Your role as “Providing Parent” is a lot more work that you initially thought it would be and you just don’t get around to doing all the things you want to do. You feel best when all your chores are completed perfectly and your children have had your undivided attention…but that hasn’t happened in a very long while because maybe, just maybe, your expectations of what you are able to achieve as a non-superhuman is too HIGH!
- You feel like you are running on low reserves from the moment you wake up
- You feel anxious about the day ahead even though in the past you may have handled the same workload with ease
- Your day’s work does not cover the needs of your family and your house is a mess (even though you have been cleaning since you got home)
- You feel like life is driving you in the fast lane without brakes
- The normal background sounds of your co-workers, spouse, friends and children is too loud, everything is just too loud!
- In spite of working very hard all day, at the end of the day you feel unsettled and anxious for all that you still need to do
- In spite of the efforts you make to meet your role as “Providing Parent” you still feel as if you are failing miserably
- You find that negative inner-speech clouds your day and makes you feel inferior
Take a step back. Imagine you were your own employer.
Would you really be so demanding, harsh and criticising toward an employee? If you would treat an employee with more regard than you do yourself, it may be time to rethink your workload.
Are you expecting too much for one person to manage in a working day? If you don’t expect an employee to manage everything you are trying to achieve, why do you expect the impossible from yourself? What is behind that drive? Is it healthy? The answer is no, it isn’t and you need to reprioritise.
Are you expecting to do the work of several people?
Are you expecting to be skilled in the fields one would rather leave to the professionals?
Can one person really be the one to earn, doctor, teach, cook, clean and manage quality time with your family? AND maintain some semblance of a healthy personal routine?
The answer is NO, you cannot do it all on your own. Should you manage to do it all, there will probably be a breaking point or massive burnout.
So what is a harassed, busy parent to do? Here are some pointers in the right direction:
Make a list of priorities
Every good employer has a specific list of essential goals or priorities that remains the focus regardless of the situation at the work place. Set up your own list of essential goals or priorities. This seems like a very easy basic step but one that many people don’t take. Sit quietly and focus on what will bring most meaning to your life. What is your focus? What are you passionate about? What makes you feel energised?
List the key factors in your life in order of importance. Now indicate how many minutes / hours a day / week you dedicate to each item. You may be surprised to see that what you indicated as the top five most important things are allocated less time than you would like.
What can you do to fix this? It probably isn’t too much. However, keep in mind that some duties are necessary to maintain your top priorities. For example, you may list time with your children as the top on the list of priorities but you find that work takes up 8 hours of the day. You cannot decide to resign for this sole reason as your income ensures a good standard of living for your children. But if you find that you can cut back on something, and reallocate some time to your top priorities, do so. As long as it does not disturb the balance you are trying so hard to maintain, go ahead and make that change.
Being able to delegate appropriate tasks to each member on the team is a key managerial skill essential to any workplace. Why not see this as an opportunity to delegate some tasks to appropriate members in your support team. Do you really need to do EVERYTHING on your own? Is there anyone in your family or support group who can assist with even just one task weekly?
Your best friend has a responsible teen? Great! That may be the baby-sitting services you need while you get organised or cook a wholesome meal. Does the neighbour walk her dog daily? Ask her to take yours along too in exchange for some doggie treats. Get creative. Reach out. Make friends. Ask for help and offer something in exchange even if it is something like handing over the remote control to the teen who helped you with babysitting.
Don’t be afraid to ask your children to tidy up their toys and put their laundry in the basket. Create a list of chores and make sure you reward members who do their share. It is an educational process and vastly beneficial to everyone.
Manage your time
Now that you have a list of priorities and have delegated some small part of your workload, get organised with how you appropriate your time. Pretend time was as finite as your monthly pay-check. Your money will run out if you don’t carefully consider each expense. The same is true for your time. It is a resource, spend it wisely. Make a Time Budget and stick to it for a week. If you find you have had HOURS extra at the end of the week, you will have rewarded yourself with the ultimate luxury: Time to spend any way you choose.
