Image credit: iStock
With the school term in full swing, it’s back to the grind for most parents. That means demanding schedules, long days and constant societal pressure to stay ahead. You might feel even more stressed thinking of how to occupy them this March holiday too. Keeping it together can be an uphill battle, but it’s not entirely impossible! Here are some tips for staying sane.
1. Focus on the long term
It’s only natural to be concerned when you feel your child is falling behind. But instead of stressing over short-term achievements, try to think about long-term goals. “My husband and I try to remind ourselves not to obsess about academic results but to focus on teaching long term values like self-discipline, resilience and selflessness,” says Grace, currently a Masters student and parent to 10-year-old Nathan.
Being aware of the bigger picture helps puts things in perspective, and makes you less likely to obsess about not measuring up as a parent. “It is pretty hard when mothers gather at playgroup and compare milestones and what their child can do (and what yours can’t!). But as long as we both have the same viewpoint (i.e. that our kids are doing okay), we don’t waste time panicking over any particular matter,” says Shirin, who is co-owner of two companies and mum to three-year-old Natalie.
2. Consistency is key
Whether you’re working or a stay-at-home parent, unpredictable days are to be expected. But as much as possible, try to stick to a consistent routine so your kids know what to expect from you. This lessens the likelihood of you having to bark orders around the home, increasing your stress levels in the process.
Dorcas, teacher and mother of two boys aged nine and seven, describes how she maintains order around the home. “When they get home they know they have to unpack, put their laundry in the washing machine, then sit down and go through schoolwork. They repack their bags and get ready for the next day, then enjoy some playtime. The goals is to make this a habitual routine with minimal supervision,” she explains.
Stay-at-home mum Shujia also seconds the need for a routine, which involves getting her kids to help around the home. “In addition to teaching my children to play and do homework on their own, I also get them to help by folding their own clothes and washing dishes after meals,” she says.
3. Have a support system
Looking after your family can come with a tendency to isolate yourself and dedicate all your energy to work and parenting. Feelings of loneliness and frustration may arise, and these can take a toll on your emotional well-being. Having a solid support system is key to helping you avoid this.
Take some time to get to know other parents, whether it’s at your child’s school or playgroup, neighbours in your estate, or even online parent support groups such as Stork’s Nest and Mindful Mums.
“Having other parents to share your struggles with is really important. Knowing everyone is in the same boat and mutually encouraging each other really helps,” says Ivan, pastor and father to six children aged six months to 10 years. “My wife and I are part of a very supportive church community, too. They offer to babysit sometimes so that we get time alone.”
4. Take a time-out
Easier said than done, but looking after yourself is absolutely essential to prevent burnout. “If I really need rest, I tell my colleagues and business partners that I’m “on leave” (even though I’m not) and work from home or just take it a lot easier,” says Shirin.
“I exercise regularly to keep myself healthy, so I have the energy to look after my children and spend quality time with them,” adds Shujia. This quality time is another great way to unwind, so set aside time for regular game nights, storytelling sessions and trips to the park.
5. Enjoy every moment
Most importantly, enjoy every moment you have with your little ones! The years pass by in a flash (it’s already 2018!), so don’t forget to laugh with them, play with them, and tell them you love them every day. “My daughter is only three, but I always look back and see how much she has grown from a tiny infant – and how I've grown as an adult and parent,” reflects Shirin. “Time really does fly, so enjoy every second!”