(as seen in the 7/5/11 edition of The Review Atlas as a part of my weekly Practical Parenting series)
We are stressed before we even give birth. What color should the nursery be? Will I need pain relieving drugs? Will my water break in public? What if my baby’s allergic to peanuts?
Then we actually advent into the job of parenting and we worry if they are still breathing, eat too much, poop too little and what position is the safest for sleeping. And that’s only in the first year of life! Temper tantrums, potty training, preschool, high school, boyfriends, girlfriends, honor roll, driver’s licenses … none of that has even happened yet!
According to marketing guru Seth Godin, stress is the tension that happens when you simultaneously do and don’t want to do something. You want to teach your toddler to use the bathroom but you don’t want to deal with the accidents. You want your feverish child to get better but worry about giving her too much medicine. You want your teenager to take driver’s education classes but you really don’t want them cruising around town with a car full of friends.
At the 2011 Chick-fil-a LeaderCast, conference Godin reminds us that we don’t usually get stressed out over eating lunch. Why? It’s because there’s no drama in choosing to satisfy your hunger. If, however, you go out to eat at a new restaurant you may experience stress because you want to eat but don’t know what to order off an unfamiliar menu.
What all this means is that stress is most likely inevitable. As long as you’re alive there is an ongoing tension in life. This is especially true for those of us in the parenthood.
So what can we do?
Well for starters take a deep breath. No, seriously, take a deep breath. Increasing the amount of oxygen into your system can help clear the mind and regulate your breathing and we all function better when we are calm and thinking clearly.
Before you lose your last nerve on that incredibly annoying behavior your child is displaying, take a breath and then think through your response in your head. Too often we respond and deal out punishments from our points of stress rather than mature reasoning.
When you choose to respond to your child make sure you choose meaningful and relevant words. "I’m never cooking dinner for you again if you keep acting like that!" is a completely ineffective statement. Granted, you may actually feel that way but it does nothing to further the goal of getting your child to eat their dinner.
Also, don’t ask your child questions you don’t really want the answer to: "Are you even listening to me?", "Do you want me to come over there and ring your neck?" or "What were you thinking?"
Your kids will stress you out. There is no doubt about it, no way to get around it. When you became a parent you opened a mysterious portal into the simultaneously joyous and most stressful job of your life. Deal with it. Stop complaining about it. Stop avoiding it. Buck up and be brave enough to tackle the job.
Be brave enough to recognize the stress of, being the parent you wish you were and the parent you actually are, and use that harsh force of reality to propel you into being a better Mommy of Daddy.
So for those of you out they’re who are prone to stressful dispositions, may this article be a small encouragement for you. None, absolutely none of us, can eliminate stress from our lives. But that’s good news because kids don’t need perfect parents. They need present parents. Learn to function in the tension of what you want to do and what you can do and you’ll be a shining example of health to your child. This is what makes parenting worth it! Why? Because I’m the mom and I said so! That’s why!