I can’t believe that it is less than 90 days from Christmas! It seems like yesterday I was actually looking forward to school starting because it brought some structure back into my carefree summer lifestyle. Today, I am headlong into sports, extracurricular activities, and community service events. It’s far from carefree- it’s stressful. But that’s okay.
I feel exhausted, overwhelmed and don’t know how to get off this merry-go-round that is my life. The real dilemma for me is, do I really want to get off the merry-go-round? Should I get off? Do I know when I need to hop off? Despite all that is swirling around, I am choosing to enjoy this season in my parenting life. I realize that it will only be for a SEASON. So, how do you lean into the stress that is unavoidable?
I am the proud mother of three sons ages 21, 16 and 13. I realize that the time for me to be a Hands-On Mom is quickly coming to a close. If you are like me, living in the midst of chaos, you want to know how to keep your head above water.
Here a few tips on handling the stress of parenting:
- Plan, Plan, Plan: I am not the most organized person. I try to keep the car on the road by creating a plan. Understanding that things will probably change, I still have a calendar with everything on it color-coded. (I need the color-coding!) I include my work schedule, the boys’ school calendar, sports, meetings, extracurricular activities, and even my husband’s two work schedules.
Stress might be inevitable, but NOT having a plan dramatically increases my stress.
- Learn To Say, NO: I am generally a social butterfly. I am learning to say “no” to things that are not the BEST use of my time, energy and attention. Even good things and fun things. Sometimes the answer is just, “No.” (If I say “yes,” I make sure to add it to the calendar and, yes, color-code it!)
- Empower My Children: I have to be honest and confess that, often, the reason I feel so overwhelmed is because I am continuing to do things for my sons that they can do for themselves (e.g., washing clothes.) I rationalize doing things for them by telling myself that I can do it faster and get it done correctly (e.g., not placing a red shirt in the white clothes with bleach.)
The reality is that I need to empower my children to be independent and to learn how to do certain things for themselves. And that’s less stress for me.
- Follow Your Child’s Lead: If we are honest, there are activities that our children participate in that they HATE. Why do we make them do those things? We tell our kids: It looks good on your resumé. It will help you get a scholarship for college. I would have loved to have this opportunity when I was your age.
There can be a lot of truth in those statements, but what is the balance with letting our children develop their own interests? Sometimes we are stressing ourselves out as parents by rushing our kids around town to do things they don’t even enjoy. Are we really doing it for them or is it to relive our past or fulfill our own hopes and wishes?
- Build Relationships: Sometimes stress is relieved in community. I am a proud Band Mom. I have created friendships with other parents whose children are in the band. We tailgate together, sit at the games together, and do the funny band dances with the band. It’s nice knowing we are in this together! (I also get to spend time with my son enjoying something that he enjoys.)
I often hear from moms dealing with an empty nest, “Enjoy your time with your kids. It flies by so fast.” They’re not wrong. In spite of this being a crazy season of life, I cherish these moments with my sons and try to handle the stress in healthy ways.
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