Those of us who have had the opportunity to become parents know all too well the stressors and pressures that accompany parenting. For a woman who is juggling work, coping with long-term unemployment, lack of support from her partner (or being abandoned from one during pregnancy), and/ or living in a rural community with limited access to any social support networks, mothering can be a daunting experience, at the worst-even a regrettable experience. The number of children she has in her care, whether she is a single mum and if she has friends or family nearby to help her out- all account towards how a parent copes with the daily pressures of parenting. I know this is the biggest issue for me: no close friends and family permanently in Australia. I recall having to take my son who was 7 months to hospital at midnight and my husband had to sit in the car with our two toddler daughters cos we had no one who could look after them.
Having limited or no social support whilst raising your new family can contribute to feelings of frustration, angst and depression or anxiety. When we feel overwhelmed we may react to a situation in a way that might not describe how we normally would respond in the same situation under different circumstances. For example, a mother with a new baby who has had limited sleep due to night feeding and has a partner that cannot be bothered to help her, may be more snappy and agitated with her toddler in the morning than would be the mother who has support from her partner and thus a relatively good night’s sleep.
I want to tell parents who may be reading this post that there is no right or wrong way to parent children. There are, however, some basic rules:
- respecting your child as an individual entity
- no shouting, no swearing, no insulting or belittling
- no smacking, no beating nor threatening to do so either
- no denying food or basic needs as punishment
- and anything that makes you feel ashamed, embarrassed, belittled, or any of those feeling that make you cringe and want to dig your head in the sand-YOU JUST DON’T make your children feel either
- on the contrary YOU DO try to make your children feel happy, secure, confident, empowered, appreciated and the like. The target is to boost confidence and sustain a healthy emotional well-being.
Some parents may have lost the plot, so to speak, infront of their kids; they may have raised their hand or voice at them (let’s face it few parents would own up to doing so). It is certain that any parent with an ounce of self-respect that has done so, would feel remorsefully guilty, ashamed and utterly dejected as a parent. I say to these parents:
- forgive yourself
- put yourself in time-out or the naughty chair or thinking corner
- tell your child to come watch you and explain to them why you are in time-out
- apologise to them for your irresponsible behaviour
- and gain their respect by doing so
Children indeed are quite forgiving when you own up to your own bad behaviour. Then cuddle, go for a walk, or play their favourite game, or watch a film together. Put yourself in their shoes. Stop and ask yourself: if this was me, if I did this (or when I did this) or behaved like that, how would I have liked my parents to respond? And try to practice that desirable response. Your child(ren) will give you ample opportunity to do so.
Some tips for not going berserk:
- recognise your tolerance threshold-if you feel yourself steaming up at being ignored over tidying up the messy room or the defiant mouth tightly shut at dinner time that won’t eat a bite-take time out, ask your partner to take over
- choose your battles- no point arguing or fighting over every thing you find annoying. Give children their space- even if she wants to wear her swimsuit with winter boots on a family outing (during summer).
- sleeping and eating properly- are so important to our mood and how we begin our day. Ask your partner to take the fed baby out for a drive or walk so you can take a nap or take turns feeding the baby during the night so you can at least have 7 hours of un-interrupted sleep. Eat healthy meals with lots of fluids (water preferrably).
- accept any help and support- from family or friends. Talk to your mum or good neighbour. Tell someone that you are struggling if that is your case. It is NOT shameful to ask for help. That saying about taking a village to raise a child came from some stressed-out parent who needed help. And there is nothing wrong with that.
Parenting need not be a regrettable experience. It does get better as you get better at dealing with your reactions to the new emotions, the exhaustion and the mental challenges accompanying parenthood. Know that there is a plethora of support available. Simply: SPEAK OUT.
This article was first published on LinkedIn on March 10, 2016