Parenting Q & A
Q. I never imagined that I would struggle with so many aspects of parenting. Some days I don’t seem to have enough time, patience, or creativity to manage to keep my kids happy, healthy, stimulated and fed. Why does it look so easy for everyone else when I feel like I’m drowning?
A. While it might look easy for others, they struggle, too. Sure, parenting might come easier for some and some kids might seem easier than others. For the most part, though, if a parent is being honest, he or she will agree that parenting is hard work that leaves many otherwise successful, competent adults feeling just like you do. Here are a few things to remember as you are wiping up spilled milk or stumbling down the hall at 3 a.m. to soothe a crying child:
Ask for and accept help. Take your neighbor’s suggestion to swap kids back and forth, or delegate various household tasks to a spouse or partner.
Take care of your own needs, too. Parenting requires a delicate balance of selflessness and selfishness. If you neglect yourself, you are less likely to have the energy for everyone else.
Simplify your surroundings. Clear out closets, cabinets and toy boxes of stuff you no longer use so you have more time to dedicate to the necessary parts of your day.
Make reasonable to-do lists. If you can’t take the car for an oil change today, don’t include it on today’s list—it will make you feel like a failure. Conversely, do include simple tasks, such as changing the light bulb, so you can fully appreciate all that you have accomplished.
Be sure to involve the whole family. You are not the only person responsible for what needs doing.
Recognize that family life is imperfect. Things may go wrong each day, but no single day defines the growth, happiness or health of your children.
Find joy in the little things. Be sure to look around to see what is working.
Have meaningful conversations with other parents. You may find it liberating to hear about the struggles others are having. You can also listen to other parents, share a thought or idea to make someone else’s day better.
Finally, pay no attention to how parenting is portrayed in the media. Pictures of celebrities frolicking on the beach with their perfect children, and even the posts of your Facebook friends, can leave anyone feeling less than perfect.
Ellen Barrett, a parent educator at Family Connections for 15 years, fields questions from parents about the daily ups and downs of parenting. Send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.