"Last night (or this morning, earlier, yesterday) I wasn't the parent I wanted to be because ... "
Sounds familiar? Well it does happen - when we're either tired or stressed out, our kids will come to us with something and we end up letting them down - actually we are letting ourselves down.
We don't give our children the response they deserve, even if that response should have been,
"Go and tidy your room, or figure it out for yourself."
This only causes them to turn around and walk away, with that despondent look on their faces and we end up having that feeling of guilt rise up inside us.
We know we should have been more understanding and resolve to do better next time.
However, this puts more pressure on us which often leads to even more stress and less empathy for our kids - it's a vicious circle that's easy to slip into and it can feel like it is very difficult to escape from.
When, as parents, we neglect our own well-being for the sake of the kids (whether it's getting them to swimming lessons or making sure they have a home cooked meal), we are actually neglecting our kids too.
When we're not firing on all cylinders we tend to move to either end of the spectrum in responding to our children.
For example, we become dismissive.
"I've had a bad day, can you, just once, find your own shoes?"
Or we over compensate.
"Oh no, you've lost your shoes? How awful, let me find them for you, don't worry, mummy's here and it will all be ok."
The problem is not with the reaction itself but the fact that the reaction is determined by your own internal state, not the actions or needs of your child.
When you're not exhausted, and you're feeling on form, good about yourself and life in general you're much more likely to respond to your children in an appropriate manner,
"You've lost teddy? Ok, why don't you spend the next 10 minutes tidying your room and if it's not there, I'll help you look for it."
First things first, no one is perfect and your children need to see you being authentic so if you have had a bad day and are particularly tired, it's ok to explain to your child that you need a rest and might not have the energy to help them find their teddy.
Equally, if you do snap at them make sure you apologise afterwards so they realise it wasn't their fault. It's only when this becomes the norm that you really need to have a re-think.
You being frazzled isn't good for anyone and so it's in everyone's interests to help you not be!
Here are some tips to help you regain your mojo and find your balance.
1. Don't be afraid to ask for help
Whether it's from your kids, your partner, your family, friends and professionals as needed.
It's not an admission of failure, it's proof of self-awareness - Give what you can, take what you need, is a great mantra for parents to live by - a lot of us focus more on the giving and forget that it's ok for us to take sometimes too.
2. Be consistent
This is one of the first things to go when you're feeling frazzled and it leads to confusion.
Try to have as few rules as possible but stick to them.
This way your child won't be confused if you get annoyed with him/her breaking one of them.
3. Allow your child to take responsibility for his/her own actions and deal with consequences.
If you've asked your child to tidy his/her room three times already and they haven't, it's not doing them any favours if you then tidy it for them in an effort to help them find their lost teddy.
4. Find some time to just be you
Whether that's alone, with a trusted friend or partner or curled up with your children in front of a movie - make sure there's some time each week where you're doing what YOU want to do and are able to be the person you want to be.
By showing your children who you are, what you like doing, how you behave, you're giving them the best version of yourself as a role model to copy.
You are your children's 'normal' and, by and large, they will copy your parenting style.
So next time you're tempted to be that Martyr Mum, stop and ask yourself if you'd be happy for your own children to make those sacrifices for their children.
If the answer is no, maybe it's time to re-evaluate your own actions.
5. Avoid competitive parenting - it's toxic
We all have them - friends whose lives are just perfect and whose children are the first to do everything.
At least until you've found your own rhythm with parenting and are comfortable with your own choices, being around these competitive parents is one of the quickest ways to feel inadequate.
Then it's just a slippery slope to 'super parent' or 'martyr mum' as you try (and fail) to live up to someone else's standards.
We're back to authenticity - figure out what matters to you and make decisions based on that, not on what the rest of your NCT or playground friends do.
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