As every parent knows, being a parent is one of the most rewarding experiences in the world. It is also one of the most stressful, chaotic, and exhausting experiences in the world. Most say mom has it the worst, as they often take on most of the food, cleaning, transportation, and school issues.
It’s a 24/7 job in many ways. When you’re not actively caring for your kids, you’re thinking about them, worrying about it, or planning your next move. How do you take care of yourself and maintain the energy and presence of mind that you need? Here are five tips for fighting the drain and the stress.
Take a Break
Have you ever read the book “Five Minutes of Peace?” It’s a kid’s book about a beleaguered mom who just wants, you got it, five minutes of peace. She tries to get a break but never quite makes it as the kids don’t cooperate. That doesn’t have to happen to you. Parenting coach Tammy Gold says, “I tell moms that it’s OK to put kids in front of the TV or put the baby in her crib or play yard for 15- 20 minutes to recharge yourself,” she says. “They’ll get a much more present, happier you if you occasionally allow yourself a break like that than if you’re watching them like a hawk every second.”
Ask for Help
No, you don’t have to have all of the answers all of the time. Nor do you have to do all of the work all of the time. Sure, it would be great to be perfect, but you’re not. “Happy mothers are not afraid to ask for help from family and friends,” says Parenting Magazine. “Very happy moms just say, ‘Please.’”
Get a good night’s sleep. Yes, it’s easier said than done, especially when kids are young and nursing. It can also be hard when teenagers start driving because of worry. “Sleep recycles the chemicals in your body that create energy,” says sleep expert Ana Krieger, M.D. “It’s as simple as that.”
It is important to drink water regularly, even if you’re not thirsty. “Mild dehydration can affect your body even before you know you’re thirsty and may leave you with headaches, fatigue, and lack of energy,” according to WebMD.
You have the best intentions to get up early and go for a run or get to the gym, but life intervenes. Sometimes young kids wake up early and demand your attention. Other times you’re just too tired. One solution is to work out in shorter segments throughout the day. “Research shows you burn more calories per minute with several 10-minute bursts of exercise than one longer one,” says Working Mother Magazine. It will also help you eat less. “People who do one-hour workouts often feel ‘I burned it; I earned it.’ But with 5- or 10-minute workouts, people don’t feel that sense of entitlement because they’ve ‘only’ done 5 or 10 minutes.” Another idea is to think about and schedule exercise like you would a doctor appointment to feel more accountable. Exercising with the kids can also help if they are old enough. Some moms run while their smaller kids tag along on bikes.
Remember the safety instructions on the airplane? In the event of a pressure loss, the air mask will fall down and you’re told put yours on before taking care of the kids. Those are words to live by. Moms (and dads) need to take care of their own lives and needs first. Then everyone will be happier and healthier.