Keeping Parents Sane

An experiential guide to help parents bring children into this world in a fully integrated and natural way

Happy parents make for happy children

It is never too late to do something about a negative situation but the earlier the better.

The care of your child is really a joint responsibility with various parties involved. In your 'body' you have many joints, and you use some more than others but all are important. In the same way, most of the caring will be done by you, the mother especially in the early days but this does not mean that your partner can not do a lot to help both physically as well as with the emotional and spiritual development. The extended family – grandparents, older siblings, aunts and uncles etc. are also important and they do not have to live close by to be involved in your child's life. In the current climate of long distance house moves, close friends may take over the role of aunts and uncles and older neighbours could take on the role of surrogate grandparents.

Working Parents

Many parents think they are indispensable and have to be on call 24 hours a day, seven days of the week. In many cases your child may benefit from a change of face, view or perspective as long as you provide the background continuity. One of the biggest emotions for a mother going back to work is guilt. "I brought him into this world therefore I ought to be there for him". In fact that is often quite a narrow view. The pre-birth contract between your child and you, his parents was made in order to give you all the best experience for your soul's growth. Your child may require the experience of a working mum and the associated child-minders etc., that is not to diminish the importance of your own child-raising qualities or to absolve you of that responsibility. It is just an option which you might like to consider so that you can release any feelings of guilt. If you build up resentment about having to stay at home and not following your chosen career path then your child could pick this up and that could be more detrimental to you both.

The most important part about being a working parent is the time you spend with your child when you are together. This is equally true for dad as it is for mum. Fathers can often feel left out. They leave for work early in the morning often before their children are awake and return home late at night after their children have gone to sleep. So how can dad remain involved? Practical tips include delaying bath time so that it becomes a family event. Perhaps a phone call during the day, leaving pictures, games or fun quotes around the house to be found during the day.

Then there is the weekend. Often this becomes a time to catch up on DIY and the gardening. In stead of these being chores, how about finding a way to include the children. If old enough, perhaps get them to hold things or pass tools. How about buying a child's version of your garden tools and giving them a patch of their own to work at the same time. This is equally valid for both boys and girls. If still a baby, your child can still be in the garden with you. Mum can have the children cooking with her when preparing meals, not just when cooking cakes. Aim to make any time off, family time. This could be as simple as having a picnic in your back garden. It is the quality of time, not the length of time or the cost. Dads often over do it when they don't live with the family. They seem to want to make up for lost time with big outings out or gifts. Have you really watched young children at Christmas - they love the boxes and wrapping paper!

Child care as a Successful career

In many cases, the old family values seem to have flown out of the window. Many women can feel inadequate if they are 'stay at home mothers'. If you can afford it, then why would you not want to stay at home? Has having children become that boring? Or has society made it so? Learning to relax at home and enjoying child care can actually be more rewarding than going back to work.

Even though your children are not young for very long (even it may feel like it!) you could consider child care as a temporary career. You could even decide to job share with your partner so that you can both take part in raising your child and still continue with your original career. I am not suggesting that it is an easy option but I am saying that it can be rewarding.

Taking a Break

When bringing up children it can be very easy to loose your personal identity. It is important to retain your interests outside of the family as well as with friends not connected with the children. Time out is valid for both mum and dad although it is usually easier for the father. The mother rarely gets away from the day to day running of the family even when on holiday. This ‘time out’ may be as little as 10 minutes a day in the early years but make sure that you use it for something totally unrelated to children. 10 minutes reading your favourite book can feel very self-indulgent when the housework has not been done but whereas the dust will not go away the opportunity to read will, so relax and make the most of this time.

One Health visitor I knew use to say that she got worried if she saw a tidy house when doing home visits. It would indicate that the mother was not resting enough or spending enough time with her baby or on herself. Often there is guilt attached to doing something for yourself when there is so much to be done around the house, but to keep your sanity it is important to realise that this time is not self indulgent but a must for the whole family’s sake. It is often the emotional state of you, the mother that affects the whole family.

It is also important to re-establish the relationship between partners after a new addition. Firstly make time to spend together without the worry or disturbance of the children. In the early years this may seem impossible. After a hard day it can seem too much effort to go out and with sleepless nights, every opportunity is usually taken to catch up on sleep. For the mother it can also feel like too much effort to get out of those casual clothes with hair tied back out of the way in order to dress up and put on some make-up. Not only is it good for your morale to regain your own identity but also for your partner to remember that you have not essentially changed. This can also help to allay feelings of jealousy towards the new arrival who is taking up so much of your time.

Next arrange to get out of the house. You do not need to pay a baby sitter if you do a swap with another family and you do not need to go anywhere too expensive. It could just be a walk in your favourite park or a drink in the local pub, just something that you and your partner consider special and not related to children. Although children may be uppermost on your mind remember not to confine your conversation to children, re-establish other mutual interests.

When the children are old enough it is a good idea to plan some time away. It is a great morale booster to plan this soon after your child’s arrival even though it may not happen for some time. This gives everyone something to look forward to during the long hours of childcare in those early days. Again this does not have to be expensive, just a day or two away when you do not have to get up early, share your bed with a little wriggley monster or have to think about anyone else except yourselves.

If your child is old enough to complain about you leaving him with a friend or relative for this time then you will need to approach the situation with care so that you do come back to more problems than you went away with. It may be quite difficult for him if he has been sharing your bed. So you may have to wait until he has his own. If you have been able to make his early days feel as secure as possible he will have more confidence about your return. There is no such thing as too much love as long as you have remembered to love yourselves at the same time.

For older children, you could come to some sort of an agreement, not a bribe. Explain that there is enough love for everyone and sometimes you need to be able to express this individually. There will be time which is more exclusively spent with him and time when you need to spend exclusively with your partner. The love does not diminish but you need to be able to concentrate on each separate person one at a time. Ask him how he would like to spend the time which will be his. Give him guidelines about what he can expect, it is not intended to be a bribe where he can get away with anything. It may be that he will opt to go and see a friend or relative.

It is also important for each child to have time with you by himself. This gives both of you time to establish your own special relationship as each child will have his own individual characteristics. When he does not have to compromise his lifestyle to take account of a sibling then he can also develop his own special skills and sometimes this may the first opportunity for you to really appreciate these.

When my children were young, they use to take it in turns to stay with their grandparents. This gave me a break from bickering siblings, allowed me to form a closer bond with each child in turn, gave each child time to be spoilt by their grandparents and gave their grandparents a sense of feeling useful and an excuse to do childish things again. Everyone was happy at the time and it improved relationships when the whole family came back together again – I can thoroughly recommend it.

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