Making Parenting Easier #1: 12 Ideas to Make You Feel Better

This is part of a series aiming to help us all go easier on ourselves and make our parenting lives more enjoyable and satisfying. The whole series list is here and more links are at the bottom of the post. [Update: 2.5 years later I’ve revised this and added some stuff in. Feel free to suggest more!]

Making Parenting Easier?

Making Parenting Easier. If that title doesn’t get parents reading, nothing will.

Sorry, I’m not offering not a cash giveaway, a flux capacitor or Fräulein Maria arriving with her guitar at your doorstep.

But this week’s discussion on the importance (or not) of obedience – and the conversation in the comments thread is still going strong – has raised some questions that are fundamental to this Sacraparental community:

  • How can I parent thoughtfully and sacramentally when I’m so exhausted?
  • How can I feel like I’m doing a good job when my performance is so different from my ideals?

So here’s a new series, giving us space to share ideas for how to make things easier.

I’ve made a list of ideas that’s too long for one post, so how about I get the ball rolling, you chime in with your suggestions, and I incorporate them into further installments?

 

Making parenting easier: 12 ideas to help you feel better about the great job you are doing | Sacraparental.com

 

I’ve only been doing this for a year.

Or, rather, I’ve been doing this for a whole year!

I also spent quite a bit of time as a pastor having these kinds of conversations with people, so I’m drawing on that and this past year to offer some thoughts on how we can feel better about our parenting and enjoy it more, on the days (/weeks/years) where it feels overwhelming.

This isn’t about how to be a better parent, in the sense of raising our standards and learning new skills and tricks. It’s about how to be a healthier, happier person in the middle of the most challenging thing many of us will ever do.

It’s aimed at people who spend lots of hours and days with kids, and especially parents of young children, when life is particularly intense, or parents in difficult circumstances.

Some ideas will resonate with you, some will be from another planet. Try things that appeal and let us know what you find. Offer your own ideas: imagine you’re talking to a brand-new parent. Or imagine you’re talking to us.

One last caution: just pick one thing! This series is not a To Do list with twelve more items to stare at you accusingly with their unticked boxes. It’s a set of pick-and-mix options that you have control of.

And there are lots of parenting-on-the-beach photos to help us feel like life’s a beach, ok? Send me yours if you like!

Sennen Cove, Cornwall

Sennen Cove, Cornwall, where SBJ first dipped his toes in the sea.

Be Kind to Yourself

Alex’s mother asked the right questions: Do you love your children? Do they know that? Do you spend time and energy caring for them?

Before you perfectionists start prevaricating, let me answer that for you. Of course you do. Of course they do. You’re reading a parenting blog :)

So I think we can all agree that you are brilliant and amazing and you need to cut yourself some slack. Celebrate the good stuff you are doing, and let the self-appreciation moments outnumber the self-flagellation ones.

If this is an unfamiliar landscape, here are some ideas for helping yourself to feel better about the great job you are doing with your kids. Remember, if any appeal, just pick one or two and test them out. It’s not a To Do list to make you feel like you’re behind. Let us know if any of it is helpful.

1. Remind yourself you are Brilliant and Amazing

Either as a blog comment for us, or just for yourself, write a Brilliant and Amazing list of at least five reasons you are fab. Full directions and space to write here. You are brilliant and amazing, so don’t forget it!

2. Ask someone for encouragement

Ask a friend, partner, your Mum or someone else who knows you well to write down five things they appreciate about your parenting. Stick the list to the bathroom mirror so you see it every day. Be encouraged.

3.Get out the photo album

Look through your favourite photos of your kids. Remind yourself that they didn’t get that wonderful by accident. You are doing a great job.

4. Check out a God’s-eye-view

Read Psalm 139 for a poet’s perspective on your importance to the God of the universe (though I concede that a few verses near the end are a bit weird).

13 For you created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well.

5. Address your perfectionism

You might like to start by flicking through the Sacraparental back-catalogue of posts on perfectionism and doing What We Can (rather than doing ‘our best’).

