Slowing Down in Parenthood
Parenthood is not easy. If you're started to feel the effects of burnout creeping into your life, that might be a sign that it's time for you to slow down and reevaluate your goals for your family.
Parenthood is not easy. From sleepless nights, to shuttling kids to and from appointments, to planning countless meals, to breaking up sibling squabbles, raising a family can be a daunting task. No matter how old your kids are, being a parent never really gets easier. Life can seem so chaotic that it is hard to slow down and enjoy the small moments.
All the trials and tribulations of parenthood can quickly create a sense of overwhelm. You might find yourself becoming easily angered, tossing and turning at night, and having difficulty pulling yourself out of bed in the mornings. You might feel like you're living in a constant state of disarray. If you're started to feel the effects of burnout creeping into your life, that might be a sign that it's time for you to slow down and reevaluate your goals for your family.
Is it normal to not enjoy every part of parenthood?
Don't feel guilty for feeling bogged down by monotony.
Being a parent can sometimes feel like living the same day over and over again. The never-ending to-do list might make your days drag on. Listen to your heart, prioritize your family, and don't take on too much. Leave the guilt behind for not loving every second of being a parent. Your children need affection and care, but that doesn't mean you need to sacrifice your own needs in order to keep your children happy.
Not every moment has to be magical.
When your children are young, it's normal to feel exhausted and burnt out. Chances are, your little one isn't sleeping well and is attached to you for most of the time. Clinginess and desire for parental attachment is normal part of infant and toddler development, but thankfully this does get easier as a child grows and matures. Even on the hardest days, remind yourself that not every moment needs to be magical and special. Families thrive when children know they are loved, wanted, and respected, but that doesn't mean you need to funnel all of your time and energy into creating special outings, projects, and playdates.
Feel more alive by doing less.
This might seem counterintuitive, but setting healthy boundaries as a parent is actually a guaranteed way to make your life easier.
You don't need to spend every minute of every day catering to your kids. Self care is not only important, it's necessary to your sense of peace and self esteem. For many parents, the secret to feeling less overwhelmed in life is to simply do less.
Parents can simplify their lives by challenging themselves to these four tasks:
1. Focus on accomplishing one task per day.
If you want to feel accomplished at the end of the day, don't create a twenty-item to-do list. Focus on one item you'd like to finish by the end of the day, and plan a way to get that done.
If you think your baby will take a long morning nap, consider what might be the most important task to get done during that time. Do you need to take a shower and style your hair? Do you want to put away a few loads of laundry? Do you want to catch up on the latest episode of your favorite show? Do you want to deep-clean the kitchen?
While you might be tempted to power through all of these tasks while your baby sleeps, simply pick one and then spend the rest of the time (if you have any!) relaxing. Enjoy a hot cup of coffee, read a magazine, or sort through your closet. You don't need to fill every second of every day running around the house trying to finish every chore. Prioritize your time, and include time for yourself. You are a valuable human being outside of being a parent.
2. Set time limits on technology.
Technology can be both a blessing and a curse in parenthood. Having the answers to all of life's questions at your fingertips can be helpful, but it can also create more anxiety and guilt when it comes to raising kids.
Do you need to take a timeout from technology?
If you're feeling overwhelmed with parenthood, it might be helpful to take a "tech vacation." Set strict time limits on phone use when you're with your children, and stick to it. Maybe you commit to not using your phone during the hours your child is awake so you can fully enjoy play together. Maybe you decide to put the phone away at night and pick up a book instead as you drift off to sleep. Many phones track your usage, so looking back and seeing how much time you spent on your phone over the course of a week can be very eye-opening.
Technology can rob you of your energy and peace. From the pressure to respond to texts, to obsessing over appointments and to-do lists, to reading article after article on how to be a better parent, technology can quickly become a burden! If you find yourself mindlessly scrolling through social media or reaching for your phone when you first wake up in the morning, consider taking a tech break.
As technology becomes less of an anxiety-producing distraction, you'll soon be able to enjoy more quality time with your kids by giving them your full attention.
3. Remember that children learn through play.
Play is how a kid learns, making it an essential part of childhood.
