This year has been a tough one for several people for several obvious reasons. There is nothing like the bond between a parent and child, but I believe even those relationships are being a bit strained with these drastic changes in our normal, day-to-day routines.
I had a small meltdown last week.
I was working from home, changing diapers, giving the children baths, cooking breakfast, helping them with their school work, cooking lunch, changing more diapers, figuring out Christmas plans, taking care of the dog, fixing a snack, cleaning the nonstop messes being made, and the stress of everything came crashing down.
I collapsed under the pressure and stopped doing anything at all and just cried.
I called my husband and vented about this awful pandemic, complaining that children need to be in school.
I am a firm believer in the saying, “It takes a village to raise a child” and schools fall within that.
I can do a lot, but I cannot do it all. But right now, the world is demanding I do it all.
A friend of mine recently asked parents on Facebook to give some of their best parenting advice. Pandemic or no pandemic, the responses were pretty terrific and I wanted to share some of those answers, as well as some of my own.
Whether you’re a new parent or an experienced pro, this is a list worth reading.
• Take the world’s expectations and throw them out the window. Be present. Be patient. Breathe. Don’t forget to take time for yourself.
• Learn to pick your battles. A dumped over box of toys is not worth stressing over.
• Parenthood is stressful when you feel like you “should” do something a certain way. Let go of the “shoulds” and just go with what feels right. Every baby is different and not one of your babies will be the same as the other. Letting go of what you “should” do and doing what feels right takes a lot of the burden and stress off your already heavy shoulders.
• Love them. Be slow to anger. Teach obedience and truth. Testify. Mostly love in unmistakable ways so they just cant miss it.
• In the moments when you’re going to lose your temper with your child, make sure he or she is safe and then walk away. Take a time out to regroup then go back and try again. If the baby is crying, you know they’re breathing and if you left them in a safe place, it’s ok for them to cry for a minute or two while you gather your thoughts.
• Give yourself grace whether they are 6 weeks old, 6 years old or 16 years old. No one knows what they are doing and not one child is the same.
• Don’t compare yourself to others. You’ll figure out what’s right for you and your kids. It’s not a one size fits all. Just because it worked for someone else doesn’t mean it will be the right fit for you.
• Relax. Don't stress over being "perfect" because there is no such thing. Your children are children for such a short amount of time, enjoy as much of it with them as you can. Don't let your home turn you into a constantly stressed cleaning robot. Remember to have fun with your kids, and sometimes that means making the mess with them.
• Put your kids on a schedule. I didn’t do this with my first and he was a monster. I realized after putting my other three on a schedule that he was that way because he was always so overly tired.
• Always remember you chose to have them, they did not choose you. So when you’re exhausted and overwhelmed, remember this so you can show up as the parent they need.
• Start them with the “gross” foods. Only fruits, veggies, meats and grains. No unhealthy snacks because they’ll expect nothing else and they will eat those things. I didn’t do this with my first and she is the pickiest eater. I did it with my second and she will eat just about anything.
• Practice emotional mastery. Going outside or taking baths are good resets.
• “Respond, don’t react” is probably my motto especially in the toddler stage and beyond. Also, treat yourself sometimes.
• Don’t judge other parents.
• If I’m finding myself irritated by what kids are doing, I need to stop and assess how I am doing. More often than not, the way I respond directly correlates to how I’m feeling and it gets taken out on my kids. I’ve had to rationalize with myself and realize that I’m the adult and it’s my responsibility to keep my cool. They’re kids, they don’t know how to do that yet and I can’t help teach them how to stay calm if I myself and letting my mood dictate how I react to situations. It’s a major learning process but once you get yourself to the point where you can stop and look inward before reacting, it gets so much better.
Catherine Kirk is managing editor of the Delta Democrat-Times. She can be reached at email@example.com.