Imperfect is the New Perfect #1
Imperfect is the New Perfect #2: Born Perfect, on how perfectionism shows up in our parenting
Imperfect is the New Perfect #3: Vulnerability, Shame and Courage, featuring the work of Brené Brown

6. Practise gratitude

Thank God for your imperfect parents and all the good things they poured into you.
Thank God for your opportunity to be an imperfect parent, doing what you can to love your kids.
Thank God for your imperfect kids who drive you up the wall and draw love out of you like water from a deep well.
Thank God.

7. Laugh and cry and let it go

Find a hilarious parenting writer and laugh until you cry BECAUSE IT’S TRUE.

(Re)read Glennon Doyle Melton’s famous Momastery post, Don’t Carpe Diem, to snort, giggle and cry about the tensions of ‘enjoying’ parenting.

Read everything that Emily Writes has ever written. Like this, about how to get your baby to sleep (just don’t read it while your baby is asleep near you – I have woken my baby up THREE TIMES while reading Emily’s posts):

Some people say look for tired signs but actually you should look for signs that they might be about to do tired signs. Before there are tired signs make sure you put your baby down to sleep. Immediately.
Try to connect telepathically to your child – ask them: Are you tired but not so tired that you’re showing tired signs?
Tired but not too tired signs are varied. They generally sound like cooing, screaming, crying, blowing raspberries, strong language, and singing R&B classics from the 90s.

[Read more at Emily Writes.]

My other current favourite is Like Real Life. Check out her top ten list of What My Child Really Plays With:

The Princesses

What? You can’t see them?

Me neither, but I have been putting them to bed, making them dinner and putting the little buggers on the naughty step for the last couple of years.

I don’t know all their names but there’s definitely a naughty Violet (bit of a gang leader who Audrey loves to tell tales on), Tulip, Juni (perhaps a imaginary version of Audrey’s real life friend, Juno), there’s also a Violet-Tulip and a Tulip-Violet, oh and an imaginary dog named Fliff. Fliff has been dead for one hundred years and scares away monsters.

The princesses are often responsible for drawing on walls and making colossal messes.

(Our house is about 150 years old and I did once think of playing a prank on my husband by mocking up a fake census from a hundred or so years ago that shows little girls called ‘Tulip’ and ‘Violet’ living here. Although actually, I hardly have time to make beans on toast let alone a falsified historical document.)

[Read more at Like Real Life.]

8. Be inspired about fatherhood

Read some of Jim Wallis’ and Barack Obama’s reflections on fatherhood as the best job in the world here.

Obama zeroed in on the heart of his message for Father’s Day: “Here’s the key message I think all of us want to send today to fathers all across the country: Our children don’t need us to be superheroes. They don’t need us to be perfect. They do need us to be present. They need us to show up and give it our best shot, no matter what else is going on in our lives. They need us to show them — not just with words, but with deeds — that they, those kids, are always our first priority. Those family meals, afternoons in the park, bedtime stories; the encouragement we give, the questions we answer, the limits we set, the example we set of persistence in the face of difficulty and hardship — those things add up over time, and they shape a child’s character, build their core, teach them to trust in life and to enter into it with confidence and with hope and with determination.”

[Read more at Sojourners.]

And here’s Tim AitkenRead writing about being an attachment daddy:

Things are always the hardest when you haven’t done them before, especially when popular culture seems to ever willingly chide your methodology.  My feelings swing from experiencing the beauty of waking with the snuggling cuddles and kisses of my precious child to the jealous desire to have my Lucy to myself, apart from this ever present little limpet.  From feeling Ramona snuggled safely and cosily around me in a sling, to lazily wanting her somewhere else so I can enjoy the cool breeze.  From wanting her to learn that I won’t always be there, to wanting her to know completely that I will. Unconditionally, without question or hesitation.
[Read more at Lulastic.]

9. Keep track of your achievements

At the end of the day, take a few minutes in bed to write down what you’ve achieved today. Parenting is a job that’s hard to quantify, but a list like this example is a solid achievement:

2 loads of laundry
dishes
made two meals
cleaned high chair 6 times
read Where is the Green Sheep? 13 times
said ‘I love you’ a few dozen times
answered 53 questions beginning with ‘Why?’
had a shower…

If this kind of practice appeals, you might also like to look into the spiritual practice of the Examen.

