Kids can be quite demanding. Their needs combined with demands of daily life can make you feel like you’re going to lose your damn mind. Find out how we deal with parenting burnout (and tell us how you fight the funk).
Editor’s note: Today’s feature is the newest installment of our parenting column written by two sets of Richmonders: Jorge and Patience Salgado (veteran parents of four gorgeous children), and Ross and Valerie Catrow (parenting rookies who have only been doing this “raising a child thing” for a little while). Check back fortnightly to watch them discuss/agree/disagree/throw down over all kinds of parenting issues, Richmond-related and beyond.
Kids can be quite demanding. Their needs combined with demands of daily life can make us feel like we’re going to lose our damn minds. And so…
Today’s question: How do you deal with parent burnout?
The dads took the reigns on the last one, so the mamas will lead the discussion today. Take a look at what we think and be sure to share your tips and tricks while you’re here.
My husband is the king of the snooze button. No matter what time it is set for, it must beep and be snoozed a minimum of five times. I measure my level of burnout by how annoyed I am by this.
How many beeps it takes before I am annoyed is in direct correlation with my level of burnout:
5 beeps: No worries, the sun is shining and it’s a new day!
4 beeps: Wow, that’s annoying. But oh well, gotta get going.
3 beeps: Why oh why does he do this?
2 beeps: This better not wake the baby.
1 beeps: Oh my God, I’m gonna kill him.
Burn out is a tricky trickster, so usually I don’t even see her coming. I am doing my life, day in and day out, just like the other millions of mothers in the world. Waking, nursing, feeding, brushing, dressing, carrying, holding, scrambling, drying, writing, editing, photographing, living the everyday. All of the sudden the usual just starts to feel completely overwhelming, everything I did just the day before feels bigger, longer, stronger. Even after four kids, I still have trouble recognizing when I am closing in on my limit. Maybe it is because I can push through, taking myself even further in carrying on the curse of capability. The question becomes: Just because we can, does it mean we should? I have found for me the answer is often “no.”
Self care becomes the name of the game. It isn’t possible without some intention and help from those who love you. I spent way too many years sucking it up when I could have had all I really needed. Here are my go-to self care steps when I feel at the end of my rope:
Be the baby.
Get back to the basics of your own self care. Take long baths, buy fresh fruits and veggies. Now is the perfect time for some Emergen-C (or other vitamins). Try to go to bed early or sleep when the baby/kids sleep. A good dose of nature can help to turn the funk around.
Cut one thing out.
Say no or back out of one commitment in your life. Even if it’s small, sometimes just clearing something takes the pressure off so you can regroup. If your hyper-responsibility is screaming at the thought, consider asking someone to just cover for you for a week or two instead.
Buy something for yourself.
It doesn’t even have to cost very much, it is just a good reminder to focus on your self. Pick up a magazine, a new book, flowers, a favorite facial scrub, or a pair of earrings, something only you will enjoy. (If you are a burnt out dad, insert some awesome guy thing here.) You don’t even have to share.
Call in the reinforcements.
Don’t be a hero or a martyr. Kids have a great way of challenging whatever you think you should be able to handle or hold. The beauty lies in how our children require us to create community for not only them, but also for ourselves. It takes a village… or what I like to call “the tribe.”
When all else fails, grab a beer with a buddy or coffee with a girlfriend. I promise, some parent somewhere has stood in the same place. Everything changes when we realize we are not alone, even if the only way we know is by the snooze button.
When I first approached Patience with the idea of making our next Raising Richmond column about parent burnout, I did so for purely selfish reasons.
You see, I have a toddler. The toddler-iest toddler in all of Toddlerland. Our days are filled with cuteness and joy, but also with food battles, temper tantrums over me being so cruel as to not let him eat toilet paper, and that ever-present word: NO!
So in a moment of pure mama desperation, I played on Patience’s good work ethic and respect for deadlines as a way to compare notes and get some advice – although I’m sure she would have just given it if I’d ask. She does have a reputation for being quite kind.
But, don’t worry, this isn’t a purely parasitic relationship here. While I certainly will be adding Patience’s thoughts to my anti-parenting-burnout arsenal, I do have a few helpful tidbits for those of you currently trudging through the trenches right along with us.
Don’t fight it.
Parenting (also: LIFE) is frustrating. Sometimes you just need to cry and yell and stomp your feet. Find a safe place (preferably out of your children’s earshot — we don’t want to scare the little dears) and have at it. Letting it out will hopefully prevent you from taking it out on someone else. Bottled-up frustration leads to resentment… and no one wants that.
Divide and conquer (or nap).
We have a rule in our house: no one gets a break unless everyone gets a break. If you get 15 minutes to yourself, I get 15 minutes to myself. Additionally, requests for breaks are always respected (no passive aggressive mutterings of “Ugh, FINE!”) and encouraged (your partner won’t know you’re about to crack unless you say so). This keeps things balanced and fair, making everyone feel like they’re being heard and cared for.
While we do refer to the iPhone as the “Neglect-o-tron” in our house, I must say that mine has come in handy when I find myself ravaged by the latest toddler stand-off. I made a point to save all of the pictures I took of JR in the hospital after he was born, along with the congratulatory text messages I received during our stay. A quick flip through those reminds me why I’m here in the first place. Spending some time with the little one’s baby book would surely have a similar effect.
Choose to be present.
Few things center me more than spending 20 minutes building (and knocking over) block towers with my kid. For me, the biggest challenge of this whole parenting gig is feeling like I’m constantly being pulled in a million different directions. Finger painting, digging in the dirt, playing a game together, anything that demonstrates a choice to be in the moment with your child makes you feel more in control and that pull a little less noticeable. Your kids will love it, too.
Ok, now it’s your turn.
How do you handle parenting burnout? Do tell, do tell.