Here I was thinking all this time that I needed to take dance lessons when it seems that I am actually rather acquainted with the Cha Cha, and don’t need lessons after all! It can often be discouraging when you are moving forward and then something unexpected happens and you find yourself taking a step back.
Those are the stresses we aren’t planning for, but from talking to many parents, struggling with the daily goings-on of everyday life seems to be a common aspect of life for many, and as a solo parent, this can be amplified. It turns out that over the holidays, I was doing lots of things wrong – not getting enough sleep, drinking coffee, having wines, being too social, not wanting to get out of bed in the morning, not managing routine or finances, days finding it hard to be tolerant with my daughter – I was exhibiting most of the signs of stress!
Parenting alone is hard work and stressful. Taking inevitable stress out of the equation may not be fully possible, but minimising everyday stresses can be. After spending six weeks over the school holidays with my daughter (for the first time since she was 2 years old), I recognised the direct relation between me being stressed and having a well-balanced and happy home. The days stress wasn’t present or was at a minimum, were the days that we had a positive day and all seemed right with the world. I notice as soon as I had a “bad” parent-child day, if I didn’t do something to keep things in perspective or de-stress, it could very quickly feel like our whole world was falling apart. Does this sound familiar?
What works for me may be different for you, but these are a few core tips that transform my whole parenting ability and make coping with everyday life that bit more sustainable:
1. Putting on Music – not only does it create some good sounds in the air, it makes us feel more upbeat and positive and it’s pretty hard to feel grumpy or stressed, and watch how your children’s mood changes too!
2. Exercise – making a split decision to get out and kick a ball around, jumping on our bikes, go for a walk around the block even (and it might even just be a walk down to the local dairy for an ice block treat to break the ice!), going down to the beach for a swim… If a play date comes up, heading off to the gym is a great use of spare time and I always come out feeling awesome!
3. To Do List – writing down tasks I need to get done and splitting them up in to what desperately has to be achieved today! I often discover that there really are only 1-2 items that REALLY have to be done. It frees my mind up to focus on more important things like the “little things” in life.
4. Socialising – going to a friends for a coffee and chat while the kids play. It breaks up the day, my daughter can have fun playing and us parents get some much needed chin wagging, release and laughter!
5. Earlier Bedtimes – making sure my daughter is in bed at a reasonable hour so she is getting a good sleep and I get time to feel like I am getting my life under control, or sometimes just blob if I want to, before it’s my bedtime.
6. Games – getting a game out and playing with it with your child/children, great bonding time, hard for stress to be present, reminder that quality time is important, usually a few laughs and cheeky moments, and I always wonder why I don’t play more!
7. Cooking Together – okay it creates mess, but if your conditions are that your child/children helps clean up the mess afterwards, it makes the end less daunting! Rosie and I have often played Masterchef cooking dinner together at the end of a stressful day. It keeps things light and fun, it gives her a chance to be creative without too many rules, we always make it that we have to do it using up ingredients we already have, and she always eats all her dinner!
8. Invite for DVDs & Snuggles on the Couch – this one is a lazy one, but if you are both tired, it’s fantastic! Bonding, relaxing, resting and entertainment – it’s always given a hi-5 by Rosie. She grabs her favourite snuggle blankets for us and before we know it, all the stresses of the day have melted away.
9. Positive and Spiritual – keeping a positive attitude, doesn’t mean a self-expectation to be OTT positive all the time big cheery smiles. That’s no more real than pigs flying. But, looking for the positive in any situation, having faith that there is a lesson to learn here and that it’s happened for a reason, being aware of your body/thoughts and what your inner voice is saying.
It’s often been said that it’s the little things in life that are important. We have little things in our lives that are highly important (our children), parenting these “little things” alone can also equate to big stress. There are lots of beautiful times, and we have a strong bond that I am sure is probably a lot stronger than it ever would have been if I had stayed married, but there are plenty of moments where it’s overwhelming and hard. In this, I know I am not alone.
Rosie is now 7 years old and it’s been feeling like we have come in to a new cycle. As I type that, a little voice says to google developmental cycles and according to this, a life cycle is in 7 year slots, it all makes sense with where Rosie seems to be at the moment. (Note: that this is a spiritual take on development cycles, and won’t be everyone’s cup of tea).
I have made a decision to get some help as we enter this next stage and have enrolled my daughter and myself at Relationship Services. The counsellor has also offered me a bit of Triple P Parenting coaching. I am sure I am going to learn some really positive tools to build on my confidence as a parent. If I am unsure about how to parent in certain situations, as inadequate and embarrassed as I feel admitting that, it’s going to make my daughters journey a lot harder in the long run if I don’t sort it out. She only has one mother, and I only have one shot at this. This is my focus, sustaining our family, and with it, a better chance for her at a positive future.
If you are feeling overwhelmed, and like you may need some help, I encourage you to put your pride to rest. Those that think less of you for doing so, aren’t worthy of being in your life. Gaining new tools, finding comfort and understanding and healthy ways to release, will be far more empowering and rewarding as a parent then forcing yourself to take the old kiwi philosophy path and “toughen up”. It’s okay to not be perfect, sometimes like the Cha Cha, we take a step forward and sometimes two steps back. If we didn’t take steps back I guess we wouldn’t appreciate the steps forward quite as much. I say let’s give ourselves a break, a pat on the back every now and again and breathe. We can do this!