10. Invest in some counselling

If you’re finding it really hard to feel good about your parenting, or perhaps yourself in general, consider engaging with a counsellor or psychotherapist for a while.

It can make all the difference to have defined space and time to get your inside stuff into the open, get some light on it, sift through it and move on as a more whole person.

Parenting is pretty pressurised, which makes it a good time to talk about things – your stuff is nearer the surface and easier to grab hold of.

It can cost money and it’s a considerable emotional commitment, but you are worth looking after in this way, so do give it some serious thought.

11. Give yourself a little treat – often

Think of a handful of little things that are treats for you, like: your favourite sweet treat; going for a walk somewhere nice; wearing your favourite perfume; listening to your very favourite music; going for a skate; curling up with a novel; going out for a coffee.

Talk with whoever you need to to build a few of these things into your week at a higher rate. It’s important for everyone in your household that you are well-nourished with things that perk you up.

Check out this not-quite-my-style-but-still-worth-reading list from Oh Baby! magazine: 100 ways to take time for yourself (beginning with things that take 10 seconds).

Here is the section with ideas that only take 30 seconds, but could change the direction your day is going in:

• Run a brush through your hair. It will stimulate your scalp and help you to feel refreshed.
• Adjust your bra straps. If your bra fits you well, your posture will be better, and you won’t feel so much tension across your shoulders and in your back.
• Scream! Go on, let it out. It will help release tension in your face and may help you simply let off some steam.
• Rub on some hand lotion.
• Put on a soothing CD or any of your favourite music. Leave it on in the background while you do other activities around the house.
• Laugh out loud. Even if nothing is funny, make yourself giggle, at least. Laughter is said to be the best medicine, and it’s an awesome stress-reliever, too.
• Take off your shoes and wiggle your toes. Stretch your toes out, then gently crunch them against the floor. Grab a ball and roll it around on the floor beneath your feet.
• Put on some lip gloss. Smile at yourself in the mirror!
• Close your eyes and place your ring fingers directly under your eyebrows, near the bridge of your nose. Slowly increase the pressure for five to 10 seconds, then gently release. Repeat two to three times.

12. Get some rest

I know, I know, get some what? But it can be done, even when you’re in the middle of the hardest parenting, if you want to make it happen.

Check out this post for a full step-by-step plan to being a better-rested parent.

Be kind to yourself, please

Listen to me, okay? You are doing what you can, and that will be enough. Be kind to yourself, please.

The last words go to Michael Leunig, from A Common Prayer:

God be with the mother. As she carried her child may she carry her soul. As her child was born, may she give birth and life and form to her own, higher truth. As she nourished and protected her child, may she nourish and protect her inner life and her independence. For her soul shall be her most painful birth, her most difficult child and the dearest sister to her other children.

 

Lyall Bay, last week (sorry, Northern Hemispherers)

Lyall Bay, last week (sorry, Northern Hemispherers)

 

Now it’s your turn:

  • How else can we be kind to ourselves?
  • What other things – anything at all – can make parenting easier? Let’s get a list going, and I’ll run with it for the rest of the series.

For more tips for Making Parenting Easier, check out the rest of this series:

Making Parenting Easier #1: 12 ideas to make you feel better

Making Parenting Easier #2: Meet your neighbours

Making Parenting Easier #3: Get some sleep

Making Parenting Easier #4: This tip will change your life (or at least your dinner-time chaos)

Making Parenting Easier #5: Living in the gap

Making Parenting Easier #6: Jenny’s 6-week menu

Making Parenting Easier #7: Tips to help siblings love and respect each other

And you are warmly invited to join us at the Sacraparental Facebook page for daily links, encouragement and resources, and/or follow me on Twitter and Pinterest.

Making parenting easier: 12 ideas to help you feel better about the great job you are doing | Sacraparental.com

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16 comments on “Making Parenting Easier #1: 12 Ideas to Make You Feel Better”

  1. Pippa Reply

    This weeks been tough. Since we had our 12 week scan last year I’d been thinking about the kind of mum I wanted to be. Very quickly co-sleeping came to the top of the wish list. A lot of reading later and alongside this came breastfeeding. I always assumed I would breastfeed, but never really thought about the reasons why. But it then became central to ideas/ideals of parenting. And when it looked likely before I finished work for maternity leave that I may have to return full time rather than part time I consoled myself that if I were to be breastfeeding still at night we would have lots of mummy and baby time still.

