’m finding it pretty hard to cope. I’m shouting at the kids more, losing my patience more, and overall feeling like I’m doing it all wrong.
My son knows just how to push my buttons. This week, I’ve been having a lot of “Mummy I don’t think you love me. I don’t think you show it enough, you just don’t appreciate me Mummy”. To which I reply, of course I love you, you mean more to me than anything, I’m always telling you that I love you. Which I am! In my mind, I’m doing my best and my best doesn’t seem to be good enough. I’ve stood there like a crazy person, reeling off a list of all the things I do for him, but it doesn’t seem to get through. So what do I do? All this must be affecting him too, only it’s hard to know how to handle it other than trying to create a stable environment at home and offering lots of affection, attention and comfort food.
I’ve read a whole load of baby and parenting books, and found some more useful than others but a current favourite is one introduced to me by a friend. Aha Parenting by Dr Laura Markham. I’ve been checking out her website a few times lately to see if I can gain any pointers. There are a few tips I’ve picked up which were suggested to a parent with similar stress issues, so I’m going to try and keep them in mind the next few weeks and see how I get on. These are:
1. Look after yourself, or in Dr Markham’s words, have some serious self-care. It’s not easy to find more than five minutes to myself these days and the free time I do get is usually spent writing my blog. As a friend puts it, it’s a way of creatively coping. So taking more time to recharge my batteries should definitely be on the agenda. I’m booking in those drinks with the girls for next week then…
2. Take time to reconnect with your child once you pick them up from school/childcare. This one is to let them know that they are the most important thing to you once you’ve finished work. I always give them both a huge hug and a kiss when I pick them up, but sometimes my son is so busy talking he forgets to reciprocate! Keep working on this one…
3. Get some food inside them before their hunger takes over and their mood starts to dip. This one is so important, and a constant challenge on work days. I always find by the time I’ve walked in the door and taken off my coat, they are already milling round the kitchen looking for food! Quick meals like pasta and pre-tea snacks like crackers, breadsticks and cheese are my friend.
3. Once you get home, brace yourself. Kids have feelings too and once they are back in their home environment often let out all the feelings they have held in throughout the day. This must be why parents often hear different things from teachers about their child’s behaviour, saying, “if only he/she were like that at home!”
4. Remember to breathe. Excellent advice this one. In Dr Markham’s words, “If you find that you have feelings of your own coming up (anger, grief), just try to breathe through them and later find a safe way to cry and discharge them yourself. You almost certainly have some pent-up feelings yourself and will need to give yourself the time and space to honour them.”
Have you faced challenges like this? Have you got any tips you’d like to share? I am always open to new ideas!