5 Steps to Take When You’ve Reached the End of Your Parenting Rope
Coming to you live from the eternity of the week between Christmas and the New Year. My husband and I are both officially in survival mode at the end of our second week in the house with our spirited 3 year old. Covid is surging again in the US and it has been a seriously rainy and cold December in Southern California this year, which means SO MUCH MORE INDOOR TIME THAN I DESIRE. But I am certain we are not alone. I’m seeing more posts in my Facebook mom group and on the parenting socials about parents at the end of their rope. Couple all these special circumstances with the usual chaos and disruption to routine of the holiday season, and woof. I’m threadbare.
And yet, when we’re feeling this way, like you are filled to the absolute brim with the amount of kazoo playing and episodes of Dinosaur Ranch one human adult can bear, our instinct is usually to seek out parenting advice. Surely we must be doing something WRONG if we feel this way. But you know what? I think it might be reasonable to be annoyed after days of modeling positive behavior only to have it fall on deaf ears. And it’s normal for kids to do things that are annoying. So instead of trying to fix something externally, maybe we just need to focus more on mindset and self-care than technique. If you rolled your eyes at that, I get it. I had therapy yesterday and said verbatim “I know you can’t fill from an empty cup and blah blah blah” as I rolled my eyes. Something in me resists self care SO HARD. If I had it my way I’d just forge ahead and barrel through life leaving zero time to rest and reflect.
It’s important in our house to take turns solo-parenting for some TRUE break time. It is agreed upon that during the duration of one of these bursts, the other parent is to field ALL requests. On a typical day my husband and I take turns changing diapers or grabbing snacks or drinks for our daughter and we each tend to certain kid-related tasks almost exclusively. (For example, I don’t think he’s ever cut her nails, but I usually don’t bathe her. I do messy play, and he does the wrestling and horsey rides. I do the playground, he does the movie theater.)
These roles go out the door in survival mode. In survival mode it’s crucial to be able to fully tap out for a little while. Some days are easier than others and we can do our tandem parenting thing, but on the days where everyone’s on edge, it’s crucial to carve out time where you don’t have to do a single parental thing. And that’s been VERY helpful on a rainy day like today where our child won’t stop meowing like a cat. Knowing when my next break is coming helps me be more present while she’s all mine.
Here are some things my family has implemented this Christmas break that have helped release the pressure valve that is trying to endure the absolute sensory onslaught that is spending almost 24-7 in a tiny house with a moody three year old who doesn’t nap. You know when your phone hits the 10% battery left point and you plug it in to charge a little bit? These are things to get you to at least 20% to buy you some more sanity.
Disclaimer: This is all advice coming from a two parent household where parenting is VERY 50/50 as we are both working parents. A lot of this relies on another adult taking the reins while you do a quick recharge. One day I’ll have a guest blogger divulge tips and tricks for single parents, but for today this is what I’m working with.
Step away for 20 minutes of aerobics in your bedroom and lock the door
This is more my husband’s thing right now. He locks the door, puts in earbuds, and watches something on his laptop while riding our stationary bike. Can he hear the small child just outside the bedroom door rattling the handle calling for “Daddy”? Maybe, maybe not. Doesn’t matter. It’s my time to handle it.
Take a bath with a locked door
After my husband showered after his workout, I hopped in the tub. He had a fresh mood to deal with the child while I listened to a podcast and sunk underwater when my child was knocking on the bathroom door. Not my problem. It’s his turn to redirect her to something else now. See how this works?
Go grocery shopping
This was for my husband’s turn.. He offered to take her with him to the grocery store. I laughed and said “don’t do that to yourself.” I had just had a bath, so I was in a temporary good headspace to field the toddler. We played with hex bugs and blocks. I started to plan my next getaway for when he got back from the store.
Cook a soup with noise-cancelling earbuds
I had requested a list of ingredients to make a soup as my next mini vacation from parenting. I popped in airpods and let my husband know I was officially going offline to make the soup. Noice cancellation activated. I occasionally popped an earbud out to listen to her sing a song or make an unintelligible handshake deal, but for the most part, I was in my own head working on a soup.
Listen to a meditation in your bedroom with a locked door
We haven’t gotten here yet as our soup is simmering on the stove, but this was a favorite of mine in the newborn days and I plan to meditate more in the new year. It’s so simple and so impactful. I like Headspace, but you can find a zillion specific, guided meditations on Youtube. I did one for postpartum moms that was really helpful the day I got home from the hospital.
I know there’s a lot of locked doors involved in this list. Locked doors and noise cancelling earbuds are crucial for me, especially in our little back house. It’s easy to hear what’s going on outside your door and stress about it during your allotted reset time. Don’t let it happen. Block that noise out with headphones, a door, or a change of location. You deserve it and your family will be happier for it.
What are your favorite ways to recenter when you have those days where you just can not take another minute?