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Tips to Help Survive the Insanity of Parenting Young Children
At the last appointment with my doctor he asked me what I do to relieve stress when I feel overwhelmed by anxiety. I didn’t have an answer, but after thinking about it later, I came up with a few things. Most of these tips may seem pretty obvious; however, as parents we don’t always remember things that are simple but essential to help us with our day-to-day survival.
As a new or stressed parent, we may feel inclined to stay home more often than we like to admit. It’s much easier to find indoor activities than it is to prepare young children for the outdoors: in winter there are coats, snow pants, hats, gloves, scarves, etc. and in the summer there’s sunscreen (ever tried rubbing it on a rambunctious 2-year-old while your 4-year-old stomps on your feet, pushes you, and makes your 2-year-old scream?).
And then, of course, there’s us. While we may have been the hottest ass in the club back in the day, at this point we may not have showered for 3 days straight and look like our younger, hotter selves would assume we’ve almost given up on life. .
All of the above doesn’t matter when it comes to surviving with small children. It is absolutely necessary to get out every day, even if it is only for half an hour. Let the kids run around the yard, go to the park, or just take a walk around the block. If your baby is young, walking is a wonderful opportunity to spend some quiet time to think and enjoy your neighborhood, and perhaps reconnect with your neighbors.
I don’t know any kid who doesn’t enjoy being outside, even if it’s just to walk the dog with mom or dad. A happy child is a happy parent.
Discover a hobby or an unknown talent
As a mother of two young boys, I understand how difficult it is to commit to a hobby or creative endeavor, especially a new one. It’s a good idea to start simple projects that won’t take long to complete. When my first born was still a baby I liked to sew; however, as she got older and more demanding I found it difficult to complete projects because of the time it takes to measure, cut, pin, etc. Last year I decided to try knitting and it was much more enjoyable as I can knit while watching. the kids play and easily leave what I’m working on if they need something. When I have time to get back to it I just have to pick up where I left off.
Other ideas include joining a book club, scrapbooking, gardening (I find it quite therapeutic to weed while the kids play in the garden!), journaling, blogging, photography, running, cycling, playing a musical instrument and more . . Whatever you choose to do, it’s important to feel a sense of accomplishment through something you really enjoy.
Friends + Wine (or Coffee, etc.) = Happy
In my previous life I loved socializing, dancing and drinking (I’m not talking about juice here folks). I spent most of my weekends out in bars/clubs, enjoying tasty drinks while swinging my little booty from side to side on the dance floor. I loved it! Those were my carefree days when all I had to worry about in the morning was sleeping with a bad headache.
I’ve definitely become a lot more responsible since having kids, but I still enjoy wine and beer on occasion. Spending time with my friends while relaxing with a nice glass of wine is definitely a tactic I use to temporarily keep the craziness at bay. I especially like to take advantage of my childless friends in this regard, as it is almost guaranteed that there will be little or no talk of children. Not that I mind bragging about my little geniuses, but it’s nice to still have friends who know me as “Friend” and not “Friend-mom.”
I’m not talking about 2 hours of sweaty exercise, who has time for that?
When my firstborn was about 8 months old I fell and hurt my hip to the point where I had trouble walking some days. I went to a physical therapist and he gave me exercises to do in conjunction with the physical therapy I was receiving. After I felt better, I continued to “forget” to do my exercises until I finally stopped doing them altogether. Fast forward 3 1/2 years and another baby later, at which point an impractical pair of high heels forced me back into physical therapy. This time it was much worse and I had to go months longer than before. I got better enough to stop my visits in February of this year with the agreement that I would continue my exercises at least 3-4 times a week. And this time I’m proud to say I stuck with it.
I find that the 20 minutes I spend strengthening my core muscles makes me feel like I’m taking control to prevent my body from deteriorating and causing me more pain and discomfort. Focusing on my physical well-being for a while every other night makes me feel empowered. Yoga is also wonderful for this, as it helps strengthen the body and mind, which most parents need in abundance.
Find a babysitter/babysitter
Even stay-at-home moms need a break. When I worked in an office I could take breaks, including a nice one hour lunch. What I wouldn’t give now for an hour in broad daylight! Neither my husband nor I have family where we live, so we rarely have time away from the kids. To make up for this, we decided to put our youngest in daycare two days a week when our 4-year-old starts part-time JK in September. We work on a schedule where I have one day a week alone with each child and one day to myself. I’m excited to get some alone time as I think it will be invaluable to my journey to happiness and out of the depression/anxiety I’ve been experiencing.
I’m also thinking about having the 13-year-old across the street see my kids from time to time. She offered her services last year, but at the time I wasn’t ready. However, a friend of mind suggests that I have her to watch the girls while I’m at home and need someone to help with the kids while I do other things. So maybe after that I could babysit her for an hour or two during the day (until she goes back to school, obviously) while I run quick errands. I really like the idea of that!
It’s important to take the breaks you need to recharge your mind, emotions and body, and it’s a wonderful experience for children to be away from their parents from time to time and socialize with other children and adults.
Go on Long Drives
One of my favorite activities is driving. I love listening to music (and yes, singing!) while driving, but when my kids are in the car we tend to listen to the Muppets, the Annie soundtrack, or whatever else they like, over and over again. over and over again…
When we do a long tour it is a completely different scene. If I catch them at the right time, they’ll both fall asleep and I can have about 45 minutes to myself. I once took the kids to a park that was an hour away so they would stop screaming and I could have some peace and quiet. It was wonderful! They took a nap (which helped ease the screaming) and we had fun at the park which even included ice cream for good behavior (from all of us).
Take a course
There’s no better way to exercise that mom brain than by taking a college or university class, or any type of class that interests you. I recently went back to University to finish my degree (which I withdrew from over 12 years ago). there!). It’s been a slow move since I can only realistically take one class per semester and one class is pretty hard considering I barely have time to eat let alone study. However, the challenge makes the stress worth it, and I love the sense of accomplishment I get with every exam I write, every assignment I turn in, and every class I finish. And best of all, it allows me to focus on myself and work toward a career change when I’m ready to return to the workforce.
Whatever your reason, taking a class can be enriching and fun, and it involves a new social atmosphere than you may be used to.
Make errands easier
And finally, a few tips to make your life easier when you need to run errands with the kids:
Park near the car park in the parking lots. This makes it much easier when it’s time to leave, as you can get your kids into the car and then re-position the cart without having to walk too far away from your parked car with the kids inside.
Park underground if you can. There is a grocery store not far from us that has underground parking. This is our shop of choice in winter and rainy days.
Find out what day and time of day the shops or places you need to go to are least busy. I can always count on our grocery store to be pretty empty on Tuesday and Wednesday mornings, so that’s when I try to go and it works for the kids too, since they’re less cranky in the mornings.
Always have snacks on hand. Babies will usually calm down if offered a treat they love, and it also keeps them quiet while their little mouths work to chew.
Do you have any tips or suggestions to add?
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