Recently, I finished reading the book Super Genes by Deepak Chopra, MD and Rudolph Tanzi, PHD. Though I agree with most of what they’ve stated in the book, I have to note that the advice they’ve given is not directed at moms and caregivers. In fact, I became pretty frustrated with their opinion on the “Easy Choices” for reducing stress in your life:
- Meditate every day.
- Decrease background noise and distractions at work
- Avoid multitasking. Deal with one things at a time.
- Stop being the cause of someone else’s stress.
- Vary your daily activity, including time our and downtime.
- Leave work on time at least three times a week.
- Stop unloading your stress on family and friends.
- Avoid people who are sources of pressure and conflict.
- Be in contact with people who are meaningful to you.
- Decrease boring and repetitive work.
- Reduce Alcohol to one beer or glass of wine per day, taken with a meal.
- Take up a hobby.
- Retreat from stressful situations quickly.
- Find a Physical Outlet to unwind from daily stress.
To be quite honest, once I read through this list, I wondered if these guys even had children. Raising kids is not the kind of low-stress job they clearly enjoy. In fact, it’s almost the opposite of this entire list.
Especially for moms who don’t work at a traditional job, or work from home, this list feels like complete nonsense. I mean, I love to meditate, but almost without fail, as soon as I turn on a meditation recording, the kids start fighting, knock something over, or have a melt down. And have you ever seen a mom/caregiver NOT multi-tasking? It’s nigh impossible to get everything done during the day we’re expected to do without some creative multitasking.
I read a post this last week on social media where one of my friends added to her “list of things I never thought I would do” the experience of pouring a glass of milk through a shower curtain while trying to practice the art of self-care.
I’d love to avoid the temper tantrums and the children when they’re in a nasty mood, because that causes me stress, and conveniently happens more often if I have something important to do. I suppose I could stop saying no to my children, so I would never be the source of their stress. Or, hey, there’s always turn tail and run as soon as the conflict arises, so I can retreat. I kinda don’t think it would fly for my husband to come home from his corporate job to finding the kids running free, and me hiding in the back room beating on the punching bag, avoiding the entire stressful situation. I think that would be an even MORE stressful situation.
So now that we’ve established why the majority of this list is not an “easy choice” for close to half of the women alive today, what can we do about it?
1. Set realistic expectations for our stress levels. Knowing that a lot of your day is going to be stressful, don’t add a lot of extra-curricular activities for the kids to your list. Send them outside to play (in a safe and supervised place), trade babysitting with other moms, or establish a solid routine to your day to eliminate the extreme peaks and valleys.
2. Keep a strict routine at the beginning and end of the day for your family. There’s very little proven to cause worse behavior in children than lack of sleep. Even just one night off of the routine can take days to recover. Remember this for yourself too, if you’re not getting the kids to bed on time, you’re not getting your full sleep either. Especially if you’re still up with a baby during the night.
3. Watch your diet choices - for you and the whole family. Eliminate the extra sugar, processed foods, and sugary drinks. Along with keeping the kids’ energy level down, you won’t have to deal with the inevitable sugar crash that happens an hour after the snacks. You’ll feel better if you’re not skipping meals, eating processed snacks, and excess sugar too. Plus, you won’t have the guilt and remorse if you’re not sneaking and eating all of the leftover halloween candy from their trick-or-treating, even if it was 4 months ago.)
4. Stop buying so many things. Kids today have more “stuff” than ever. They’re overwhelmed with too many playtime choices, and end up playing with nothing but the box the toys were shipped in anyway. You won’t have to spend so much time cleaning up after the kids if they simply don’t have as much to spread out all over the floor, and you’ll actually be increasing their creativity by making them think about what to play with.
5. Turn off the electronics. Video games, movies, tv shows, Youtube, all of it. It’s all over-stimulating and contributing to the lack of imagination of many kids today. They don’t have to come up with the story line themselves anymore. They also aren’t getting enough physical activity outside, running, climbing, jumping, riding bikes, and exploring. All of the outside time they’re not getting will burn off energy that they might otherwise use to explode when you tell them it’s time to clean up.
I think, honestly, it would be amazing to be able to do all of the stress relievers in the list from the book. But while you’re parenting young children, this isn’t practical. Maybe you CAN sneak in 10 minutes of meditation when your kids go to bed, or before they get up in the morning. But you know what? You have to forgive yourself if you don’t. And don’t get mad at the kids when they suddenly decide to get up exactly 10 minutes earlier because you tried to start the practice. (It’s uncanny, right??)
Reducing stress is a goal for everyone. But moms need it the most. Let’s help each other out, a bit, and the next time you see a mom looking frazzled, with stringy/unwashed hair, reaching for the ice cream pint while the kids are climbing out of the shopping cart, buy the ice cream for her. Then sit with the kid so she can eat it by herself, without sharing. Because after all, that might be the best stress relief she has all day.
Jessica Hansen is a success coach living in Oregon. She believes that growth is a natural part of life, and works specifically with mompreneurs to help them self-actualize, and to help their businesses sparkle from the inside out. You can see more about her work here.