Parenting secrets. We all need them at one time or another because being a parent is really hard work. It’s beautiful. Don’t get me wrong. But, let’s just have a moment to admit to ourselves and to each other that parenting brings with it a lot of struggle.
What’s so hard about it? I think we forget sometimes because years separate us from that season in our own lives. But, let’s just be real. Having kids messes with your entire world. And there’s no going back.
What does this do when one becomes a parent? Parents can feel like their life is no longer their own. And maybe they don’t recognize their partner anymore. And maybe they don’t even recognize themselves. Consequently, they can feel a deep loss of identity.
Additionally, over time other things can begin to set in for both partners. Overwhelm. Fatigue. Irritability. Depression. Anxiety. Disappointment. Relational strain. Financial pressure.
If you’re in the same boat as basically every other parent everywhere, in need of a few parenting secrets, this post is for you. If you work with parents and families, this post is for you, too.
We all know we need to be eating healthier, exercising, and sleeping more. However, beyond those physical necessities, what can parents be doing to rediscover joy? Maybe finding joy isn’t about working harder, raising superstar kids and doing it all perfectly. Maybe you simply need more connection. Caring for yourself relationally, emotionally and spiritually is where that connection can be found.
So, we’ve put together what we hope will be helpful for you in your own parenting journey or for parents you are currently serving. We’d love to hear your thoughts, too. Support each other below by sharing how you’ve cared for yourself in the midst of difficulty.
Time away alone and together
Pawn the kids off on someone and stay home for a couple hours at the very least. Or get away for a day surrounded by natural beauty. Your body and your mind need some time to be a human again without being a parent. You know you’re in too deep when going to the grocery store is what you look forward to ALL. WEEK. LONG.
Shower, even if your kid whines about needing you. Turn on a show for them, it’s okay. Have your friend watch your kids while you go for a 30-minute walk solo. Get a massage. Take a night away alone and sleep in.
And stop feeling guilty about getting you time. You need it. You can’t keep giving water to everyone else from your well if it’s all dry. Also, your kids need you to be healthy; they’re watching you, learning the way they will live. So, teach them by loving yourself as God loves you. Make your well-being a priority.
Couples, time together away from your kids is deeply necessary for a thriving connection. Having a night a week or a night a month to just be together without the hustle of parenting is important. And though fun, stimulating conversations without mention of the kids are ideal, just catch up on life’s necessities if you need to.
Fill your partner in on the new health insurance plan. Discuss the fear you feel after that talk you needed to have with your child’s teacher last week. Get some quality time and touch in there, too. But, it’s time together. It doesn’t have to be perfect.
Time with Friends
We all need time with people who know us and witness our lives. Hearing you’re not crazy and that you’re loved is important. Laughing and retelling silly stories can feel like oxygen. Do things you can’t do with your kids around to give voice to the parts of yourself that aren’t housed in everyday life.
A friend of mine put it perfectly a few years ago when we were lamenting being mothers of babies when she said, exasperated, “We are constantly confronted with the ordinary of life.”
Ordinary isn’t bad. It’s wonderful and soothing…when it isn’t all you’re around. For stay-at-home parents, this is particularly difficult. Spending time with friends invites novelty. You get to hear about their lives, share reflections, discuss what’s happening in the world, offer perspective.
Get out for dinner or drinks every once in a while. Take an overnight away to camp or stay in a hotel with close friends. Go for a walk together. Chat on the phone.
It doesn’t just take a village to raise kids just because we need an extra pair of eyes at the park or school dance. It takes a village because we need to come up for air sometimes, and friends help us do that.
Old Passions and New Interests
Remember those things you used to do? Maybe it was playing soccer. Or maybe it was painting. We can all look back and long for the hobbies we used to devote ourselves to. As a result, we often lament not doing them anymore.
But, what if there’s a way to incorporate something we love into our lives now in a new way? Perhaps, given your schedule you can’t spend countless hours training for that sport. However, what if you join a masters league? What about the work you used to do as a doula? What if you led a one-day workshop for expectant moms twice a year?
