Do you feel burned-out in your role as a parent sometimes? Are there times when your nerves are frayed and your patience shot because your kids are running you ragged?
It’s safe to say that ALL parents experience moments when they’re exhausted. Parenting is a 24/7 job with no time off for when you’re sleep-deprived, sick, or feeling unmotivated.
Of course, parenting is also hugely rewarding. Being able to love your children and watch them grow up and experience the world is truly one of life’s greatest pleasures and joys.
You work tirelessly and selflessly so that your children have a secure home and plenty of opportunities for success in life.
Those are your goals: You want to raise happy, healthy functioning children.
You can get so caught up in “to-do lists” your kid’s demands, however, that you don’t carve out any time for yourself or your relationships.
And then one day you realize that you haven’t had a fun night out with our partner in months or longer. You haven’t deeply connected with your friends in what seems like forever. You have an extra hour one evening and instead of unwinding with a cup of tea you automatically start the laundry or get out the vacuum.
You’ve forgotten what it means to relax.
You’ve been single-mindedly pursuing that noble goal of being a good parent, but you’ve lost sight of the big picture:
In neglecting your well-being, you’re also gravely affecting your child’s well-being.
According to Dr. Pat Love, a licensed Family and Marriage Therapist and best-selling author, dedicating all your time to parenting and frequently feeling stressed-out and frazzled doesn’t help your kids.
“The key to healthy parenting is attunement. Well, what does that mean? It means I manage my emotions. I get myself to a calm state so I can give my full attention to my child.”
It’s difficult to give your full attention to your child if you’re unhappy or unable to relax or because you’re stressed out and exhausted.
Let’s say you stay up late night after night, trying to get things done around the house after your kids go to bed. Then you get up before they do in the morning, so you can get a jump start on more household chores or checking your work emails.
You’re sleep-deprived and not even able to sleep in on weekends—there’s no time.
Not to mention, you don’t work out anymore—there’s no time.
You don’t read for fun anymore—there’s no time.
You just text your friends to “check-in” every now and then, but you don’t talk on the phone and you don’t plan for any fun things like dinner together or hikes. There’s no time.
You used to have relaxed conversations with your partner every evening to catch up on the day and talk about your innermost thoughts and feelings. Now you only talk about “logistics” because…well, there’s no time for the other stuff.
So what happens as a result of not having time to take care of your emotional and physical needs?
You run on fumes. Your brain feels like a jumbled mess, your back hurts and you’re tired. Instead of responding to things your kids do, you react.
And usually not with kindness or patience.
You’re tired and have razor-thin patience. Is it any wonder, then, when your kids start bickering about not wanting to share a toy or they whine about not wanting to go to bed when it’s time, you snap? You start screaming at them or you punish them with a harsh time-out or throw the toy away or just leave the room, unable to even deal?
And that’s the problem, says Pat.
“You have to model emotional regulation for that child. If I want a child who is going to develop into a mature adult—meaning have the ability to cheer themselves up or calm themselves down—I have to be able to model that.”
That’s difficult to do if you don’t have a support system and a coping strategy in place to help.
A support system could be having another adult—such as your partner or spouse—to talk to or turn to when you’re feeling down or stressed or just need a break.
It could be calling your best friend and just taking five minutes to vent, and then taking a deep breath and brainstorming ways you can unwind or take care of yourself.
A coping strategy could look like putting a lock on the bedroom door so you can have privacy after the kids go to bed, so you can either enjoy alone time with your partner or you can enjoy alone time with yourself—to read, watch a show you like, or just talk to a friend on the phone without interruptions.
It could be hiring a sitter and scheduling regular, fun evenings out with your partner or your friends. Your kids may object at first, especially if you typically don’t go out or hire sitters, but it’s good for your kids to see that being an adult means taking adult privileges and having fun, not just working hard, according to Pat.
These types of diversions can relieve stress and help you develop better emotional resilience.
But that’s not the only reason it’s important, says Pat.
It’s also important because if your kids see that all you do is work hard, they’re going to grow up believing the wrong idea about what it means to be an adult.
They’re going to think that being an adult is hard work and no fun, and that may keep them emotionally “stuck” in childhood, afraid of growing up and taking responsibility for themselves as they get older.
That’s why you want to “model” healthy adult behavior by going out with your partner or your friends every once in a while and having a good time without your kids.
You’ll come home more relaxed and better able to be present and attuned to them, which means you’re being a better parent by taking care of your own needs.
Furthermore, your kids can just enjoy being kids, because they won’t feel like they’re responsible for your happiness and emotional well-being.
And you’ll have the internal resources to be their support system when they need you.
Sometimes we as parents think that in order to be effective at parenting, we have to be there for our kids as much as possible.
We forget that our own well-being is just as important as our children’s well-being, because we are constantly modeling healthy adult behavior to them.
This is just one of many ways that parents make their job harder than it needs to be.
We do things we think are helpful, supportive and loving, but in reality we are sending the wrong message to our kids. We just don’t realize the damage we’re doing, but if we did, we would do things differently.
That’s why we decided to turn to some of the world’s top experts and get their insights and advice on how to avoid the most common mistakes with parenting, and what to do instead.
When you subscribe to our free expert advice newsletter, you’ll get information-rich articles delivered to your inbox, with tons of actionable tips and specific advice to help you make positive changes in your parenting approach. These are articles by psychotherapists, authors, speakers and experts with decades of real-world experience working with families.
You’ll get articles from how to avoid some of the most common mistakes parents make and what you can do today to make sure you’re raising kids who will become happy, successful adults.
You’ll get articles about how to create healthy family systems and boundaries, so that your kids can enjoy being kids and you can enjoy being an adult.
You’ll learn why making your kids the center of your life can result in them growing up to be entitled adults, and what to do instead to raise likeable, responsible adults.
You’ll learn the secret to getting your kids to cooperate and behave without punitive time-outs and harsh punishments from parenting experts Dr. Jane Nelsen and Mary Tamborski—so you can have a more harmonious household free of temper tantrums and tears.
You’ll hear why some moms are prone to PERFECTIONISM and why it’s dangerous, and what to do if you find yourself in this situation with parenting.
You’ll also learn simple, powerful ways to give yourself a break when you don’t have much time. Plus, longer-term strategies for letting go of stress-inducing habits and thoughts.
You’ll also learn:
And much more…
Parenting can and should be fun and rewarding. It doesn’t need to be so stressful and all-consuming. We are grateful to be able to bring together expert advice and strategies that can help you make it the joyful experience it is meant to be, now and for many years to come.