In Australia we have just come to the end of the long summer break, and children are heading back to school after six weeks of rest and recreation. I meet so many parents who tell me that they love their children to pieces but they are so glad they’re going back to school. But mums also tell me they must return to the grind of making school lunches, washing uniforms and helping with homework. Hey, these are all tasks dads should also be lending a hand with. Mums also tell me that being a mother is hard work, and even though they adore their kids, they get sick of the grind. It is perfectly fine to feel that way.
My youngest daughter is still at school. The truth is that I love time with her as I don’t have the privilege of living with her on a full-time basis. However I still totally respect the feelings of parents who get tired and stressed. Parenting is a hard job, and no matter how much you love a job, from time to time you get worn out and need a break. I am especially sympathetic to single parents, who have to carry the load alone. That is one long marathon. Again, there is nothing wrong with admitting that there are times when you are over it or would like a break. You don’t have to feel guilty if you feel that way.
Can you have it all and be it all?
Women today have been told they can have it all, but many women instead find they are doing it all. And worse still, too many women feel that they have to achieve it all and be super mothers, super wives, super career women. You don’t have to be all those things – and neither do you guys! If you are tired of being a parent, it means that you take the job seriously and that in its self tells me that you care. Bad parents don’t care. It tells me that you try to give your child the best, have some discipline, and support their school work. But if you are also feeling exhausted it tells me that you are stressed.
When you are stressed you don’t have the patience and energy to parent well. Your child will feel this. Your child may also end up taking on some of your stress. Next, they will be acting it out and misbehaving. That is going to make dealing with teens or wrangling toddlers so much harder.
The truth is you are going to have to better manage your stress and fatigue. Here is a bit of advice that you might find helpful.
1. Leave your stress on the door step
Try hard not to bring work stress home with you. It is better to phone a friend or your spouse and debrief about your bad day before you get home. You need to walk in the door ready to give not take from your family.
Once you arrive in your driveway, stop and check your mood and your feelings. Do some deep breathing, shake yourself literally. Is there any way you could take your dog and child for a walk when you arrive home? This could help you both unwind.
2. Choose fun with the family
Having children is one of life’s greatest joys. Aim to come home and have fun. Is there a fun TV show you can watch together? Can you schedule games night once a week? Don’t fall into a rut of not talking and going your separate ways after dinner. Aim to unite once or twice a week for good times.
You could also opt to coach a children’s sports team for your kids or read stories with your children. I’m not just talking about young children, why not read part of a favourite book to your teens?
3. Take time out for yourself
Sometimes we do a better job of parenting if we’ve had some time out. Don’t always put yourself last. Buy a gym pass and get to a yoga or aerobics class. Go for a swim, have a massage. Do something for you, so you don’t get to the point of resenting your family and all you do for them. Also aim to get enough sleep.
4. Seek help when you need it
As parents we sometimes feel the pressure to be super-human, but if you feel you are fraying at both ends, then look for support. It is okay to ask for help. Call on family or friends if you are struggling. Don’t be proud and try to go it alone. You may need to visit a GP and ask if there are any community services you can access. Headspace – a free mental health support organisation for teens – is there if you and your teens are having problems.
5. Talk to other parents
Sometimes we feel like we’ve failed as parents. Kids can be rude and uncooperative and we wonder where we went wrong, but once you talk to other parents you usually discover they are having exactly the same issues and it’s not just you. It really helps to know that others are in the same boat and that kids change as they age. They do become more independent but also more volatile when they hit puberty. Talking to other parents tells you that others are experiencing the same stresses at home.
6. Get away from home once in a while
You should never leave children or teens unsupervised, but do you have responsible adults who will care for them? What about having a weekend away with your spouse? How about putting some romance back into your relationship? Sometimes we are so busy parenting that we forget about caring for our partner. Ideally, a strong marriage is the backbone of family. Too many marriages fall apart because we neglect or lose contact with our spouse. Date nights are a good thing!
7. Don’t let your family get over-committed
Kids today have so many lessons – swimming, football, music, private tutors. Before you know it you are spending your whole life driving your children from one activity to the next. Do they really need to go to all these activities or would it be better for them to have some quality time with their parents? Don’t overload yourself or your family.
The more happy times you spend with your children the better placed you will be to handle the tantrums, fights, sibling rivalry, bed wetting, and other challenges that comes with having children.
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ABOUT PAT MESITI
Pat Mesiti is a best-selling author, coach and educator in the area of personal development. Having built some of Australia’s largest people-driven organisations, Pat understands the power of harnessing human potential. He has shared the stage with some of the world’s great business minds and has sold over millions of copies of his books and materials.