1. Taking a Break From Your Kids
There’s a reason this is #1. Yes, we love our children, yes we want to care for them, watch them take their first step, hear them say “Momma,” and chat with them after school about their day, but we also need down time. Granted, their needs come first, but be your own person. Living only through your kids will suffocate everyone. What will they do when they grow up if you never allowed them to miss you, solve their own problems and learn to relate socially? It’s good for your kids to see you practicing self-care. Take a nap, get a pedicure, get a sitter and go out on a date with your significant other, go on vacation even, or work outside the home. Just don’t do 24/7 parenting. You’ll burn out, you’ll lose yourself and your kids will suffer.
2. Working in Some Down Time
Some kids are not into TV or electronics and some families have strict policies or don’t own TVs at all. That’s fine if it works for you and your family. With my kids, TV, videos games or tablet use represent down time. They don’t watch non-stop, and they’re not watching porn or violence, but yes, they do watch TV. And, I’m OK with that. Some days they don’t watch any. But, some of our favorite chilling at home times are when my boys and I order a pizza and watch a rerun of America’s Funniest Home Videos. All the stress of the day melts away when we laugh and relax together.
3. Eating Dessert First
I know there is an obesity epidemic and that most Americans eat more than their bodies need. That being said, don’t throw your common sense out with the kale chips. Enjoy food. Allow your kids to enjoy food. Sweets are coveted because they are withheld (also because ice cream rocks, but you already knew that.) I could go on and on about eating disorders and their causes. If you know nothing else, know this: One major cause of eating disordered behavior comes from labeling foods as “good” and other foods as “bad.” Teach your kids about moderation and nutrition so they recognize healthy choices. Have dessert, while also paying attention to their nutritional needs. But don’t be rigid or it’s going to backfire. And for the love of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, don’t make dessert a reward for eating “another bite of broccoli.” If your kid is hungry, he or she will eat that cookie, and then chow on dinner. Our job as parents is to make healthy, balanced meals and present them to our children. Their job is to eat them until they’re comfortably full.
4. Giving In
Sometimes as parents, we make blanket statements or policies that just beg to be broken, bent, and/or re-evaluated completely. “No snacks before dinner!” I have one kid with a metabolism I’d give my right boob for. He has to eat small amounts all day. He can eat a few pretzels with a glass of milk at 5 p.m., and then chow down on dinner an hour later. That’s what works for him.
Same goes with discipline: “If I hear one more word, no more TV for a month.” That’s a pretty harsh punishment, and let’s be honest, you’re punishing yourself too. If you dole out a consequence or make a rule that has you scratching your head and wondering if you overdid it, rethink it. It’s OK to change your mind. But explain the change to them. “Mommy was frustrated before, taking away your tablet for a month is too much. You can have it back tomorrow.” They will learn that you are flexible, willing to look at the situation with fresh, calm eyes, and they will come to you with concerns about rules if they need some leniency. “Hey Mom, I had a really rough day and need some time alone, can I skip family dinner and just have a glass of milk?” I bet in an hour that kid will emerge refreshed and calm. In addition, you have listened to their needs. Kids aren’t robots. Don’t you want to skip family dinner sometimes and just chill alone? They do too.
5. Occasionally Wondering Why You Had Them in the First Place
Don’t do it in front of them, of course, but it’s normal to get so frustrated, tired, and depleted that you need to go scream into your pillow. Or fantasize about what life would be like had you remained childless. Completely normal. This is why you do the other things, like take breaks, exercise, work, vacation without them or have that glass of wine. No life is perfect; we all make choices. You chose to be a parent. Lucky you, because it’s an awesome ride. But it’s a roller coaster–you might love the feel of the wind in your hair or the sensation of flying, but sometimes, you might just want to puke.
Jenny is the writer behind, In Other Words, where this post originally ran.
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