No matter what age your children are, you will have hard parenting days. This starts when they are in the womb, and continues through infancy, childhood, those horrible teen years, and even once they are adults. We have some great tips on how to find joy on those days.
Because they are your children and you care about them so much, you will have hard parenting days.
They are at times exhausting and infuriating, but you can still sneak in any night after they have fallen asleep and be completely enamoured with your little angels all over again.
Self-care is an ongoing technique
Hard parenting days will happen to everyone, and this is in no way a reflection on how good a parent you are. As long you as you love your kids, keep them fed and safe, and you are doing the best you can for them, you are a good parent.
You don’t have to nail it every day, and it’s perfectly ok to have days where you don’t even really like being a parent. You can also not really like your kids sometimes too.
Coping with the harder days starts with regular self-care. So many parents, especially Mums, only give themselves a break when they have completely hit the wall. Don’t wait until you hit the wall – take part in a regular self-care routine to help you cope better constantly.
Self-care is not a once in a while thing, and it is not just for reward. It is an ongoing daily part of any healthy routine, right up there with drinking water and eating veggies.
What self-care means will be different to each person, but could include:
- Time exercising away from your kids
- Going to the movies by yourself or with friends
- A massage, facial or yoga class
- Breakfast in bed and a sleep-in one day every week
- Date night with your partner
- A huge bubble bath and a glass of wine.
Self-care means making these things a scheduled part of every week, regardless of how you feel. This will help keep hard parenting days to a minimum.
But you will still get them, so here are some more techniques to help with hard parenting days…
Things you can do if you can’t leave the house
Invest in good quality coffee or tea at home, and when you have it, really make an occasion of it. Make it slowly, put it in a gorgeous cup and saucer, or your favourite comforting mug (with swearing slogan on it if need be…) and then sit and drink slowly.
I know you are rushed, and there will be times across the day where you just need the caffeine hit NOW, but at least once a day, or if your brain is about to explode, take 15 minutes, and do it high quality and slow.
Keep a lavender eye mask or gel pack in the freezer. In moments of massive stress, walk away from your kids for ten minutes and lie down in your room, with the refreshingly cool eye mask over your eyes. Even if your little ones are tiny, you can pop them safely in their cot and take ten minutes for yourself.
Having a ten-minute shower is good too because this is one of the few ways you can escape a crying baby. Or vacuuming the house, but that’s not really as pleasant as a long hot shower, is it?
Any child from 18 months and up will (sadly) be able to entertain themselves for at least ten minutes with your smartphone or tablet, giving you a break and a breather. I know there is all of this research into why screen time is bad for little children, but having their Mum’s head explode is worse, so if you need a break, it is ok to use technology once in a while.
Look into popping a few apps on your phone for this purpose – even having ABC iView for kids is a simple start.
Colouring books are fantastic to chill out for a little while, and if you are not too fussy about keeping within the lines, give your child a page to colour in as well. They will think you are playing with them, when actually you are doing something incredibly focused on your mental health.
I love a gratitude journal for those really hard days. On days where the kids are little mess-tornadoes with super-powers of bickering and whingeing, you might need to sit down by yourself and try to remember some things that you are grateful for. You are grateful for your children, you just need to remind yourself of that at times.
With a gratitude journal, try to fill it in every day, and come up with new things every day, even little ones and small details. This will help to get full benefit from the exercise.
Things you can do if you are on a budget
Get some gentle exercise in that will calm your mind as well as taking the frustration out of your body. Go for a swim, a walk in the park, or practise a few yoga moves at home.
Round up a mum friend and get in a good debrief session. You can walk together with prams, or meet up at a park if it’s fine or a play centre if the weather is foul. Many local cafes have little corners for children to play, so you don’t have to give up good quality coffee just to find a place that caters to your kids.
Just getting out of the house for an hour or two can make all the difference. You could go to the movies or the library, or even to a good ice cream shop for a big sundae that you can eat all by yourself.
Having the chance to breathe as well as to miss your children (and for them to miss and appreciate you) can have a big impact on how crappy you are feeling. Just an hour or two away and you can come back with renewed mental and physical energy ready to face parenting all over again.
One thing that might not work
Telling yourself that others have it worse
I find that it doesn’t help to tell yourself that other people have it worse, so you should get your chin up and stop feeling bad.
This kind of comparison can actually make it harder for you; putting a level of guilt on you for not being able to cope when other parents have more to complain about and yet they are doing fine.
Struggling with your own situation is normal, and no one knows what it is exactly like to be in your shoes. Don’t compare yourself to others, or beat yourself up for not coping better.
Accept that there are crappy days, and be kind to yourself to get to the other side of them.
When hard parenting days turn into weeks and months
Hard parenting days are normal for everyone, but if your hard days are weeks or even months, there might be something more serious going on. Don’t ignore ongoing feelings of struggling as this could mean you are suffering from depression or anxiety.
Talk to your partner or family and ask for help. Your GP is a wonderful place to start to get advice about constantly feeling low.