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Finding Balance In Parents' Lives

Parents need to keep their own needs on the priority list.

It's 10 p.m., Do you know where your sanity has gone?

You are up making cupcakes for the school bake sale and you still need to look over the paperwork for a morning meeting. The kids will be up by 6:00 a.m. When can you fit in a shower? Or sleep?

Any of this sound familiar? 

Raising children can be very demanding. It can be difficult for Chatham parents to find balance or a sense of peace in life when they are trying to do it all. While children's needs take priority, parents can forget to adequately make time for themselves and may be at risk of burnout.

A new study in the journal Pediatrics finds that new mothers are unable to consistently maintain a healthy diet or exercise routine. The physical aspect of caring for a newborn is so demanding that these new mothers just do not have time to take care of themselves. This is not surprising news.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics' parenting website, HealthyChildren.org, “parents who "live for their children" are putting themselves in a very vulnerable position, setting themselves up for possible disappointment, frustration and resentment.”

New mothers or stay-at-home parents are not the only ones at risk for feelings of frustration and possible resentment. Chatham’s commuting parents may be feeling increased pressure due to job demands in a challenging economy.

If they have not lost their job, it is likely that our working parents feel the need to work harder and longer hours to prove their worth on top of their responsibilities at home. 

With all of this stress and pressure, how can strained parents juggle everything without letting a ball drop? Can they find balance when there is little time and little help? 

To parents who are seeking balance, think about the following tips to help alleviate some of the strain:

  • Streamline or reevaluate your routines.  Think, do I need to be doing it like this? For example, if you are in the habit of stopping at the grocery store a few days a week, try cutting it down to once a week.  Arm yourself with a list and buy everything you might need for the week. Instead of going to the dry cleaners each week, use a service that picks up and delivers to your home.  This frees you up for other important activities.
  • Working parents: Try to leave work at work or create time limits on work done at home. Frequently checking email during family time only puts more stress on you and distracts you from quality time with your family. Establish time limits. Otherwise, you might miss something good.
  • Make your health a priority.
    • Keep up with your annual physicals and dentist appointments. Doing so can help avoid future, more time-consuming and possibly serious health issues.
    • Eat right, exercise and get sufficient rest. This can be very tough. Some time management can help. If you have healthy food in the fridge from your weekly shopping trip, you can make better meals and maybe have some extra time to go for a run.
  • Make time for yourself. Whether that time is a walk in Loantaka Park, reading a book or meeting a friend at Cafe Beethoven, try to work it into your routine. Making time for yourself makes you more happy and can help you become a better parent.
  • Enlist help when necessary.
    • If you can afford it, hiring a babysitter or a cleaning service can be an enormous help. Think of the possibilities: a much-needed date night or a clean house when you come home.  Parents of newborns: you can get some sleep!
    • Hiring help can get expensive. Asking a family member or a friend to help can be a more wallet-friendly option. Family and friends do not want to see you buckle under the pressure. Let them help if they can.
  • Remember, there is no perfect parent 

Our children are our top priority but incorporating some of these ideas and tips into daily life may enable parents on the verge of burnout to grab the reins and regain control. Feeling more balanced and satisfied helps Chatham parents create a healthy environment for their whole family.

There is no perfect plan and no perfect parent but aiming for a sense of balance can help make the inevitable bumps in life easier to manage.

Kerri Chladnicek April 17, 2011 at 02:06 PM
Here's another tip: Blow off some steam by having a dance party with your kids. Crank up some music you love (save the kid stuff for another time) and bust a move. Your kids will likely join right in and voila: exercise, stress relief and fun with the kids all rolled into one. Plus it's a great way to show your kids that it's OK for grown-ups to let loose sometimes.
Cindy Thompson April 18, 2011 at 02:42 PM
It really works! My daughter and I used to crank up Al Green, Live from Tokyo, and dance the night away. She is now in college but we both have wonderful flashbacks whenever we hear Al Green on the radio.
Liz Yeoman April 18, 2011 at 04:21 PM
This is a great article about finding balance as a parent. I love the suggestion about making time for yourself. That is something I was failing miserably at until I joined a PRG- Personal Renewal Group. This is a group of Women who meet once a month to go through "The Mothers Guide to Self Renewal" book by Renee Trudeau. Not only did I make some great friends, my PRG helped me be a more relaxed and cheerful mom! I think the biggest thing I got out of it was that the suggestions of self care became habit because we had very specific things to think about and accomplish over the year . We all know that we need to eat right and exercise but its not until we do it out of habit that makes the changes. Reneetrudeau.com- if you would like to look for a PRG near you. Liz


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