It pays you to be organised as the time you save is worth the initial time you need to put in. A simple Google search with the words “getting organised” is enough to bring up a host of really good sites dedicated to getting organised. You can do it step by step and take a little at a time.
If your budget allows, you may let go of the reigns and consider finding some qualified services. Why not hire a reputable cleaning service, perhaps book a few days a week with a nanny, en-roll in a preschool or play-group, make play-dates with friends who are prepared to take turns minding the children, go online and get your shopping delivered to your door, or swop out services with a friend.
For example if you have a friend that finds it therapeutic to cook, and you love gardening as a way to unwind, make arrangements to weed her flowerbeds and water her grass and she can repay you by sharing her meal with you. T his is how things worked back in grandma’s day and they may have been on to something with the shared sense of community. There was always someone to lend a hand. Cultivate that in your own life. Everyone needs help now and then, even you.
Learn to say no
Everyone is in some state of unfulfilled desire. There are a myriad needs, wants and desires left unfulfilled on this planet of ours. You will be pandering to every whim, need, demand and desire your family wishes you to fulfil unless you learn to prioritise what is essential and what is not. Then you need to learn to say no, and mean it. If there is a battle of wills, stick to your initial response with a more determined NO and then soften it with a very calm explanation as to your reasons for not being everyone’s slave on that particular occasion. For example, you may have decided that you will not be buying fast food from your usual take out store. Your family is demanding their usual fix of processed food but you say no. They keep whining and you almost crack under the pressure.
Instead of going onto auto-pilot and finding way back to the usual spot due to family pressure, you say in your most convincing voice, “No! We will NOT put that food into our precious bodies today. We will go somewhere else to have a decent meal or we will make something even better at home.” You can only do this if you do, indeed, feel a conviction about your stand. This is an example from my life where I had to substitute inferior quality fast-food “chicken” nuggets. I decided to buy free-range chicken breast, cut them into thin strips, coat them in crumbs and fry them with a little olive oil. I served it with the best brand of ketchup and viola, real food in a few minutes. No traffic, no queues, no inferior chicken nuggets, no old poisonous oil. So fast and easy and I fooled the most fussy eaters on the planet. If I can do it, so can you.
Assess your environmental stressors
It is a good idea to identify the things in your environment that case you stress. Some people get stressed out by harsh lighting, loud noises, poor organisation, a messy home or even a less-than-perfectly clean floor (that’s me by the way).
Being stressed out about environmental factors may be the easiest way to get frazzled. There will be things you can’t change (for example your neighbours) and there will be things you can change. The messy floors? Place a micro-fibre doormat at all your entrances and buy a floor-whizz-pro to keep the floor sparkling. Find your own solutions that suit your budget.
The things that you can change should be addressed. For the things you can do nothing about, breathe deeply and look away. Learn to release control if it’s out of your hands. Think of this skill as “self-preservation”. You cannot control everything, but what IS within your abilities, do wholeheartedly!
Re-do the budget
See if you can allocate funds to services that will make your life a little more user-friendly. Think of essential services such as your monthly groceries delivered, preschool or aftercare services, a cleaning service, au-pair or char. You may find that the money you spend on quality service saves you money in the long run. Laundered clothes, maintained surfaces and polished shoes are just some examples of how a service may prolong the life of your personal belongings.
Be true to yourself
Any employer values hard work and dedication and likewise you should be satisfied with what you do achieve daily. Do allocate down-time for yourself as everyone is entitled a break from work at least daily, and not just to shower and sleep!
You know what makes you happy and energised. You also know that you need a certain amount of time to maintain a semblance of personal freedom in your hectic schedule. Yes you DO need to take time for yourself. It is essential. A happier, calmer you is going to be a happier, calmer “Providing Parent”. Your family needs you content, stable and in good health. When you look at it that way, you are an asset to your household and you deserve a few hours to yourself daily (or at least every now and then).
Maintain your equilibrium by looking over your List of Priorities often and rethinking your allocated time to each priority. Once you have your list of duties under control do not add duties to it unnecessarily. Every new duty you add to your list means that somewhere on that same list you will need to cut back.
You may find that your best efforts, within reason, are enough to keep everyone happy, even you!