Seriously, you can TOTALLY do this.
Attitudes about raising kids have changed throughout the past few decades — in the 70’s (when I grew up), it was more laissez-faire.
My parents never knew I had homework, and they certainly didn’t help me with it. These days, it seems that kids expect parents to entertain them, organize their play dates and take them to after school activities several nights a week (per kid!). It’s considered child neglect if kids play at the park without supervision. Instead, kids are making permanent dents in the couch while playing with the video game babysitter — no wonder obesity rates are soaring!
In order to realistically meet the demands of full-time work and family life, parents should have clones — unfortunately science isn’t up to that yet.
Despair not, my fellow weary parents. Here’s how you can raise your family and stay sane:
1. Determine your values
The questions my husband and I ask ourselves are: What do our kids need to learn and experience to grow into happy, healthy, productive adults? Who do we need to be as role models? Would we want them to have the kind of lives we are living?
From this point of view, neglecting ourselves so our kids can become child prodigies looks ridiculous. So does being a workaholic, a self-flagellating perfectionist, or an exhausted couch potato.
Once you are clear on your values, get rid of all the stress that has very little or nothing to do with reality.
2. Dump the guilt and say “NO”
Be willing to say no nicely but firmly whenever possible — to your kids, your in-laws, your employer, your clients. They may not be happy about it but they’ll get used to it. See yourself as a chooser.
Many parents say yes to their children out of exhaustion or to make up for not spending enough time with them. Remember your child’s future spouse is going to be left with the aftermath of you picking your 10 year old’s underwear off the floor.
Buying your child that chocolate bar because they are having a temper tantrum will guarantee that your future is filled with temper tantrums. So nip it in the bud and be a cool cucumber while your child burns up the tantrum, no matter how tired you are. Saying no to your kids builds character and matures them, and eventually it makes your life easier, too. In the meantime it is an excellent training ground for you to keep calm and carry on.
3. Get rid of the extra junk in your life
What can you give up that sucks time, money, energy or quality time from your life? Keeping up with the Jones’s, completing that survey for your chance to win, that extra errand you can live without — you get the idea. Trim the fat from your life so you can take your newly found precious time to do something better.
4. Remind yourself the good enough really is GOOD ENOUGH
Men tend to be better at this than women — they acknowledge when they need a break and they simply take it, even with a sink full of dirty dishes. Treat yourself like a real human being. There was a reason there is an established the 40 hour work week — take a break.
5. Enlist help with the chores
The whole family can help with household chores — little kids included. Put on some fun music and get ‘er done together. It’ll get done WAY faster, and you might even have some fun doing it.
6. Find your sweet spot and get in the zone
In sports, athletic performance is best when the athlete is calm, focused, and has just the right amount of tension for peak performance. I’m sure you’ve had at least a glimmer of this somewhere in your life — in sports, arts, work, or doing a hobby. So find that sweet spot, use your imagination to get into the mood, and make it your reset button.
7. Practice patience
The main cause of internal stress is wanting things to be different than they actually are. Put the Serenity Prayer on your fridge, your screensaver and your phone:
“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.” Reinhold Niebuhr
8. Become a great actor
A key skill as a parent is to sound angry without actually feeling angry. This will help you discipline your kids for their benefit, all while keeping your stress at a reasonable level. As a parent, you’re in it for the long haul — kids need a ton of repetition, often over years, to finally get it.
9. Have FUN
An old-fashioned pillow fight can do wonders for the soul. Run around in the backyard instead of sitting on the sidelines. Make preparing dinner a family event. Incorporating FUN into your life is key to being happier.
10. Have sex with your spouse
Romance, intimacy and adult fun is the glue that holds it all together. Get those “feel good” hormones going. Intimacy will also strengthen the bond between the two of you so you can face the kids together later on.
11. Get moving
Run on the spot as fast as you can for 30 seconds. Punch a pillow. Yell at the top of your lungs in an empty field. All these may seem silly, but they are miracle stress busters. You have to get that anxiety out of you in one way or another, so being ridiculous for a couple seconds might help you stay sane.
Stop what you are doing and smell the roses — literally. I did this once and gave the man passing by a good laugh, but the cliche really is spot on. A grandmother once told me that her biggest regret is that she spent too much time with the vacuum cleaner and too little time enjoying her kids. Make sure that once you are older, you can look back and love what you see.
This article was originally published at Health Local. Reprinted with permission from the author.