How do you manage when life is throwing too much busyness and stress at you? How do you cope when this is combined with low energy levels, too little sleep and patterns of not looking after yourself very well? It might be that you are burning the candle at both ends. Perhaps you or one or more of your children are ill. The pressure of work or projects you are involved in may have become just too much.
Before you had the children you could re-balance your energy, health and commitments with the judicious use of a holiday or some good old-fashioned duvet days. Now, however, the children and family life still require all of the usual care, attention, organisation and planning. How can you take a rest when all of the usual rules and roles of parenting still apply?
Sleep is the first secret ingredient. Of course, it’s not so much that the joys of sleep are a secret. Rather, sleep is just a more limited and less controllable resource than in your pre-parenting days. For those of you with newborns, this is just the stage you are at I’m afraid, and for those of you who have a child like one of mine who only really slept consistently through the night at age three, you do just have to manage what you’ve been given. Find your way to get more sleep though. Perhaps once or twice a week you could either go to bed at nine or ten o’clock, or sleep when your baby or toddler has a nap in the daytime. If you have time to watch television, then you do have the time to get extra sleep. This isn’t me being bossy; this is me telling myself this fact too.
Fun and enjoyment are also fundamental ingredients for a happy life. What hobbies, activities, work and leisure pursuits make you feel good? How can you fit them into your life? If these activities are child-free, work out how you can manage the childcare requirements of doing them. Satisfaction, fulfillment and laughter will give you a happiness-hangover that lasts for far longer than the activity. They will recharge your batteries and remind you that you are a human being with wants and needs of your own to consider as well as those of your family.
What about the people around you? Are they positivity-providers or positivity-vampires? As a parent, your free time is now one of the most precious and finite resources that you have. Choose who you spend that time with thoughtfully. Learn to say no when you need to. Spend much more time with the people who make you feel good about yourself and with whom time flies because you are having fun. Conversely, you know those people who criticise you, dig at you and badmouth you behind your back? Severely limit the time you spend in their company. If this person is your partner, seek advice or counselling from trusted friends or skilled professionals to try and rectify this.
If you are well-rested, energized, happy and fulfilled, you will pay these positive states of body and mind forward to the people around you. If you are going to be the best parent you can be and take the best care of your family, looking after yourself is vital. In the safety talks on aeroplanes they ask parents to use the oxygen mask before they help their children to use it. After all, an oxygen-starved parent who has fainted cannot look after their children very well! Take good care of yourself. You are doing the most important of jobs as you raise the next generation.