Parenting can rewarding yet riddled with anxiety and stress. From the moment your child enters the world, nothing will ever be the same again, and neither will you. It is an emotional rollercoaster with all of the ups, downs and loop-the-loops you can think of, but unlike a rollercoaster where you can see the track clearly in front of you, life as a parent is simply not something that can be predicted or anticipated.
Defining Parenting Stress
Part of being a parent is being able to juggle a million demanding and important things all at the same time. This pressure can start to become stressful after a while, especially if it is not managed effectively. Parents are just human after all, and when it feels like all you do is run around and put out a number of ‘’fires’’ all day, it’s time to reassess your stress levels as a parent.
If you are feeling tired, overwhelmed, mentally, physically and physiologically exhausted and the thought of cutting yet another piece of toast into a cheesy triangle makes you want to lie in a dark room and listen to the tap drip – then you will be delighted to know two things: One, you are not alone and two, it is possible to alter the amount of parental stress you are experiencing every day.
Why Does Stress From Parenting Happen?
There are many different causes of stress, and in most cases, there is not one clearly identifiable cause, but a mixture of subtle factors working in unison. Listed below are some examples of why parenting can be so stressful:
1. A newborn: For new parents – especially during the first 6-12 weeks with a newborn baby – the exhaustion, frustration, inexperience and momentous changes all contribute towards massive parenting stress. Sleep deprivation is often the biggest culprit in the scenario, but after the first few months, new parents get into the swing of things and life as a parent becomes more manageable.
2. Single Parenting: Single parents are constantly under pressure and huge parental stress all the time. And depending on the resources and help they have available to them, it may be difficult to manage the huge amount of stress they have. But people love to be needed, in fact they have an inherent need to be needed, and the biggest lesson a single parent needs to learn, to help them manage their stress, is to be able to ask for help.
3. Busy lives: A hectic schedule and no time to relax is one of the most common precursors to parenting stress. As is the case for most parents, they might have all the love in the world for their child, but fall victim to the intensive daily routine, the lack of sleep and the isolation.
4. Insecurity: Very much a modern cause of parenting stress is a parent’s insecurity over their own suitability as a parent, and the significance of their own actions in regards to the child’s future. With exposure to aspirational parent lifestyles in the media and societal pressure, parents often obsess over every tiny detail and let almost anything run them into the ground.
Understanding & Recognizing Stress In Parenting
Stress is a very real and debilitating part of every parent’s life and if left unchecked, it can start to unravel to the point where the parent starts to take out their frustrations on their kids. When parents are having a bad day, their kids pick up on their anxiety and tend to play up even more; a bit like adding petrol to a fire after a long day.
Stress management is something that takes self-discipline and assistance, and parents need to understand that asking for help shows signs of maturity and strength. Being proactive enough to say ‘’ I can’t do this on my own ‘’ and getting the help and support you need, is not a sign of weakness.
Routine, clear family boundaries, help from other family members and quality family time, will keep your family team strong and healthy, and will reduce the stress levels significantly. If one parent or both parents feel like they are slaves to a demanding family who never help – and even 3 year olds can pick up after themselves – the stress levels are going to be high.
Part of effective parental stress management for any parent is planning ahead and being organized. Staying up an extra half an hour to pack school lunches or iron shirts, will greatly enable parents to feel less chaotic, rushed and frantic when schedules are tight and everyone is always feeling like they are running late.
Stress Management For Parents
There are many different tracks to a stress-free life and what works for one set of parents, may not be suitable for others. It is a good idea for parents to take time to sit down together and work out a game plan for where they feel the big stress areas are and how they can work together to manage them. In this way they are able to implement change using a process that involves the whole family.
Parenting is often an unbalanced affair, with the parent putting in all the work but receiving little in the way of reward. To address this, the parent should set aside time where they can reward themselves. This could simply be an hour of relaxation, a dinner out, a massage or a movie.
A parent should never feel isolated. Indeed, isolation can cause stress in itself. Local community events that give parents the opportunity to communicate with others are important, regardless of whether the parent is facing stress or not, but unfortunately parents often avoid such events. People who think they don’t have the courage to engage in such events should remember the strength it takes to raise a child. It is good to talk with family and friends, but speaking with other parents who relate to your problems can be even better.
As your children gets older, relationship building becomes important for strong ties and emotional connections, which in turn helps to promote a healthy family environment and eliminate the build up of stress and associated family problems. The more effort that is put into the family relationship, the better the chance is for a happy and loving future.