Some days parenting can be tough. Sleepless nights, teething, and sickness are just a few of the challenges we all face and they can wreak havoc on our patience and the way we parent.
So when you are exhausted and feel like you don’t have it in you to make it through the day, what can you do?
The first thing you have to do is accept the situation. It is what it is, and there is no changing that. Maybe you are tired, have a headache, and your child is cranky and overtired too – but wishing it would all just go away isn’t going to help matters, so you need to face up to it.
The second thing you have to do is to let go. Perhaps you had your day mapped out, you were going to finally get a project finished, or do the food shopping, or go to the zoo. But today is not the day. Let go of your plans and make some new ones which fit the mood better.
When you are on the verge of shouting, when you feel like you could scream or throw something just stop for a moment. BREATH. Slow your heart rate and gather your thoughts. You are tired and irritable and words spoken too quickly can hurt. Think them through first.
Make the best of the situation you have. Do what ever you need to do to make this day easier to cope with. Below is a list of survival tools which help me when I wish I could crawl back in to bed and sleep the day away.
- Gather your children and take a long walk – whatever the weather!
- Sit in the garden with a book and give your child a broom to sweep, or a spade to dig in the mud, whilst you catch a break.
- Curl up in a comfy chair and read stories. I keep a basket of books accessible for my toddler to choose from. When we finish one I send him off to put it back and choose another which gives me a minute to myself to relax.
- When I’m tired, I’m quiet. I find it difficult to keep up a stream of conversation and that’s okay. It is okay to be quiet. Let your child come to you and of course be responsive to them, but don’t feel you have to be “on” all the time. You do not have to be an entertainer.
- One of my toddlers favourite activities is when I lay out a huge piece of card and give him a bowl full of giant chalks. He spends ages taking them in and out of the bowl, drawing and talking to me about what he is doing.
- If you snap or say something harsh, apologise and explain that you are tired and feeling sensitive. Then let it go, wipe the slate clean and don’t let it build up.
- Balloons, easy, fun versatile – could they be the greatest toy ever?!
- Eat well throughout the day and provide healthy snacks for your little ones to munch on. Sugar and caffeine can seem like the best options when you feel drained, but you will crash later and your energy and mood will suffer for it.
- Focus on the small moments that make you smile. Watching your toddler role playing with a teddy bear, saying a new word, cuddling up together with children of all ages and a book to share, drinking a hot cup of tea.
- Say yes to support. Don’t brave it out, if you need help, ask for it. It does not make you a failure. If you are finding these tough days mounting up and becoming a regular occurrence, support is vital. Not everyone has family or friends they can reach out to and if that is the case, there are other ways. But you have to put in some work here. Support will not come knocking on your door. Join groups, say yes to any invites that come your way, scour the internet to find out about things happening in your area. I found sling meets and attachment parenting groups a great place to find like minded friends. There are also craft groups, yoga classes, mum and baby exercise groups, first time mums groups, sure start dads groups. There are people out there and you are not alone.
- Try not to wear yourself out worrying about discipline. Unless its dangerous let it go. Mess can be cleared up later – you will waste more energy getting worked up about it and it will only get messy again. This may be on the list of tips for tough days but its actually a tip for every day. Focus on your relationship and your connection instead.
- Pull out the treasure baskets and the toys that have been stored away for a while. They will seem new and exciting for a little while, giving you a little break.
- Bubbles – Fun, cheap and easy. And you can blow them whilst sitting on the sofa.
- Do make time for yourself. Even if you can only grab 5 minutes to read a chapter of a book or sit down in the sunshine with a drink or close your eyes it will help. If your children nap, use that time to do something rejuvenating. I know there are a few, but most people wouldn’t list housework under that title. Forget what you “should” do and give that time to yourself.
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