We all know parenting isn’t the easiest job in the world, but Lina Acosta Sandaal has a few steps to make it easier.
In January it will be three years since I opened my parenting center called The Nest in Miami, FL. It feels like I’ve been at this project for much longer; I guess that’s how we often feel when we are deeply engaged in a labor of love. My small business is a dream, but it’s also the cause of a lot of stress in my day-to-day life. Ironically, I find myself time and again talking with parents about how stress influences their day. Stress makes me feel like less of a parent. As a supposed expert on children and parenting, when that thought flies into my mind it is shocking. So I figured, I would soothe myself by giving it some contemplation, and share what I do when the world and my small business tells me in the form of stress and fear that I am not doing a good job with life and my little ones.
1. Get honest with someone.
Stress can take me to situations where I am short with my kids, avoidant of my kids or worse screaming at my kids. The truth is that it is just part of being human. When our brain is in stress, anxiety and panic mode, it shifts to a primitive state of fight, flight, or freeze. Sometimes in parenting, screaming is our fight or flight or moment of insane freezing. My number one cure for dealing with this part of the stress response is to tell others my truth. Let those close, trusted friends in and tell them what you did and how you handled it so then you can both have that human connection of “me too”. A lot of times in parenting we suffer in silence, imagining that the other parents never lose it. All parents lose it. I have training and expertise and education, and I have my awful moments, so today in my blog, I am publicly sharing my truth. When this is done, I will feel better.
2. Let your children off the hook.
It is important to be able to tell the story of your stress to your children. More often than not, children believe that you are upset because of something that they did. If we take a look at a situation with a child when we have a stressful day, the true problem is not the child, it is our day-to-day stress. It is not being able to take a deep breath before we deal with the frustrated preschooler who is trying to put on their shoes before we get them out to the preschool. Recently, I was overwhelmed with stress on a Saturday morning because one more time mommy was leaving home and my school-age daughter was not able to spend time with me. She followed me around and I felt guilty and ended up being short with her before I left. Driving home, I realized I needed to let her off the hook. When I got home I was able to use the morning exchange to apologize and then explain our family’s values about goals and making sacrifices for them. In this case, “I’m sorry we couldn’t spend time together and that I was mean, but mommy has a goal to help her business prosper so a lot of families can flourish.” My little one then said, “I understand mommy. I too want The Nest to be successful (BTW short concise version; the real one took about 20 minutes). It was a hard moment and a glorious moment at the same time. Apologizing and letting her off the hook gave both of us clarity and happiness.
3. Take care of yourself first.
On airplanes you are instructed to put the oxygen mask on your face before you put it on the child. This is true with parenting too, and especially true when we’re stressed. As a working mother, part of my existence is feeling guilty that somehow someway I am not spending enough time with my kids. A good friend of mine Luly B speaks about how “balance is bull#$%t”. She is right. What we do every day is take moments to think about what needs to come first, second, and last. For me, in certain moments, my business comes first and my children come second. It never feels like balance because there is always something I could do with one or the other. I take care of myself by setting up systems so that they are okay and I am okay. My truth is that taking care of me means that sometimes I need to leave the children with my mom because I just need to sit and have a coffee alone, or I need to work three hours on my business plan, or I need to turn off the phone and play Lego with my kids. It is difficult and it does not feel good but it is necessary so that when I am with each part of my life that part gets 100% of my attention.
So this is my little recipe for how I deal with stress and how I deal with the day-to-day guilt of not being a good parent due to life, work and stress. It is short, sweet, and never perfect. But then again, perfection is overrated.
Photo credit: Katie Campbell/flickr