6 Ways I Take Care of Myself When I Need a Break From My Kids
By Selena Mills, They Roar
PHOTO © ALEKSANDR DAVYDOV/123RF
Jan 25, 2018
We're a multicultural family focused on revitalizing and sustaining a kinship that's rooted in Indigenous-based traditions and practices. But we also find ourselves living alongside colonial perspectives and expectations, which would be enough to make anyone a little — or a lot — perplexed.
These are the hurdles we live with every day, but I know the struggle is real no matter who you are or where on the parenting spectrum you fall.
The truth is, we all get exasperated and frustrated and maxed out. I’m sure it’s not just my kids who take forever to eat breakfast, or poke, pinch and prod at each other just to be annoying. They definitely haven’t invented the fine art of procrastination, losing any and all of the things, or making the act of getting out the door or getting dressed feel like an epic struggle.
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There are countless ways in which my children drive me bonkers every day, but in reality, these experiences have made me a stronger, more loving parent and person. But still, what happens when one of my kids repeatedly leaves the toilet seat down when they pee and I sit in their mess? And what do I do when I temporarily forget about what a gong show grocery shopping with kids can be?
As this is reality and reality doesn't shy from offering variety, I have bad days, good days and exhausting days, no matter what I do. And yes, they still happen no matter how many deep breaths I take, or how much I smudge down every inch of my home. Those things help me, yes, but sometimes I’m at capacity and this mama needs to reach deep before I blow a gasket. And here's how I do it:
Develop Preventative Measures
I’m all about proactive routines that take the expectation off of me doing everything, all the time. Part of what I'm trying to avoid is being the naggy nagger and generally running around like a chicken with its head cut off.
Now that my kids are a bit older and my husband isn’t commuting, I have more help with the daily nitty-gritty. And by help, I mean I've lowered my expectations as a parent, and there's now equal distribution of all the ish between everyone, including the kiddos.
In a nutshell: I didn't do everything for them then and I don’t do everything for them now.
Nowadays they help with meals, and they help wash, fold and put away their laundry. Meanwhile, I help them roll outfits together and keep their drawers organized every Sunday night, and together we're all preparing for our weekday morning routines.
But honestly, I wake up early in the morning to take care of myself before being thrown into the daily madness. I give them longer to get ready, whether it be for getting dressed, daily hygiene routines or getting into winter gear. I also have a shut-off valve when it comes to the bickering. One way I shut myself off from everything is shutting the door to the sunroom, so I don’t have to hear it, and the other is shutting the bathroom door while I get ready, because we all know that kids love to be extra in-your-face when we’re trying to pee or get ready.
Some of this stuff might be labelled as life skills development or a Montessori approach to parenting (i.e. letting them do things themselves within their reach/height, no matter how messy or long it takes). But around here, in our family, we call it four directions parenting.
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Do What You Can
My kids aren’t toddlers anymore. And even when they were, I didn’t operate under a systemized style of parenting that had me juggling maniacally 24 hours-a-day, seven days-a-week.
I let them pour their own water and spill it. I let them wipe their own bum and sometimes do a questionable job of it (OK, pretty much all the time). In a nutshell: I didn't do everything for them then and I don’t do everything for them now. I let them make their own decisions and I let them cause a ruckus (oh, the noise).
This is all within reason, of course, but I definitely don’t prescribe to the old adage that children should be seen and not heard. I've found that you can teach your child manners without squashing their independence and fire in the process.
Avoid Indulging Stereotypes
I get it. If popular culture is correct, stressed out moms are supposed to be fun-loving winos who joke ad nauseum about how much wine we consume because it helps us handle life. Either that, or we're meant to present as zen pictures of calm and serenity.
You could say I’m digging sobriety these days.
The thing is, I don’t prescribe to the theory that mothering is about 24 hour-a-day, seven day-a-week martyrdom, and I’m definitely not buying cutesy captioned wine glasses and wine-drinking accessories. No offense to those who do — it’s just that self-medicating is a slippery slope for me, and I have health stuff to be mindful of.
Of course, I love a good margarita or a fine glass of Malbec now and then, but I find what I'm capable of and my clarity of mind diminish when I’m three glasses in. In fact, I'm much better with three cups of peppermint tea. You could say I’m digging sobriety these days.
Form a Tag-Team Strategy
There are times when my personal reserves are tapped out and I've inhaled and exhaled all of my deep breaths. I'm done. I need a time out, coach. Or at least someone to tag in. I’m lucky because I can tag in the teenager of the house and my husband, and they can do the same with me.
It’s equally as important to choose some of these tag team moments strategically, so my husband and I can have one-on-one time to stoke our central fire. Take that as you will, but honestly it looks like peacing out to a cafe together, going for a hike or snowshoe, taking a bike ride or just spending some quality time together that doesn’t cost a lot of money.
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Find a Zen Place
You bet I meditate! In the beginning I would attempt to meditate, but inconsistently. Over time, however, I have found that daily meditation is crucial to how well I rest at night. I prefer any guided sleep meditation stories (I use an app called Calm, but there are countless others), and when I meditate I find I am able to diffuse any frustrations that pop up daily.
When all else fails, you can find me in a modified child’s pose, rocking myself into an alternate state of mind. Or busting a sweat to tap into the good medicine that only exercise can bring.
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