I sometimes feel like I give the impression that I’ve got it all together or that parenting is a breeze for me. Let me tell you, it’s not always! I have my bad days, and Sam does too–particularly when a writing deadline is staring me down, like right now. However, I have some tools I use to help me deal with this stress, and I’ll pass them on to you. Please feel free to add any other tips you have in the comments below!
1. Worry about/do stuff when it needs to be done.
This has been a major problem for me throughout my life. I have a tendency to over think even the smallest of things–or even worse, things that never even happen! Because of this I have been working hard over the past few months to think about and do things when they need to be done.
Don’t misunderstand me though–I’m not saying you should only “live in the moment” or something like that! Sometimes things need extra planning hours, days, or even months ahead. The trick is learning which is which and how much time it actually takes to do/plan things rather than letting it overwhelm you. Learn to handle tomorrow’s troubles tomorrow and you will be happier.
2. Walk away.
This seems counter-intuitive. You’re a parent caring for a child who is incapable of doing anything on his or her own, and I’m encouraging you to walk away?
Yes and no. I’m not saying you should abandon your child. I’m also not saying you should hide and let the kid scream for hours. What I am saying is that frustration builds easily when you’re doing your best to take care of a child all day (and sometimes all night) long and nothing seems to help. It wears on you–quickly. It’s no wonder Navy SEALs are trained to withstand torture by listening to babies cry for hours on end!
However, leaving yourself in a situation where you could easily hurt your child or yourself is not heroic in any way. Put your baby in the crib and walk away from the screams for a few minutes. Ideally your partner or another helper can step in at that time so you can get a break, but even if you have to let the baby cry for a little while, it’s better than remaining put when you just need a five minute break.
3. Get help.
Speaking of needing a break, get help from somebody. As I’ve mentioned before, I had some fool-hardy and “heroic” notions about new parenthood. Thankfully, we had a lot of help from the beginning and my wife and I still have good teamwork and regular visits to and from our parents.
Even if you don’t have parents nearby (Sam’s grandparents range from a 2.5-4.5 hour drive away), rely on your partner or other members of your community. As you know, I’m a stay-at-home-dad, but there have been some times when I have needed help during the middle of the day. Fortunately my wife has a job where she can quickly and easily leave if I need some help–or at the very least take an early lunch–and we have had some times when I needed that.
There’s no shame in needing help.
4. Take a deep breath.
This is really simple. I’m not a medical expert and I can’t explain it, but the act of simply taking a deep breath does wonders for stress relief. If you practice yoga or other activities that involve deep breathing, continue that practice and use that knowledge for when you’re in the middle of the 17th straight spoonful of peas that have been thrown on the floor and you just can’t take it any more. Take a deep breath or 5. You’ll be amazed at how much it helps.
5. Lower your expectations.
Again, I have sometimes had overblown notions about what was expected of me or what I needed to be doing. Probably because I over think things (ahem, point 1). Anyway, release those notions. You’re not going to be Super-Parent. There is no parent of the year award–or if there is, I don’t know about it because I’m spending too much time rescuing paper from Sam’s non-stop chewing. You don’t have to be a great parent. You don’t have to have a great kid.
You just have to be the best you can be. And sometimes the best you can be is somebody who needs to put the baby in the crib while you walk away, take a deep breath, and dial the number of somebody who can lend a hand for a while.
That’s ok. Really.
As my wife says constantly during baseball season when her favorite players come up to bat, “Don’t be a hero! Just get a base hit!” Keep plugging away at the daily work of parenting while not becoming overwhelmed, and you will make it through. It may not always be pretty, but your child, your partner, and ultimately, you, will thank you for it.