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.
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.
#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.
#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:
#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?
#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.
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.)
#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:
Aha! Parenting: your one-stop shop for the best parenting advice on the internet
And here’s an infographic with the first 14 of those gentle parenting phrases (so you can pin it to Pinterest, eh?)
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.
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.