Play is truly the work of a child. It is how they experience the world and learn new skills. Making sure your child has enough playtime, especially doing quality activities with a parent or caregiver, is the best way for a child to learn.
What if playing with young children is a challenge?
Even if you spend most of your time at home, creating a safe and fun play environment for your child is important. Simplify your life, and don't spend hours reading to your child, doing flashcards, and attempting to teach your kid how to identify colors and letters. Playing with your child shouldn't be hard. Engage in child-led activities, and follow your little one's lead.
Play will become easier over time as you observe your child and learn more about his interests. There is no "right" way to play with a child; all they need is your attention and love. Ask questions, get to know your child's unique personality, and enjoy life together. Spending one on one time with your child can make a big difference.
When you're raising kids, it can be tempting to do all of the activities and chores all of the time. You might run from task to task, and feel like you'll never find enough time to accomplish everything you want to on any given day. Sometimes, it's important to just rest. Don't feel pressured to do too much and try to be the model parent. If your daily life feels chaotic, consider delegating tasks. Hire a part-time babysitter, sign up for a laundry service, or find a cleaning service to come tidy your home once a month. These are great ways to simplify your life and put yourself first.
The human ability to multitask is actually a myth, according to neuroscience research. In a 2014 article in Psychology Today, Nancy Napier, Ph.D., explains that “multitasking” is really just switching back and forth quickly between tasks. This “start/stop/start process is rough on us,” according to Napier. Instead of allowing us to be more productive, trying to do multiple tasks at once costs us time, energy, and efficiency. This, of course, often leads to higher levels of stress.
Throw kids into the mix, and it’s even more difficult to multitask! Kids are naturally needy creatures, and they can be a constant source of distraction.
If you want to be more productive as a parent, try out these methods:
1. Set a timer. Pick one task you’d like to accomplish, and set a timer (pick a goal that’s reasonable for the task). For example, give yourself 10 minutes to tidy up the kitchen, or 20 minutes to fold and put away laundry. Focus on only one task during that time period.
2. Put away distractions. Minimize distractions by putting away technology. Silence your phone or put it in “do not disturb” mode. Turn off the television, close your laptop, and turn off any tablets. Focus on completing the task at hand before moving on to other projects.
3. Take breaks. One way to get through bigger projects without draining all your energy is to take breaks. Work for 15 minutes, take a 5 minute break, work for another 15 minutes, take a 5 minute break, and so on. Giving yourself a few minutes to rest and distract yourself with something fun or interesting can be a great way to break up longer tasks. It allows you to devote your full attention to the task at hand after brief periods of rest.
4. Involve your kids. If you have an infant, try baby wearing! Wearing your baby in a carrier such as the KeaBabies Baby Wrap Carrier is a simple way to get more done while keeping your little one close and comfortable! If you have a toddler, set a timer and ask them to help put away toys, move laundry from the washer to the dryer, or match socks with you. If you have a preschooler, let your little one help you vacuum, put clothes on hangers, or tidy up the playroom. Kids are usually willing to help, especially if you make it fun!
5. Plan ahead. Make a plan for when you’d like to accomplish certain tasks. Don’t wait until your baby is napping to try to decide what to do (Netflix will probably win over doing laundry!). Decide ahead of time what you’d like to work on during each of your little one’s naps. Figure out when you need to have certain tasks completed by, and set reminders on your phone. Write a list at the beginning of each day and prioritize a few items that need to get done.
The challenges of parenthood last only for a season.
There will be a day when parenting is not so stressful. Your kids will need you less and less, you’ll have more free time to keep the house neat and tidy, and the whole family will sleep better. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by parenthood, just know that this trying time is only temporary. You’re doing a wonderful job.
Meet Our KeaMommy Contributor: Kaitlyn Torrez
I’m Kaitlyn Torrez, from the San Francisco Bay Area. I live with my husband and two children, Roman and Logan. I’m a former preschool teacher, currently enjoying being a stay at home mom. I love all things writing, coffee, and chocolate. In my free time, I enjoy reading, blogging, and working out.