Honey, I think the kids have shrunk my brain!
There is no other job like parenting.
It’s widely acknowledged that parents act as Nurse, Chef, Taxi Driver, Teacher, Facilities Manager, Meeting/Event Planner, Logistics Analyst, and that’s often all before 9am some days!
Gosh, no wonder we’re overwhelmed, and our brains sometimes feel fried!
Parenting can sometimes feel like trying to match up a Rubik cube while people throw things at your head. Or as comedian Jerry Seinfeld once said, “A two-year old is kind of like having a blender, but you don't have a top for it.” Painfully funny and true – and can also be true for older kids. Bigger kids = bigger problems sometimes!
Why are we so hard on ourselves as parents?
I am sure many of us have often said in our heads, ‘I love you kids, but damn, this is harder than I ever imagined it would be’.
Parenting is hard. Super hard, yet we often don’t want to admit we feel overwhelmed and we are always worried we’re not being a good parent. We’d hate for anyone to think that we don’t love our children if we complain too much.
Yet the fact is, that as parents we have such responsibility, and it can be overwhelming to deal with all the things that come with that privilege.
Parenting demands your brain space, time, energy, and finances – and often, always having to put someone else first.
But then the guilt sets in, and as we let the persistently nagging voice in our heads overwhelm us, we stress over but what we might have said, or not said. We worry over what we *should* do differently. If we’re not careful, the stress, guilt, and anxiety can really overwhelm us.
Our minds can play tricks on us
The nonstop responsibility and worry about your children can play tricks with our mind and make us insecure or convinced that we are solely responsible for making our kids happy.
We worry that one bad experience or cross word from us, will fast forward our kids to the psychologist couch when they are older.
Before we look at strategies to manage the feelings of parenting overwhelm, let’s define what it is.
Overwhelm is a state of being that can affect your ability to think and act rationally, and often occurs when the intensity of your feelings outmatches your ability to manage them.
In the case of parenting overwhelm, it might be blindingly obvious why we feel overwhelmed (single parent with no support, too much work, a trauma in the family) or it might not be so obvious, maybe it’s more a general “sinking” feeling that we are not coping or not being the kind of parent we want to be.
Strategies for managing the overwhelm
Parents, cut yourself some slack! You love your child and are trying your best, therefore you are doing great! And most parents have these thoughts in the back of their minds at some point.
However, if you are feeling constantly overwhelmed, here are some key strategies to try:
Tackle one “issue” at a time
Are you sleep deprived? Is your kiddo dealing with a health issue? Are you working too much?
Breaking down bigger issues into smaller chunks can you help you clarify things and manage what is upsetting you.
Reach out for help
Remember that wise quote that “it takes a village to raise a child”? There is so much truth in this. Now granted, some of us wonder where that village went? Like, is there a hotline or something I can call! Are they on their way now?!
But maybe you do just need to reach out and grab a cuppa with a friend, or book in for a massage, or an all-expenses paid holiday to a tropical island – okay we can dream!
But if you feel you need more help, then look for a licensed and certified psychologist, social worker, or other mental health professional who can offer support and suggestions to help you.
Allow yourself to feel your emotions
Just pretending everything is always fine will not help in the long run. It’s okay to have a cry, or chat to your partner or a friend about how you’re feeling. Recognise how you’re feeling, respect those feelings and thank the feelings for helping you identify some things that might need to change.
Try the “good enough parenting” approach
Bruno Bettelheim’s book, A Good Enough Parent, originally published in 1987 talks about the concept of the good enough parent, which is a theory that came to Bettelheim from the writings of the British psychoanalyst and paediatrician Donald Winnicott. A good enough parent is the perfect parent for YOUR kids.
Let your kids see your flaws – perfect is not a good goal to aim for!
If you show your flaws, this can be a great thing for your kids. Let them know, in an age-appropriate way, that you are feeling a bit stressed about work, or that you feel a bit sad sometimes, this is a great lesson for our kids to learn and a great thing for them to see that you don’t always have to be ‘perfect’ or ‘happy’.
At Muluzu, we get it! Parenting is hard – it’s a role that often comes with sleep deprivation and constant demands on us. Yet we can manage the overwhelm with a few key strategies. What do you find helps you when the overwhelm hits you?
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