Making Parenting Easier: Tips, Laughs, and Being Kind to Yourself

Parenting is flipping hard work, yes?

You’re responsible for, as my friend Jess says, tiny sociopaths. They’re cute, sure, but they have little in the way of empathy, self-control, or social graces.

You get no sick leave. You’re operating on so little sleep that serious reading now means clicking ‘see more’ on Facebook.

Communities like the one around this blog exist to try and share the load. I want to, among other things, make your life easier.

So here’s a round-up of a bunch of resources from this website and beyond to do what it says on the tin: make parenting easier.

They’re a mix of practical tips to minimise the stress that goes along with running a household and ways to masssage your brain so you go easier on yourself as a parent.

Oh, and the best bit is right at the end, so you hereby have permission to skip down or just read on and save the best till last.

#1: 12 ideas to make you feel better

Be kind to yourself, please.

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.

Click here to see the list of 12 ideas to make you feel better about your parenting.

 

Making Parenting Easier | 12 ideas to make you feel better - worth a look if you're feeling a bit down on yourself at the mo | Sacraparental.com

Pin this for later!

#2: Meet your neighbours

It may be that one of the most effective things you can put energy into in this exhausting season is increasing your support network of people who know your kids.

Good neighbours are gold. If you don’t know all of yours, remember that you will be a welcome resource in their lives, too, if you take the trouble to introduce yourself. A plate of muffins or bottle of something is not necessary, though it could provide an excuse if you feel a bit self-conscious just walking up to their front door.

(I usually make use of Shrove Tuesday or other seasonal ‘excuses’.)

A nice but not even particularly involved neighbour can:

  • have a five-minute conversation over the back fence with the four-year-old who hasn’t stopped talking all day
  • look after kids with no notice in an emergency – so just knowing that that is true can help you to feel less isolated and solely responsible
  • lend you a hammer, cup of flour, or spider-removing expertise in time-honoured fashion
  • feed your cat while you’re out of town
  • wave to the kids or toot their car horn, adding an extra treat to the day for a pre-schooler – and one you don’t have to think up or provide
  • hold a spare set of keys for you so you don’t get stuck on the day you inevitably lock yourself (and your kids) out.

Keep reading for other ways neighbours can be great supporters, and tips for getting to know them.

 

Making Parenting Easier - motivation and ideas for meeting your neighbours and increasing your support network | Sacraparental.com

 

#3: Get some sleep

There are lots of reasons why parents of young kids might not get enough sleep, and I probably can’t help you with most of them. Your situation, if not unique, will be individual.

But the one thing I can say right now that might help is that you very likely can choose, even just once a week, to go to bed when the kids go to bed and get a catch-up dose of sleep.

For more motivation to prioritise sleep, and some handy links, head to this post.

For a step-by-step guide to changing your habits and getting more rest, whether you’re a parent or not, click here.

 

Do you get enough sleep? (Of course you don't!) Do you want some ideas and motivation to help? | Sacraparental.com

 

#4: This tip will change your life

This post is a combo of my best practical tip for making family life smoother – cooking in bulk and freezing heaps of meals ahead of time – and an open thread for your best practical tips.

There are lots of them, so go and check them out! And honestly, I cook dinner about twice a week, in large batches. The rest of the time I’m reheating frozen meals I’ve made earlier. This tip will change your life!

You might also like these two posts full of domestic genius:

The Sacrament of Housework: My 6 Best Housekeeping Tips (and lots of yours)

The Sacrament of Housework: My 11 Best Stolen Home Organisation Tips (thanks to Pinterest)

 

This has changed my life! Cook big meals, freeze them, and serve through the week. | Sacraparental.com

 

#5: Living in the gap

Enough of the practical tips, for the moment. It’s all very well getting better and better at this parenting lark, but for many of us, there remains a fundamental problem: we will never reach our ideals.

There will always be a substantial mis-match between the parent we hoped to be and the one we are – thank goodness, probably.

But how do we cope with that if we are programmed to hate anything less than perfection? Or even if we’re just used to feeling competent and in control?

Read on if this sounds like you.

 

What to do when you can't meet your high standards for parenting (or anything) | Sacraparental.com

 

#6: Jenny’s Brilliant and Amazing 6-week Menu (including PDF downloads!)

Jenny happened to mention in another thread that she had a 6-week family menu plan, with matching shopping lists.

Well!

We couldn’t let her taunt us. So here’s her write-up of her menu for her family of four, when her boys were around 5 and 7.

(I take it as a sign of mature character that I don’t mind that her post is by far the most popular in this series.)

 

My friend Jenny has done all the work for us! 6 weeks of family dinners, all planned out, including grocery shopping lists to match. Wow! | Sacraparental.com

 

#7: Consider thinking about your kids differently

As I’ve said, this post isn’t really about ‘becoming a better parent’. So I’m just slipping this one section in for people who are feeling a little overwhelmed and might want some different ways of thinking about the parent-child relationship.

The best parents I know a) are finding parenting pretty tiring, like the rest of us and b) make home life easier in the long-term by investing energy into this: treating kids like real human beings, getting inside their heads, and patiently (or making it look patient, anyway) communicating so there’s a real connection.

I’ve learnt so much from this kind of parent in the five years I’ve been doing this. It’s sometimes called ‘gentle parenting’ or ‘positive parenting’ or parenting without punishment. People on this road are trying not to tell their kids what to do and enforce obedience, but rather connect, negotiate and act as a team.

I’m including this section (with some initial hesitation) because I think that gentle, respectful parenting does indeed cut the workload. We have a high-energy four-year-old and I speak from experience.

