Parenting, Stress And The Importance of Authenticity

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Social media can often make parents feel that nothing they do in real life will ever be good enough. The ‘my-life-is-amazing-all-the-time’ tone of the social feed can cause us to feel that it isn’t OK to have any negative feelings. Having a crummy day? Be grateful and you’ll feel better! Disappointed with something concerning your partner or child? Remember that everything happens for a reason! While these responses seem glib, they’re not too far off the mark from social-media reality.

Psychologists say that the more we submerge our feelings, the more we end up hurting ourselves in the long term, as we become used to expressing emotions that are not true. And nothing results in submerging our own needs and emotions than parenting young children. Between getting those iron-on labels in every possible place and the daily rush, we might not even feel we have time for our own feelings. You don’t need more hours, but you might need to reapportion the hours you have, for there are some strategies that allow you to connect with your true feelings and maintain healthy relationships – they involve buzzwords, to be sure, but let’s examine why they’re proving true.

Sleep

Let me guess – you don’t get enough. We all know that we feel crummy when we don’t get enough sleep, and research now shows that people even make more unethical decisions when their sleep cycles are off-kilter.

The knock-on effects of persistent tiredness in the home, however, are far ranging. When we don’t feel like ourselves, we aren’t able to read our emotions correctly, so aside from garden-variety churlishness, we express ourselves in ways we regret, turn small domestic issues into atomic weapons, and fail to pick up on when those around us may need a helping hand.

What to do? Barring cases of insomnia or other medical causes, examine your day for what you’re doing instead of sleeping, especially if you have children under the age of 4. If you’re not getting enough sleep, nearly everything should take a back seat to fixing that. Yes, it could mean not doing the dishes right now or not finishing that novel for another three months, or pretty much anything else. This is especially important when it comes to technology, as most screens emit a light that mimics daylight, telling our brains to stay awake.

Whatever it is you’re doing, it isn’t more important than sleep, and once you’re sleeping better, you’ll be able to do the following important things better.

Listen and appreciate

Post where everyone can see it: we’re doing the best we can. Most days of the week you’re likely doing the best you can for your kids, your job, and the other demands on your time. If you’re in a relationship, remember this and apply it to your partner. If you’re parenting solo, remember this and apply it to yourself.

At some point in each day or a few times a week, give an open forum to gripes and frustrations but try to do so without aiming it at anyone and without trying to solve problems. Give each person – yourself and/or your partner – five minutes to get it all out there and really listen. You will learn something, you will start to see patterns, and you will create new patterns based on your real feelings and experiences. Don’t get into the habit of hiding your own feelings because you want to seem like impregnable, that you can do it all and feel no ill effects.

Doing the best you can for others often means you aren’t doing the best you can for yourself, and if everyone can keep that in mind at the end of each day, we relieve the pressure on each other and ourselves.

Getting back to the sleep issue, research indicates that sleep deprivation causes an inability to be appreciative of things in our lives, which spirals into being more self-centered. But: gratitude’s benefits are real. Think how great it feels when someone lets you know that you’re appreciated. Even when it’s hard, try to do that at least once a day for yourself and your partner: it creates good patterns and sets a good example for your children.