Our writer gets candid about what parents really need on their worst day of parenting.
On your worst day of parenting, the last thing you need to hear is ‘hang in there’ and ‘you’ve got this’ and the worst of the worst, ‘you’ll miss these days when they grow up’
Seriously? First of all, I am not talking about the average day of parenting, or even the run of the mill off day, I am talking about your worst day of parenting. The day you question why you even became a parent. If you have what it takes to be a good parent. And of course, just to add guilt to an already full poop sandwich, if you are screwing your kids up.
Let’s be real here. Parenting is not easy by any standard. While there are days when you will laugh, make memories and toast marshmallows, there are also days when you barely see your kids after a long commute. Then have just enough time to cook a supper they won’t eat and bribe them to bed. All this effort is just to have an hour to unwind before you start the whole thing over again.
So what do parents really need to hear on their worst day of parenting? Since I recently had one of my horrible, no-good, very bad parenting days, I took the time to ask myself what I really needed at that moment. What would actually make me feel better as a parent?
My stress ball
My bad parenting days usually come when I am under a large amount of stress. While stress in life can’t be avoided, (especially with children) you can work to minimize it.
Let me paint you a picture of my stress ball. It is the manifestation of everything that was slowly building up to stress me out and make me a less loving, and less happy parent.
I was in the middle of a work week that includes getting my children ready in the morning solo and dropping them off at daycare and camp before embarking on a three-hour daily commute.
Our air conditioner had broken so I no longer was able to blow dry my hair in the morning. As the days went on my hairstyles became more ‘inventive’ and my sleep more disturbed.
Our washer and dryer had been dismantled (by my well-meaning husband) on the weekend and was waiting for a part to come in the mail. In turn, it was in a million pieces in our laundry room/master bathroom. This had my stress level rising with every daily reminder that our family of five was now using a laundromat for the foreseeable future.
My youngest daughter had an ear infection that resulted in her crying hours a day for four days and counting.
My stress ball kept building until it inevitably came undone. My house was a mess, I was a mess and my kids were a mess.
It all came to a head when I ended up in the ER. I brought my child who had been crying for hours in pain only to have her magically get the energy to run around, play and demand snacks in a packed ER full of germ infested people.
I finally had to throw the towel in.
I yelled and I threatened. I became the kind of mom I hate to be. The one that comes out when I come undone.
Treat yo’ self
There is a reason that they instruct you before every flight to put the oxygen mask on yourself before helping others. If I am not in a good place, how can I be a good place for my kids?
So while I can’t just drop everything and run away (which is so very tempting) I need to be able to ask for help.
I need to be able to go to bed early because I need to be rested to take on my challenging schedule. I need to close the bathroom door and soak in a tub because my kids deserve the best version of me instead of the stressed out one.
And sometimes I need a real break. I need my kids to spend time with their extended family so my husband and I can tackle the projects that never seem to get done, sleep until our bodies feel rested and only be responsible for ourselves.
So parents, on your worst day of parenting, I won’t say ‘hang in there’, ‘you’ve got this’ and ‘you will miss these days’.
Instead, I challenge you to ask yourself what you really need and do everything in your power to get it for yourself.
It’s not called being selfish, it’s called practicing self-care. And it makes you a better parent.
So do you practice self-care PLNers? How do you think it affects your parenting? Let us know in the comments!
*Opinions expressed are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Parent Life Network or their partners.