If any of this is sounding appealing, here’s where to click next to add some tools to your toolbox:

Gentle Parenting Tips: 26 things to say instead of STOP! DON’T! and other commands

Hard Days with Little Kids: 11 things I’m trying to remember

Aha! Parenting: your one-stop shop for the best parenting advice on the internet

Parenting for Social Justice: an introduction to Non-Violent Communication with kids from Lulastic and the Hippyshake

And here’s an infographic with the first 14 of those gentle parenting phrases (so you can pin it to Pinterest, eh?)

 

26 alternatives to NO! to help communicate with little kids | Sacraparental.com

Pin this to keep it handy :)

Bonus #8: Have a cry-laugh

Here are links to my three favourite sources of parental hilaricrying. Three of the funniest women on the internet, making sure we don’t feel alone in the bizarreness of life as a parent.

Mama Said (A couple of favourite posts: How to Get Your Baby to Sleep and The In My Day Committee)

Like Real Life (Check out How to Fail at the School Run or My Problem with Piles)

Momastery (Two classics: Lowering the Bar and Don’t Carpe Diem)

But a word of caution: don’t read any of these while you’re trying to keep a baby asleep. I have woken my baby up too many times snorting while I read these brilliant women’s writing.

 

What else would you like to add to this series? Please flick me your ideas and we can keep going.

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.

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17 comments on “Making Parenting Easier: Tips, Laughs, and Being Kind to Yourself”

  1. Ann Reply

    Thank you! Great post. One thing that really helps me as a parent is to remember to forgive myself when I stumble and get it wrong :-).

  2. Andrea Reply

    Kind words, please. Love it! I think people forget that children are born selfish. It’s inborn, necessary for survival. But it’s the parent’s responsibility to keep the child safe and direct his attention outward; the parent must teach the child the difference between right and wrong.
    Thank you for this well-thought-out article with lots of resources. Definitely one to bookmark.

  3. andrew morrison Reply

    Fully agree re menu planning. Take it one step further and generate your shopping lists based on the things you intend to cook. That way you can try that adventurous new recipe firm in the knowledge that you’ve got adequate tamarind paste or palm sugar.

    Taking baby steps and with my incredibly talented wife making an access database (taught herself access just to do this), we’ve got ~500 recipes that we can call on for a given shopping week. Nominate the number of portions you want, and it tells you the quantities of everything you need to buy. If anyone wants a copy, with instructions on how to use it, I’m happy to pass it on. I genuinely don’t know how we’d avoid cycling through two dozen recipes without having a tool like this.

    • Bec Reply

      Oh my goodness, I would love access to this! I have been working on something like this for the last couple of years but still get stumped for ideas fairly often! I don’t think my recipe list is big enough (sigh).

    • Lyss Reply

      How do we get a copy of these amazing recipes Andrew?

      Totally agree with meal planning, I am due to have a baby in 3 weeks to add to our family of twin girls already so meal planning is going to come in handy!

  4. Rosie Moore Reply

    Hey Andrew, the database sounds amazing! I would love to get instructions on how to use it! Cheers, Rosie

    • andrew morrison Reply

      Hi all.
      We’ll pull together the database and the recipe collection (the recipes themselves are just in word documents – either for printing or on screen viewing), along with instructions as to how to get it going.

    • andrew morrison Reply

      Hi people

      Work and life outside of work has me flat out and unable to produce a fuller post describing the wonderfulness of my wife in creating this database and how to use it, but it has revolutionised our family cooking and shopping. Below is a link to my google drive where you can download it.

      Recipes as word docs as well as the access database are in the linked zip file.
      Recipes that i’d recommend checking out are:

      Mongolian lamb
      Mushroom risotto (balsamic vinegar raises it beautifully)
      spaghetti amatriciana (very few ingredients, but amazingly tasty and from silver spoon recipe book)
      sponge cake (my grandma’s recipe, and she was legendarily well known for it, and this recipe is easy enough that i’ve had success with it)
      Pumpkin scones. my wife’s grandma insisted that lady flo bjelke peterson stole her recipe, but that is probably just family folklore. the recipe is great, though.

      Microsoft access isn’t an easy program to play with. There are instructions in the zip file, but if you get frustrated, it probably isn’t you.

      https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B11TOuC53yaFMkIzdUthY1kySmc

    • andrew morrison Reply

      I asked someone who is a professional computer person rather than an enthusiastic amateur if similar sort of recipe / menu / shopping programs exist that have been done professionally.
      They do, apparently, and may well be easier for you to get to grips with than our home baked database.

      He vouched for macgourmet (http://marinersoftware.com/products/macgourmet/) if you are an apple /iphone person
      http://www.paprikaapp.com/ is available on any platform.

      I haven’t used any of these. They’re not free but could be worth investigating if it would help your family.

  5. Abhi Reply

    Thanks for the wonderful tips. Parenting is really a tough task today. You need to keep patience and help your kid grow in a right way

  6. Stef Reply

    This fits with number 4. We used to live in a block of flats with the two kids and we used to always cook extra and send a bowl of food to the single mother upstairs or the guy who lived alone, or the students on the bottom floor, or the large indonesian family or my sister and her flatmate in another flat. Sometimes any of these people would send us their food which was like making enough to freeze only more interesting because they gave us Indian, Indonesian, Eritrean or Japanese food depending where they were from (the block of flats was like that). This doesn’t work if you have allergies and intolerances of course. If we got too many meals in one day we would freeze them. When we heard music we would go down and remind people we had children sleeping. They would try to remember to be quiet but my kids basically grew up able to sleep through ANYTHING but they did give us food and beer when we went to ask them…On second thoughts maybe this fits with the point about getting to know your neighours.

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