Juggling life roles: parents working from home
Are you a working parent feeling overwhelmed?
Have the last few months impacted on your daily life through social distancing, isolation and then you were also expected to home school?
You aren’t alone. I’ll be posting 3 blogs on the subject. Today is about battling overwhelm.
Questions you may have asked yourself:
- Where do I even start?
- Am I being a good parent?
- Am I doing enough to support my child’s education?
- Do I need to do everything the teachers do?
- How can I still do my own work and the run the house?
Right now, you can only do the best with the resources you have available. If you continue to measure yourself against previous standards and expectations (pre-virus) then you’ll quickly find yourself feeling unhappy, short-tempered, moody, experiencing poor sleep and maybe feel guilty because you don’t think you are doing your best right now.
I’m here to explain that ‘your best’ is a ‘nice-to-have,’ in these circumstances. Some days you might achieve that, other days remembering to brush your own hair may be the best feeling you experience- guess what? That’s OK. Small victories are important right now so what can you do to support yourself and also feel like you are doing ‘enough’ for the day to have some meaning for you and your child?
Without you being able to function, you can’t look after others. It’s a simple fact. So:
Slow down: Simply take a few deep breaths:
Inhale and push your stomach out at the same time, really feel like you have filled up your belly with the air, then on the exhale, breath out slowly and steadily. Doing this a few times can ground you back into the present moment and help prevent you running away with your busy mind.
Learn to recognise if you are feeling overwhelmed and stressed and remove your mind from that situation by connecting with your breathing. Breathing helps you find a natural rhythm again and replenishes your body with oxygen; increasing your ability to concentrate.
Prioritise: Write a list of what you need to do that week, perhaps over the weekend. Break it down to a day at a time. Seeing the list will help you start to plan and understand what jobs you’ll need support with, what you can delegate to other people and also, it may help you realise that some things can just wait a while. Not everything needs doing right away and a list can help take the urgency out of the trivial jobs. You may also spot jobs that you can do with your child and make them fun; it will get the task done and will be educational too.
One day at a time: If you only tick off one thing today then it’s still one thing less for tomorrow. What you didn’t manage today can wait, and having your priority list helps you figure out what can be pushed back without causing havoc or more stress for you.
Talk: It can be difficult to talk especially if you feel like you are being a burden to those who are listening; balance that out by asking if they have time to listen, if they want to listen, and offer your ear back to them when they need it. This is how a support network grows and it shows that you can give back, meaning any guilt feelings are lessened due to sharing the load. Many arguments are caused by poor communication so simply stating how you feel on a regular basis about what is causing you stress or pressure will reduce tension and aid restful sleep.
Question any guilt feelings: Think about if any guilty feelings are present; What are you feeling guilty about? Then think about what you do manage to achieve each and every day by recognising the small things, right up to the big things in support of your family. You’ll quickly realise that you do more than you thought and this can foster a sense of pride and a realisation that you play a key part in your family and your role is fulfilled each day in some way.
Ask for help: Talking allows people to find out if they can help- if you don’t voice your worries and concerns then nothing will change and you are more likely to suffer in silence. Approach someone you trust. You don’t always need someone to fix things for you and often we are unable to help with the problems we hear from others, however just being listened to can help people feel calmer, reduce stress and allow people to actually feel heard instead of feeling overlooked and ignored. Being heard can reduce those ruminating thoughts and if they are reduced then sleep can improve as a result.
Time out: Arrange a break time in the day for you and your child to have some fun, it could be ten minutes reading their favourite book, a quick art activity or watching a cartoon (even an old favourite of your own!) If your own stress levels are rising as part of educating your child then think about virtual play dates for your child- set up a Zoom or Skype meeting with their friends or favourite relatives and let them entertain themselves, while you have a much-needed self-care time. With households now able to join then children are able to interact in person and this should be encouraged to help socialisation for you and your child, particularly with schools expected to re-open fully in September. Its is likely to be less of a shock if meeting up with people now can be reintroduced.
Sleep: Without sleep you can’t refresh and recharge for the next day. A set bedtime routine will help your body ‘know’ then it’s time to relax; try to encourage a set bedtime that suits your child AND you. Ensure you get some down-time before your own bedtime and factor that in when deciding your child’s bedtime. Have calmer activities towards the end of the day so that your mind isn’t on full alert and your child doesn’t have boundless energy over-pouring still at 10:00 pm. Create a safe and calm environment in both your bedrooms, making them places you want to rest in and you want to go the sleep in. Clutter, bright colours and loud games will stimulate a child so consider hiding these or toning down colour schemes to encourage calmness and quiet. Move unfinished tasks on your priority list to the next appropriate day then put the list away- leaving the jobs and mess for the next day. Drawing a line under the day will help switch your mind to sleep instead of thinking about what you didn’t achieve- it’s already been allocated to a new slot so it’s taken care of.