Making life easier…one baby step at a time
Well, hello there! In listening to so many new and experienced over the years, it got me thinking about challenging days–it’s a common theme in conversations. We’ve all had them: tough days. Look at any commercial or parenting magazine and you’ll see scenes of smiling parents with their angelic children nearby. There’s a certain pressure in the media to make us feel like we’re supposed to find parenting easy and full of giggles. The reality is that parenting is the hardest job you’ll ever love. (Did you know that’s the Peace Corps’ motto, too? I was a Peace Corps Volunteer and parenting is way more challenging, just for the record.)
What is a loving parent to do? Yes, we can all scream and yell (come on, how many of us have found ourselves cussing in the middle of the night when we’re soooo tired but our child won’t go to sleep??). But that doesn’t work too well and create peace and quiet and calm…just makes us feel guilty, right?
1. Take a break and count to 10. It works, especially if you count slowly. Make sure your child is in a safe place and walk away. You can even slam the door on your way out if that makes you feel better. Then count to ten. Do ten sun salutations. Do downward dog for the count of ten (gets blood to your heart and head and makes you feel refreshed). Do ten push ups. Ten jumping jacks. Count to ten like the Count from Sesame Street (that will at least make you giggle on this inside). If you have a partner home at the time…go get them and have them take over the parenting role for a while (yes, wake him/her up)!
2. Get outta there. Sometimes both you and your child need a change of scenery. Even in the middle of the night you can go outside for a quick walk in the yard or on the street. During the day, grab the big bag (which you always have pre-stocked with everything you could possibly need, right?) and get out of the house. It’s amazing how a crying baby or cranky toddler or sleepy child will quiet once you get going. I know I used to get focused on the task I was doing and could get frustrated that my baby wasn’t in the mood to watch me wash dishes. The day I figured out that the dishes could wait because my baby would be happier if we went for a walk or read a story was the day I found some freedom and sanity.
3. Reach out to a friend. We live now in an electronic age. Someone has to be up at 3am when we are…get on Facebook and figure out who is online. Or text some people. If they are also awake, they’ll respond. If they are asleep, they won’t. If you wake them up because they hear a text alert–that’s their own fault for not turning their phone to vibrate, right? I’ve been half-joking with the moms who I see at Babies in Common about hosting a moms group at 1:00 am. Many say that would be great. Hey, I’m a night-owl…it just might happen! Often-times the moments that are hard are during the day. Call someone. Go to a local park and introduce yourself to a new friend. Need to make some new friends? Join a local parents group like the ones at Babies in Common!
4. Sleep when your child sleeps. I know, I know, some of you aren’t good nappers. Learn to be a good napper. There are these amazing inventions called sleep masks (for your eyes) as well as noise machines or fans that make a dull sound. It’s amazing how much more you can mentally and physically handle when you have gotten rest. Even a 20 minute nap can do wonders. Go ahead, try it. You might like it.
5. Get closer to your child. Do some skin-on-skin. Anyone that has done skin-on-skin with a baby of any age knows they calm down quickly. Skin-on-skin is effective even after the first day of life…it can work wonders even for a 2-year-old (shirts off but bottoms on, just to be clear). As I always joke, we spend the rest of our lives trying to get naked with someone, so of course our little ones will like it. Another option to get closer to your child is to WEAR your child in a wrap or child carrier. Watch out for how your child is positioned in it so that their legs aren’t dangling, though. Imagine yourself in that position and consider whether you’d be comfortable. (If you need a carrier or wrap or would like help with one you own, let me know.)
What are your strategies for staying sane and feeling positive about your mothering or fathering skills? Share them on the Babies in Common Facebook page.
And of course, deep breaths.