This is the first year I’ve had school-age children—and for some reason, I thought that the school year would give me a breather.
I’ll pause for a minute, so the more experienced parents can finish laughing hysterically…
The school year is not what I would consider a break. There are school clothes to pick out, backpacks to pack, lunches to make, homework to supervise and turn in, and snack and meal planning for after-school hours.
Then there are the fundraisers. The clubs. The athletic events and PTA meetings. The “open house” nights that are really just curriculum nights. The “school spirit” days that require us to dress our children in particular themes. The birthday cupcakes. The class snacks.
Even during the summer or the time before school begins, parents with children at home rarely get breaks. Parenting is a full-time job with hours extending around the clock. This massive responsibility also comes with massive stressors. It’s not just about making sure they’re housed and dressed and eat their vegetables. We have to worry about teaching them right from wrong and make sure they go out into the world with some manners and independent living skills.
Then there are the worries about processed foods and hormones in milk and harmful additives. About too much television or video games. About not enough outdoor play. And juice—apparently, juice isn’t good for them, and we need to worry about their sugar intake. Their weight. If we want to raise socially conscious and eco-friendly kids, the pressure is on! There’s so much we have to do and teach and talk about.
But all of that, every parenting stress, is balanced by the love. The snuggles. The nose nuzzles and kisses and the things that they say that are truly hilarious.
It’s not even a balance—the love outweighs everything else. I’ve never done anything so worthy, and most parents would say the same. Raising tiny humans? It’s great. But, we do need a breather to be able to handle all the stress and responsibility.
So, here are some mini-breathers we can squeeze into our day:
1. Start the day with gratitude. We can make it our first (okay, maybe second or third) thought, even when we’re waking up under less than ideal circumstances, like with a sick kid or insanely early riser.
2. We can focus on an affirmation while we make coffee.
3. We can find 5 to 10 minutes in the day for a mini-mediation. There are so many apps that offer meditations, and the iTunes store also offers free podcasts with short, guided meditations.
4. We can find 15 minutes somewhere in the day to exercise—a few minutes to walk, do yoga, or to manage a few sit ups. If we can do this twice a day, so much the better!
5. We can make time for great music when we’re running errands.
6. We can spend a few minutes coloring for stress relief. (This is a great activity that can be done as a whole family. Adult coloring books exist and are a great way to relax while the kids are occupied.)
7. We can try to turn chores into contemplative times of meditation. Be mindful while washing the dishes or mopping the floors. Repeat affirmations when loading the dishwasher or taking out the trash. Practice gratitude when we pick up toys and put away laundry.
8. We can use our shower or bath times as moments to restore ourselves. We can use aromatherapy and deliciously scented soaps. We can enjoy a quick facial or body scrub.
9. We can go to bed earlier when possible to get a little extra rest.
10. If we have very young children, we can take naps when they do and save the long to-do list for another time.
11. We can indulge in a good book or good music on a screen-free evening.
12. We can take deep breaths and give ourselves time outs when we get stressed, over-stimulated, or angry.
13. We can take a quick time out to talk (or vent) to a friend.
14. We can practice looking for good behaviors in our kids when we feel like all they do is misbehave. (I promise that if we look for it, we’ll find it!)
15. We can give ourselves small treats in moments of stress—a little piece of chocolate or a few minutes to play a game we enjoy.
Being a parent is tough. Some of us do it on our own, and others still struggle to find balance in the responsibilities of parenting between partners. We don’t all have the time or money to afford regular babysitters for child-free time to ourselves, but we can still find a way to take little breaks during the day, so that we can breathe through the stress to find all the love that we feel. Then, we can go back to being the awesome parents that our families need us to be!