I was feeling a little down this week- too much to do, waking up hours too early, worried about kids, blah blah. The same old schtick we all feel. I think it comes with the territory of being responsible for too much, whether you are single or your spouse travels a lot, when we are outnumbered by kids, or when we just feel overwhelmed, it is important to stop and check in on ourselves. So I came up with this quick list.
1. Take care of our needs
Take care of all of our needs (except the new wardrobe every season, that doesn’t help me stress less to spend money like that). Get exercise more than once a week. Eat healthy food. Read a book. Sleep when we are tired. Then, when we are needed, we are ready. Remember, parenting is a marathon race, not a sprint. We have to be ready to keep on going and going and going. So feed yourself.
2. Deal with our anger
If we are angry at someone, it will come out when our kid pushes us to the limit (which happens often, since they are checking on the boundaries of their lives). We need to put the anger where it belongs- become comfortable with healthy conflict and tell coworkers when they took our awesome idea, or cut us out of the deal, or left a mess in the sink. If we stuff it down, it will just come back, at an inopportune time. It is not very effective parenting to blow up when my daughter doesn’t put her backpack (towel, socks, dishes, 100 other things…) away. I have to think about who I am REALLY angry with and put it where it belongs.
3. Forgive the Grownups
Our parents, your ex, my older sister, your older brother, and our friends in 7th grade SHOULD have behaved better. You are right. We didn’t deserve that treatment. And we won’t let it happen again. But they were doing the best they could with what they had back then, and if it happened more than 10 days ago, or 10 hours ago, quit harboring energy there. Make our plan to take care of ourselves better next time, talk to them if needed, and then, ask God to help us forgive them. Send them love and forgiveness every time we think of the bounced check, the biting comment, the abuse, the whatever. Like Frederick Beuchner said (I paraphrase here) “When we are angry, we are feasting with passion, yes. But we are feasting on the bones of ourselves, eating at our own well being.”
4. Stop trying to be perfect
Stop fixing everything and every relationship. Stop trying to have a house like on TV (this is my downfall- those kitchens look so clean!). Stop trying to fix the relationship with our sister/brother/mom- my sister really doesn’t want a face to face relationship. But I keep trying to push it, rather than accepting that she is filled up quite enough on texts alone. Every now and then, I wear my hair really frizzy and crazy, just as homage to the crazy way I feel parenting alone sometimes.
5. Reach out for support
Call friends, write friends, talk to supportive people. I have to be careful with this one- I often “go to the grocery store trying to buy a house”. I call a person who is not able to provide support (but I think they should, so I keep trying). The person I call (e.g. my mom) is just too caught up in her own stuff to hear me, and somehow, I am listening to her tell me how lucky I am, when I wanted her to listen and give me a verbal hug. So I check in and make sure the person I am reaching out to is capable of providing support, and has provided it in the past. (And of course, I need to be sure to provide her support when she asks- the street goes both ways).
6. Find the humor
Even lame stupid humor is better than nothing. I told my son this morning that I forgot what his floor looks like, but the stinky giraffe who moved in there really likes it. He laughed and opened up enough to share to me that it was bothering him too. That was music to my ears. Because when we have kids with messy rooms, aren’t we just afraid that they will live like street people and never wear a clean shirt after they turn 22? If I can abate the fear, I can sleep better. And laughing at fear seems like really good revenge for that 3:30 am worry session.