8 Ways I'm Dealing with Parenting Stress

I wrote in my last post about starting each day with new, fresh eyes and a happy heart. The sun will rise and that stuff.

Yeah, didn't work so great for me yesterday.

It doesn't help that I really hate Mondays. For me, instead of being a time to start fresh and begin a new week, they always seem to be packed with things I forgot I had to do until an e-mail, a bing-bong on my phone, or an actual live person reminded me.

Yesterday was no different. I had promised to work the book fair at school for two hours, and I still have no babysitter, so I had to ask my parents to watch Baby E and Lil' C.

I had to call the orthodontist because one of Slim's spacers fell out already. Then, while I was at school, I had to run down to his classroom to look and see which one it was, then call the orthodontist back to make the appointment that he had to have THAT DAY so it could be replaced.

I had to go to Knox's classroom to tell his teacher to tell him that he had Cub Scouts after school because that had slipped my mind until I read a reminder e-mail.

I had to pick Lil' C and Slim up early from school to take Slim to his appointment, and I had just enough time to stop at the store for Baby E's special milk and one needed ingredient for dinner before I had to pick up Knox from Cub Scouts.

Typical day for most moms, right?

But there was still the behavior I had to deal with. The boy who told Grandma that he didn't like her. The boy who wouldn't wear the Cub Scout shirt I brought up especially for him. The fighting over who would get to play a game on my phone in the car. The boy who wandered off three times during the ten minute grocery store trip. The backpacks and shoes and coats all over the laundry room floor for the gazillionth time this school year. The fighting, the talking back, the disrespect.

I. Had. Had. Enough!

I suppose it also didn't help that a little monthly visitor had also arrived that day, but I lost it. I yelled and screamed and told the boys under no uncertain terms was I doing anything for anyone anymore. By the time I was done with my tirade, the two older boys were in tears, and the younger ones were avoiding me.

Oh, this is not the mom I want to be. This is not the mom I want my boys to have. I felt like things were spiralling out of control and the pressure was building and building and building until the lid blew right off the boiling pot.

I could have handled it better. I should have handled it better.

Hubby would say, "Coulda, shoulda . . . now what are you going to do about it?"

Good question. I've been thinking a lot about that today, and I've thought of some ways I can deal with my parenting stress:

1. Don't sweat the small stuff. Also called, pick your battles. One forgotten paper, misplaced shoe, spilled drink is not the end of the world. It happens. I need to take a deep breath and remember we've been through much worse.

2. Put more energy into the big stuff. I have not been consistent enough with some of the life lessons I want my boys to learn, like consistently following the same routines about chores, rewards, consequences, prayer, thankfulness, service to others, respect, patience, kindness, tolerance. I need to think about what I want them to learn, and rather than continuously harping, I need to model the behavior.

3. Do my screaming and yelling in private. I always tell my boys that feelings are okay. You have a right to your feelings. But your responsibility lies in what you do with those feelings. It's okay for me to be mad and frustrated - holy hell, please tell me we all get this way, right? But it's my responsibility not to verbally abuse my children. If I feel like screaming and yelling, I can go in my room or my bathroom, shut the door, and have a good scream or cuss session. Done. Let's move on.

4. Vent to friends. I have some amazing friends, and by now I know exactly which ones I can say which things to. It's like eating my favorite chocolate or drinking my favorite wine. It's a comfortable treat that makes me feel better when I'm done.

5. Have something for myself. I love being a mom - I really, really do. But the trap I fall into is when that's ALL I do. It puts too much pressure on me to define myself only in that way. Since I've been writing, I realize that I have something else I can contribute to those outside my family. And I earn praise for being something other than a mom. I earn praise for being me.

6. Savour my downtime. I have two hours to myself in the afternoon. I am usually running around like a chicken with my head cut off trying to get as much done as possible. When 3:00 rolls around and I didn't get as much done as I wanted, I beat myself up about it. I can't do that. I need set realistic expectations for myself. I also need to realize that after everyone goes to bed, it's okay for me to watch t.v. and read blogs - I deserve it. It's not okay for me to stay up late and be crabby the next day though.

7. Rely on Hubby and let him rely on me. This is finally something we're getting better at. I'm not talking about the division of child-rearing chores. We've always done that. I mean when I've had a bad day, he can step in and be the yang to my yin and vice-versa. Previously, if he was in a bad mood, I would be, too. If I was yelling at everyone, so was he. Now we both realize that if we are feeling that way, it's because we've had a long day or we're stressed or we are sick, and the other person needs to step up and be the voice of calm. Hubby did that for me last night, and it helped calm me down, too.

8. Relieve stress in a non-destructive way. Can anyone say binge eating?? I can. It usually involves some sort of carbs or eating ice cream right out of the container. Vacuuming, jumping jacks, yoga stretches, running up and down the stairs can all produce the same result (except around my waistline). I need to care for myself in order to care for my children.

I am so not a perfect mom or woman or person. I make mistakes. But luckily my children are young enough that I can correct those mistakes. If I can do better at "dealing," I think that's half the battle in reducing the stress in the first place.

What strategies do you have for dealing with stress in your daily life as a parent?

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