Every day I wake up and ask myself “how other parents do it”. There are parents out there who have children with special needs, complicated family and/or housing relationships, have a variety of other parenting challenges, but they persist and make it work. Their situation does not compare to mine, I have the luxury of time, a loving and supporting partner and only one child. I also have family and friends who take their time to provide support. Despite all of this, I am still tired and I do not know what tomorrow brings. From the daily stress to the challenges of finding quality childcare, parenting is not easy in general. I have tons of bad days.
I write these tips as if I “know” what I’m doing, but so many of the things I’ve put together are a combination of what I’ve stumbled upon, or what other people have shared. I just decided to sit down and write them out… and the truth is, there are times where I forget my own advice…
True Story: Our daughter is moving around the house and shouting, with her arms straight back “Naruto Run” style. My wife is putting away the food as I leave my plate on the table.
My Wife: Can you grab your plate and wash it
Myself: I’m watching her. She’s going to run into something. How am I supposed to watch her and get the dish at the same time?
My Wife: Oh I don’t know, didn’t you write a tip about this?
Myself: (thinking that she’s making fun of me) – Ha. Very Funny.
My Wife: It was the first piece of dad advice you ever gave.
Myself: Oh dang. I can use the baby carrier to hold her.
My Wife: You literally made that tip number ONE.
I make mistakes all of the time and my daughter keeps me busy and it can be hard to keep up, especially when we’re traveling and she decides to stay awake for the entire plane or train ride.
I suppose the one thing that works for me is that when I am tired or stressed out, and I feel like my energy level is low and that I just can’t take it anymore, I calmly say , “I’m going to make this 1 percent better.” It sounds dumb, but I feel like making that moment just… one percent better with a smile or playtime, or a game can have a snowball effect that leads to future calm. Even if that moment to relax is in the form of a more restful night’s sleep or one less headache, or a momentary reduction in stress. Focusing on the ability to become slightly better can be the self-fulfilling prophecy of happiness. It doesn’t always work, but in a moment where I feel like I have no answers, I feel like it gives me a chance to take control of uncertain situations.
What strategies do you use when you’re facing parenting stress?
This is an important lesson. No one cares about your lack or sleep, so MAN UP! With that being said, you are still human and there may be an occasion where you just need to recharge. It’s better to tell your partner when you’re close to feeling beat, than to hold it in and reach a breaking point. Sleep-deprived conversations can lead to anger, and snapping at each other, when all you need is a little time in bed. Tell her in advance when you’re feeling sleepy. Together, you can work out cues when you need to take a nap, or need to go to bed early. Before hitting the sack, she’ll probably give you a few small tasks like replacing the diaper genie, taking out the recycling, or watching the baby for a few minutes while she goes to the bathroom. Once you’ve given her some time, there’s a good chance you’ll get a chunk of time to yourself. Just make sure you’re ready to take over when she hits the wall.