Recently, I had a conversation with my friend Joyce about stress. Mommy stress. She seemed a little shocked, and dare I say, skeptical, that I feel less stressed now than I did before having a baby. Perhaps my “mommy brain” made me forget how blissfully carefree my life was before? Aren’t babies a magical stress balm?
So I asked around. I quizzed my husband and family and several friends who know me “before” and asked them if I seemed more stressed, frazzled, on-edge, or dysfunctional now. All agreed I was much more irritable, cranky, and stressed BB (before baby). What changed?
My priorities are now crystal clear. Take care of my child and take care of my family. In order to do that, I must also take care of myself. I was that mom with a newborn who actually slept when the baby slept. Did the dishes get done? Did the laundry get washed and put away? No, not everyday. But baby and I were well rested and happy.
I understand what’s really important. Two years later, those aforementioned dirty dishes and piles of laundry did not create a butterfly effect through time wreaking a path a doom and destruction to our future lives.
I can hear Joyce in my head right now saying, “Well la di da and good for you. We all know what’s important, but how does that help anything”? True, I haven’t actually said anything remotely helpful or useful yet. So, here it is then, without any further ado: The Mother’s Guide to Reducing the Impact of Stress. (Yes, I used to write an awful lot of papers in school).
- Decide what is really important and why. Then figure out how much you can actually accomplish. Let everything else go and don’t look back. I spent a year as a stay at home mom, and another year as a working mom. I figured out pretty quickly that you can’t “have it all”. I have a lot of mommy friends with part time jobs or thriving work at home careers, but that didn’t fit well with my skill set or my family’s financial needs. So going back to ‘deciding what’s important”, my husband and I decided that having health insurance and financial security were the most important things, so off to work I went. It was also important that our child spent a lot of time with her parents, so we staggered our work schedules to minimize the time she spent in the care of others. I threw away my fantasy of being a stay at home mom, baking cookies and making pretty craft projects everyday. Accept reality, make the best plan, and move forward. No regrets/
- Ask for help, and be specific. Remember, moms don’t have to do everything. It’s not only ok to ask for help, it sets a good example to your child that it’s ok to let go and trust someone else to take care of something. Let Dad take over for a little bit. Let him know that it’s time to change the diaper, and then LET HIM change the diaper. Don’t hover over him barking out orders and directions. And when asking for help, you’re much more likely to receive help if you are specific. Who hasn’t had an offer of, “just let me know if you need anything…?” Call that friend, thank them profusely and then give them your grocery list, ask for some takeout delivered to house, ask for an hour so you can take a long shower.
- Plan ahead. Keep a blanket and change of clothes in your car, always. Take more diapers and food than you think you will need. Always plan to take more time than you think you will need. Know when naptime is, and don’t try to squeeze in just one more errand before heading home. Have a back-up sitter.
- When faced with a touch decision or a tough day, ask yourself, how will this decision or this day affect me 5 years from now? 10 years from now? If the laundry doesn’t get done today, does it really matter? If it’s just today, it probably doesn’t. Don’t sweat it. But if dirty laundry irks you and gets under your skin, then go back to point number one and decide if it’s important enough to you plan your day around. Then do it and don’t worry about what anyone else thinks. Trying to decide if you should take that job across the country? Again, don’t spend too much time focused on the changes to the now. Focus on how will this affect you in 5 or 10 years. Don’t let the little short term details get in the way.
- Have fun and laugh – every single day. This is the single most important “rule.” Kids and life were meant to be enjoyed. Have tickle parties in the morning. Let your kids decorate the cake, or eat all the frosting and leave the cake bare. Don’t save up fun and laughter for the “big” moments or for vacation. Do you really want your kids to reminisce one day about “that one time when we really had fun with Mom”?
Now go on and do less stressing and more living!