No question about it, raising children is a tough job. The best parenting counselors and child psychologists will tell you that they didn’t have it easy either. Anger, frustration, and pain are all part and parcel of the joy and pleasure that children bring. While there are no quick fixes or easy solutions, there are many things we can do to help ourselves keep afloat during the tougher times of parenting. Below are four things you can do to improve your experience of this phase of your life.
1) Connect with peers
Parenting was never meant to be done by two people alone. When they say it takes a village to raise a child, it’s because in the past, there actually was a village to raise a child. For most of human history, people lived in small communities where everyone knew each other and everyone was involved in each other’s lives. Today, we live in relative isolation – one family to a house, and we frequently don’t even know the people living next door. Reversing the isolation is key to thriving as a parent. Having friends to support you, to share tips with, to help with carpool, and just to commiserate with can be vital to your well-being. Meet the folks in your neighborhood, find a local Mommy and Me group, or see what programming exists for young families at the local synagogue. It really takes a village!
2) Take some time for yourself
Social connection is important; so is alone time. Especially if you’ve got young children at home all day, you need time to take care of yourself as well – for your children’s sake as well as yours. Nobody can run on full speed 24/7. A few quiet moments on your own can make a big difference. Take a hot bath while your spouse watches the kids. Read a book you enjoy. Meditate, do yoga, pray – whatever relaxes and refreshes you. If you wear yourself down to the bone, you can’t do a good job for your children, and you won’t feel very good yourself, either.
3) Get to know your kids
Often in today’s fast-paced world, we’re so busy we hardly even have room in our schedules to spend down time with our children. They’re at school, we’re at work, they’re at soccer practice, we’re on the computer – our relationships with them sometimes exist only in the spaces between. This deprives us as parents of the great joy of parenting – knowing your children as people. Take some time off to go out for ice cream with your kids one-on-one. Gather the family together and look at old photo albums. Share stories with each other. Knowing our children’s personalities, identities, strengths and weaknesses, is a great pleasure. And it’s difficult to keep at the hard work of childrearing if you’re not getting any of the benefits.
4) Recognize it’s normal
Even with all the tips and good advice in the world, parenting can be incredibly challenging. Recognize that you are not the only one struggling. Another consequence of the sequestered suburban lifestyle is that we often only see what people present to us outside their homes – and we think everyone else is doing just great, while we’re the only ones who can’t get our kids out the door on time. This is exacerbated by the social media culture, where people post beautiful pictures of themselves and their kids having great fun on a vacation – without showing any pictures of the wild tantrums they had to get through for 2 hours beforehand.
Know that if you get frustrated with your kids, struggle with bedtime, and find yourself totally overwhelmed at times – you are perfectly normal. Raising children unavoidably involves a good deal of difficulty; it’s not just you. Don’t get too down on yourself – it’s rough now, but the pleasure you’ll get out of it in the long run will be worth it in the end.