I’ve just come back from 6 glorious days of holidays, and I’ve even had the opportunity to rest without my children. This is definitely one of the perks of having a separated life from the father of my children – I don’t feel guilty because they need and want time with their dad.
Having said that, the ‘G’ word, always creeps back into my life every day as a mum. I’m home, refreshed and relaxed, but that mental load hits me like a slap in the face.
How has life changed so much that our ‘to-do’ list has become out of control? Why do I constantly feel like I need more of this and less of that? When do we ever sit back in our lives and feel truly content with what we have and take each day as it comes?
Being a parent today is demanding, without even hinting at having a job. As a modern parent there is pressure on us to also financially contribute to our family. The traditional version of ‘family’ has changed and suddenly Mum isn’t necessarily the home maker and Dad isn’t necessarily the money earner.
I must admit, this is something that continually revisits my thoughts. Am I doing enough as a parent and as financial contributor? Are my children’s lives happy and full and balanced with a range of activities? Do they eat well enough? Have enough social interaction? Do enough exercise? There’s little wonder mental health is such a huge topic at the moment.
While I don’t have a cure to these challenging thoughts, I can share the helpful strategies that I have been using to not completely beat myself up all the time. The mental load is huge… let’s not let it completely squash us.
- Talk. A problem shared is a problem halved. Whether you have a close friend, a supportive partner or even your mum, it helps to let them know your worries. Talking to your children is ok too, but be mindful of the depth and burden you place on them. Keeping it on a ‘need to know’ basis is the best way – for example, ‘I’m feeling a bit stressed today with a hectic work schedule and a messy house!’ Try not to launch into a rant.. you’ll lose them!
- Write it down. I regularly feel overwhelmed with simple tasks, but when I write a list and work through methodically I feel better. I have less of a sense of helplessness at the end of the day. It often helps to complete some smaller tasks each day so you can see the ticks on your page.
- Break it down. A day can be long and overwhelming when you’ve got lots to do. Set yourself and your family some guidelines for the day. For example, ‘I’m going to work until lunch time and then we’ll take a break to play a game or do a puzzle’. Make sure you follow through… for both your sake and your child’s.
- Look for some joy in your day. What are you looking forward to today? My new mantra is ‘enjoy today’… stop looking forward and willing your life to zoom by… take some deep breaths and revaluate your day. Take a walk. Cook a favourite meal for dinner. Watch a favourite Netflix show. Find something and enjoy it.
These strategies will help you keep your stress under control, but will also model to your children some great life skills. If my children followed these steps each day I’d feel like I’ve done a pretty good job! Little eyes are always watching. Little ears are always listening. Let’s make those moments count.