13 MARCH 2021
by Kirsten Samuel
Share this diary:
When the pandemic tightened its grip on the world, parents everywhere found themselves spinning more plates than ever before. Even now with schools returning, it’s also important to recognise that this is fertile ground for stress, anxiety and burnout.
Most parents will have heard the saying “you can’t pour from an empty cup” – or some variant of it, at least. And whilst there is undoubtably much truth in this, it can feel nigh on impossible to put this sentiment into practice when things feel impossibly busy, when there is home schooling that has to get done, when you don’t have access to your usual support system. But the reality is: little goes a long way. Small changes to your everyday routines can have an enormous effect on your wellbeing and can help keep burnout at bay. Here are some of ideas:
Talk about how you’re feeling. For most parents, time to catch up with friends or family can be in short supply. But talking, sharing and offloading is key to maintaining mental wellbeing. So, take opportunities to talk about how you’re feeling and try to be honest, especially if you’re finding things hard – a problem shared is almost always a problem halved. Reach out to other parents and don’t be afraid to look outside your ‘inner circle’. There is much camaraderie to be found amongst others who are doing their best to raise good humans, connecting with them and ‘sharing the load’ can be incredibly comforting and reassuring.
Maintain boundaries. At the moment, boundaries between work and personal life are pretty permeable. A combination of working from home and access to increasingly smart, connected technology means we can work anytime, anywhere. For parents, this can mean that we are essentially ‘always on’ so it’s important that we set and maintain some boundaries between ‘work time’ and ‘family time’ and the all-important, but ever elusive, ‘me time’. Having a few ‘wellbeing non-negotiables’ is a good place to start, be that time alone to read the Sunday papers or a Tuesday morning online Yoga class. You could also experiment with setting some tech boundaries, such as disabling phone notifications between certain hours.
Some days will be harder than others. Some days you will feel like you have it all under control. Other days your home will look like it’s been ransacked, the fridge will be empty, you’ll find one child using the toilet brush to comb their teddy’s hair and the other one drawing on the wall with permanent marker. If you’ve had ‘one of those days’ (or weeks!), make a conscious effort to accept it and move on. Try not to ruminate or catastrophise and, whatever you do, don’t let yourself feel like a failure. ‘Having it all under control’ is not a one-time achievement, it’s a feeling that will ebb and flow.
Banish the ‘g’ word. Ah, guilt…the clingy companion most parents just can’t seem to shake off. Feelings of guilt are largely caused by the desire to be and do our best in all aspects of our lives, whether that’s in our careers or as parents. But most of the time, this just isn’t possible. And it’s these unrealistic standards that become a seedbed for guilt. So, lower your expectations and remember that you’re doing your best (which, really, is all you can do). So, whether the kids watched three hours of Peppa Pig so you could finish an important proposal or whether they ate fish fingers for dinner for the second evening in a row because you’ve not had time to go shopping, go easy on yourself. Chances are, there are hundreds of kids across the world also tucking into their second fish finger-based meal of the week.
Copyright © 2021 The Brightest Star. Content curated by Petra Ecclestone