Real Self Care: Ease Mom Stress
Jul 08 2019
Life as parents often feels full-to-bursting with caregiving, responsibility, love, and plenty of stress. The words “parenting” and “stress” seem almost synonymous, but parenting expert Elisabeth Stitt believes we can create calm harmonious households with a few adjustments in mindset and planning.
Five Tips for Less Stress
- Kick guilt to the curb: If you can make only one change to make parenting less stressful, let go of guilt. Guilt is useful to slow you down and make you ask yourself “Does this decision really serve the family in the long run?” But once you’ve decided on a course of action, let go of the guilt and second guessing. Both sap energy and transmit insecurity to your kids, which only adds to your stress and their anxiety.
- Share the work: A great deal of mom stress comes from feeling responsible for everything. This perception can create a vicious circle where we feel we might as well pick up the toys, the wet towel, and the spouse’s socks, because it takes less energy to do it ourselves than to nag. This is short-sighted thinking. If you divide the labor among the family and put energy into training them, kids can help with almost anything. Every year will get easier.
- Put systems and routines in place: The more you can schedule and routinize chores, meals, etc, the less time you waste working out details and remembering to do things. Hack: pre-print a grocery list where kids mark what is needed as they get to the bottom of the cereal or eat the last apple. Take this shopping list with you and buy only what’s indicated on the list. If the kids don’t mark cereal, none gets bought. This way your kids start looking after themselves, instead of assuming things like clean clothes and groceries appear by magic.
- Simplify: A mother enrolled her child in private school. She hated the 20 minute daily drive; it made her grumpy and added to her stress. It cut into their play time in the afternoon. The private school was good, but so was the public school only a five-minute walk from their home. The mom wanted to switch schools, but felt guilty that she wouldn’t be “doing all she could” for her daughter. Eventually she realized a happy mom with time to play before dinner was a much greater gift than what the private school provided.
- Use family meetings for problem solving: Effective family meetings balance reporting the wins of the week with engaging kids in smoothing out weekly logistics. Families build both connection and cooperation. The more children are involved in this process, the more ownership they take. Ending a family meeting with a group activity reminds everyone that families are fun and worth it.
The secret to self-care
You are the architect of your family; you keep the big picture of what’s good for the family in mind. As long as you trust that, it will be easier for you to say no to choices that will push you (and therefore your family) over the edge.
It’s okay to have spaghetti for Sunday dinner every Sunday. You can buy white socks for your kids so they always match. You can limit your kids to one birthday party every couple months to avoid spending every Saturday afternoon driving them there. Self-care means telling your kids to go play by themselves in another room, so you have 20 minutes to yourself to look at a magazine rather than review math facts. None of these choices scar your child. Having a present not worn-to-the-bone parent will help them thrive.
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