Also, who we were as children is a good indicator of who we are now. Yet, often who we are gets buried under the pressures and practicalities of life. Consequently, remembering what brought joy to you as a child will shed light on what will bring you life now.
Think back long before having children of your own. When you were a child, what were your passions? Did you love taking pictures on your dad’s camera? Get a film camera and go for a hike with the kids, taking pictures along the way.
Additionally, what have you never done and have always wanted to? Maybe you’ve always wanted to write a children’s book or learn to play guitar or bake a pie. Give yourself the space to explore.
Jot down your book ideas. Then, type it up and bind it to share with your family. Get a used guitar and watch YouTube videos. Ask a friend who bakes to teach you their secrets.
It doesn’t matter what it is. And it doesn’t matter if you only have 10 minutes a week to devote to it. Just do it.
So much of the time parents have is used doing pretty mundane things. You’re driving from here to there, feeding this one and cleaning that one, listening to this argument and having that one, folding laundry and buying groceries (or takeout, we’re being real here, right?). You’re paying for this thing and filling out a permission slip for that thing. Dad’s packing lunches in the morning and Mom’s dropping off forgotten homework at school.
This is a lot of mind-numbing and frantic busyness. Intellectual stimulation is important for all of us, no matter what we enjoy. So, how do we feed our minds and relax?
Listen to podcasts as you drive. Explore anything. Listen to a comedy, mystery, documentary, theology topic, cooking or travel show, economics podcast. There are so, so many to choose from. Stimulate parts of your brain and learn about stuff you like.
Turn off the TV and read before nodding off. Instead of binging on the new season of your fave show, snuggle into bed and read. This will engage your brain like watching a screen can’t. Also, you’ll get better sleep, which statistically speaking, almost all of us need more of.
Quit buying into the lies. Stop believing that your house needs to be spotless, your kid needs to be adorably dressed, that dinner always needs to be pretty and the best possible nutritional choice, that if you could just be thinner everything in your life would be better, that if you had the life that he or she has then _________.
In our Pinterest-perfect world, we need more authenticity and less voice of comparison. Newsflash: What you see online, it’s not real. And if you know this in your mind but can’t get your emotions to slow down enough to stop despairing, take a social media break.
Life has ALWAYS been messy. Couples have always argued. Families have always been messed up. Kids have never followed all the rules. Deep friendships have always been hard to come by. Family trips aren’t endlessly idyllic. I mean, read the Bible for goodness sake. It was all there back then, too!
We get lonely and uncertain and afraid and tired. No one’s life is perfect. This unreal standard that’s created by highly-curated feeds and the simultaneous hiding of the tears being shed in the bathroom all alone because life feels too big and we’re all just too freaking tired to handle it right now…it’s killing our spirits, plaguing our minds and depleting our bodies.
Stop believing the lies and stop telling them, too. Be honest about your life, dispel the mythology of perfection we’re surrounded by so often. At the very least it will be refreshing and at best it will set us all free.
If you’re struggling, find a few close friends who are safe to talk to about it. If you need extra support beyond the help your loved ones can offer, get into therapy with a professional. Just saying something aloud loosens its hold on us, gives us hope and courage to persist.
You aren’t alone and you aren’t the only one. I guarantee someone is waiting for you to validate their experience, too.
God is Love. And you are a treasure created out of Love. So, imagine how your Heavenly Parent might care for you in this season that demands so much of every part of you. Give that kind of care to yourself.
What brings you joy? Rest, listen to what you need, do the things you love, be with people who bring you life, learn about things you like, be authentic.
And cover all you do with compassion and grace. Let yourself off the hook every single day. It’s never been perfect and it never will be. And even in spite of that, God still calls it good.
We hope these suggestions can usher in some joy during this beautiful and arduous time of life called parenting. Don’t forget to share your thoughts in the comments below. We love hearing from you!