    The reality has been somewhat different and this week I had to admit that I couldn’t for my physical and emotional well-being continue. Lines were being crossed that if I let it carry on it would do none of us any good.

    I know I will judge myself harhsly for the decision in the future. So I have put on record, just a small note that will remind me that actually I had reached a limit, that I had tried as hard as I could and could do no more. Hopefully this will help me to be kind to myself – particularly when I return to work.

    Putting it on record also helped others to reach out to me and offer their support. When I didn’t want to get out of bed, it was so tempting just to turn inwards. But thankfully I didn’t, as much as my husband has been a star, support from others has been really valuable to.

    And finally I have heard people say to me, what I have said to others. I wonder if when we are being hard on ourselves would it be worth writing down or at least thinking about what we would say to someone else if they were in our position – it has helped turn some of that self talk from “you’ve failed” to “you’ve done everything you can”.

    • Alex Reply

      I happened to be trawling through some of Thalia’s old posts just now, and was re-reading the “brilliant and amazing” thread. I just thought it might help your judgemental future self if I copied here what you wisely put at the very top of your list:
      “I am brilliant and amazing when I remember to look after myself, when I do that I can and do give more to my friends and family.”
      Just saying 😉
      Absolutely agree with the idea of turning things round. I’m pretty sure none of us would ever dream of judging others as harshly as we sometimes judge ourselves.

      • Pippa Reply

        Pah! Quoting me back at me – that must be against blog rules of fairness 😉

        Thalia is doing a good job of reminding us of the importance of looking after ourselves.

    • Caroline Reply

      Sorry to hear things haven’t worked out for you with the feeding. I know you know this already, but you’ve done so well to struggle through feeding him for so long and he’s had the best start.

      It’s a grieving process when you have to give up on a dream like that & it will take time. I know quite a few people who have said that they finally begin to come to terms with the bottle feeding when the baby gets to about 8-9 months and they are eating substantially more food than the milk they are drinking, so don’t worry if it takes you a while to come to terms with it.

      You probably already know this too & I’m not sure if it helps, but there’s a big hormone surge when you give up feeding. Combined with the fact that your homones probably haven’t settled after the birth yet, they can really affect your mood. Give yourself time & look after yourself.

      I love the idea of asking ourselves what we would say to others in our situation – wise words for all of us. I’ll try to remember that one!

    • andrew Reply

      Hi pippa

      Great idea putting it down on paper to remind yourself that in the situation you are in, you made the best and wisest decision you could. putting it down on paper makes it easier to examine objectively the reality of something rather than ruminating on it again and again.

      Keeping ideals flexible is something we’ve found helpful. Life is hard to predict (hence the popularity of lotto, and that most of us don’t win on a given saturday) and in many areas of life second best isn’t the equivalent of sending your child down a coal mine or off to the gulags.

      One of the things I take solace from is that the ultimate thing of importance for my kids, their salvation, isn’t something that i’m ultimately responsible for. If they are a CEO of a multi-national but reject Jesus, I’d be sadder than if they were a checkout operator who loved and followed Jesus with all their might. But in either case, while I’m called to instruct and direct, it is God who saves.

      I’m glad your husband and others have been there to support and encourage.

    • not a wild hera Reply

      Hi Pippa,

      I’m really sorry to hear you are going through this. It is hard to have to recalibrate expectations of any kind, let alone something that is so physical and personal.

      A big WELL DONE on all the feeding you have done with your own body so far. You have done great things for your little one, at great cost. And a big WELL DONE for now doing what is best for your whole family, also at great cost.

      You are Brilliant and Amazing, and you are doing what you can. Be kind to yourself.

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  5. Happy Mommy Reply

    I agree with being kind to yourself. As a parent we need to spend valuable time with our kids. KUDOS. This is a very great post!

    -Flora

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