Do you feel as though you are ‘managing’ your baby and children? Is your life all about ‘staying in control’ because the alternative is just too scary to contemplate? Or are you having fun with them?
Are you racing on a treadmill as you strive to do ‘all the things‘? Do you feel energised or exhausted by the work you do? Or do you feel as though you are constantly running a race against the clock, whether you work at home, run a business or you are balancing a career with family, with no finishing line in sight?
It’s time to re-evaluate how to nourish yourself so you have the energy to have fun. Firstly, give yourself a huge high five for all that you are and all that you are doing right now. You are enough. You don’t need to keep up with anyone else, you don’t need to feel ‘less than’ whatever you feel you ‘should’ be. You have probably heard me say ‘don’t let anybody ‘should’ on you – and that includes YOU!
So instead of adding more ‘to dos’ to your list, let’s pause for a few moments and do a ‘health check’ of the ‘fun versus frantic’ factors in your life. Check in and ask yourself, how do I want to be as a parent and a partner?
If you feel overwhelmed by stress and pressure it is time to make some changes because:
- We all know babies and children are little barometers of our own stress. If you are a frantic mum, your child is more likely to be frantic: if he senses your disconnection, his efforts to reconnect with you can present as ‘difficult’ or unsettled behaviour. A need for ‘attention’ is just asvalid as a need for food and nourishment – your touch, your eye contact, listening attentively and being present are nourishment for your little (and not so little) one’s soul and self- esteem. They tell him, I am valued. Then he can value himself. He will feel safe and loved and he won’t need to do ‘silly things’ to ‘get your attention’.
- Fun parents who seize the moments to create fun create happy memories – for you and your child – that will last long after your littlies have grown. What do you remember as the most fun when you were a child? How can you create some of these precious memories for your own family?
- Happy families are healthy families – stress affects your immune system and your child’s. On the other hand, laughter really is the best medicine! Making time for laughter and joy will save time and money on health care for stress related illness – from runny noses and cranky behaviour in children to more serious stress related disorders in adults.
- Delete, delegate and simplify – Instead of sweating the small things and feeling that you aren’t measuring up to everyone else’s perfect mummy achievements (or unrealistic media images that are permeating your fragile mind), write out a list of everything you do – this may take a few days to jot down as you actually do tasks. Now, look at your list and consider whether all of these things have to be done. What could you leave off your list – for now, at least? What can you do less often? And what can you delegate? This may mean hiring some help or perhaps getting your partner or children to share the load.
It can help to look at your beliefs around the work you do at home and why you may not be delegating. Do you, for instance, feel that because you are an ‘at home’ mother, you ‘should’ do everything around the home? Are you working outside the home, so feel guilty about asking your children to help?
Overcompensating and doing all of the household chores won’t do your kids any favours. Eventually, they will have to leave the nest and what could be more devastating than knowing you haven’t prepared them for independent living? Also, consider what messages you want your kids to take with them from your modelling. That housework is ‘women’s work’? That a woman’s role is that of domestic servant?
Instead of becoming burnt-out or resentful about how your family support you (or don’t), remember that your partner and children aren’t mind-readers. Discuss your needs calmly and ask for help when you need it – and do remember to say thanks, even if you feel it was the other person’s duty anyway.
We can never get back this moment, this day or this week with our child at this age right now. While it’s great to have lifelong goals and aspirations, it’s important to take off the blinkers and stop pretending that we are ‘doing this for our kids’ if these goals are really stealing time and energy from being present and being aware right now. Babies and children don’t care if you are the leader of the free world if you are so busy you are always saying, ‘in a minute’ or ‘hurry up!’ They need you now – to love; to laugh; to have fun; to teach them and model values, so they can make their way in the world with confidence and joy.
Making it FUN!
Please, take a moment to visualise the kind of family you want, the kind of things you can enjoy with your little ones and the values that are important to you. Remember, no pressure, you don’t need to be perfect, nor do your kids.
Create a FUN board: this is like a vision board for fun – you can include your kids, especially if they are old enough to cut or glue – cut out pictures, collect articles and advertisements for activities that you and your child(ren) can enjoy together.
Write a FUN list: write lists of all the things you could enjoy with your family – things that you can do spontaneously in a few minutes – blow bubbles, wrestle, hug, dance to happy music, jump on the trampoline together, plant some seeds or pick flowers or veggies from the garden, paint each others’ faces, bake a cake, eat a picnic lunch outside or on the floor inside if it’s raining, make a ‘cubby’ from old sheets pegged onto a tree, ‘paint’ the fence with a small bucket of water and a large house painting brush.
If you feel burnt out or ‘all played out’, here are some quick, simple ideas for fun that don’t involve creating extra messes to clean up – you can even enjoy a cuppa while you play these.
Schedule FUN days: think of things that require a bit more time and perhaps money (but fun shouldn’t create financial stress) – then schedule at least one day a month all this year to spend on a fun family activity with no interruptions. This is sacred time that can’t be put aside – whether its’ a trip to the beach, a pizza and movie night at home or a live concert, this is FUN time!
Say “NO!” Above all, guard your own energy by learning to say ‘NO’ to activities and people that will sap your energy – remember ‘NO’ is a complete sentence , you don’t need to give an explanation.
Say ‘YES’ to activities that nourish you – your child needs a model of fun and joy, as well as fun time with you. Life is about choices – make the choices that fill your own tank so you have energy to enjoy your family.
Pinky McKay is a mum of five, an International Board certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC), and best-selling author with 4 titles published by Penguin Random House, including Parenting By Heart, Sleeping Like a Baby , 100 Ways to Calm the Crying and Toddler Tactics. See Pinky’s books and audio recording packages HERE