We all feel it and if you are a parent, it is like a drug. You can’t stop it. Or at least you think you can’t stop it. We hold measuring sticks up to people like Debbie, the President of the PTA, but if you think Debbie doesn’t worry about crap or make mistakes, you are wrong. Just like us, she puts on a good front. Maybe she does it to make everyone else around her feel bad or maybe she just doesn’t want to get outed. But you are not Debbie, nor do you want to be. Be honest with yourself. Do you sign up for things because you want to or because you feel you have to? Well, stop it.
There are two staples found in parenthood: chaos and worry. And both of these lead to stress.
Being a parent in today’s world is chaotic. There are schedules to organize, homework to complete, lunches to pack and meals to make. Not to mention spending quality time with your SO that you hopefully still like. People meet my kids and after about 20 minutes of constant motion, they ask me if they are always like this – my answer is yes, and worse. To give you a visual, think Tasmanian Devil. Whether you have one baby or four, there is one constant– mayhem. Rules are broken. Dishes are broken. And when momma gets really angry, sometimes spirits are broken. Expect chaos and somehow you manage it slightly better.
Somehow we’ve gotten to a place where we overthink and guilt ourselves into believing we’re not doing enough for our children. Let’s be clear, most of our worry is self-induced. Our kid has to be in the best preschool to get into the right college. Um, no! Our child has to begin playing competitive sports at age three to ensure winning a scholarship to college. Um, no!! Our friends have detailed life plans for every child by the age of six so we think we should too. That is crazy. Either you should find new friends or your friends need to get out of the house and off the computer.
Less dramatic than breaking up with all of your friends, there are some simple ways to find relief from the stress that is bubbling up and taking over our happy place. Here are a few simple tips that help me survive:
We bottle our thoughts. We bottle our emotions. We bottle our dreams. At some point we might explode so we need an outlet. What works best for me is letting loose with laughter. Laugh hard, laugh loud and find ways to laugh at the moments that make you crazy. Maybe in the tornado of the moment it might be hard to do, but catch me afterwards, I’m probably smiling about something outrageous my kid said to convince I really didn’t want to put him in time-out.
Revel in weekends without plans; they often reveal the creative genius in your kids – imaginations gone wild. Overscheduling creates whiny kids who demand fast food and more play dates not to mention increases your stress level to a boiling point managing the attitudes and logistics. Create opportunities for success by setting limits. Keep kids after-school activities to a minimum of one or two. Give kids structured options for play at home and let kids be kids. If we pressure them too much they’ll stop enjoying the learning or they’ll burn out from a sport by age nine.
We need to take a step back and decide what is most important to us today – cut yourself some slack and pick your battles. We can’t predict the future and worrying about what is around the corner isn’t going to get you anywhere – a great quote I love and strive to abide by, “Do not worry. Remember that half the things we worry about never happen, and the other half are going to happen anyway. So, why worry?” Be prepared but don’t be rigid. There is one constant in life; change. Life will not go according to plan so figure out how to react with the change versus against it. And for all of you still reading, Botox may correct the worry lines but it only masks half the issue.
I am most stressed when I can’t let something go. My attention is divided and nothing good comes from it. Take a reality check, how important is that work email – is it life or death? I doubt it so wait until the kids go to bed to respond. Focus on what is right in front of you. Learn to be in the moment – not on your phone half-assing it with your kids. You’ve heard it before but you aren’t going to be on your death bed wishing you’d had a few more minutes at the office. Focus on your family and what you all need and stop thinking about what every other family is doing out there.
And if all else fails, try a martini playdate with Debbie from the PTA.
By Sunshine Sweet, November 2014