Recently my family was heading out to dinner. After some shuffling and loading into the car, I sank into the front seat and took a deep breath. I noticed I was feeling tense and somewhat discouraged. I was surprised when my husband Chris turned to me and said, “Are you enjoying parenting?” In response I spoke the first words that popped into my mind. “Not lately!”
The last few days had been challenging. Our schedule has been full. In many ways I have felt more like the family taskmaster than a joyful parent. The litany of reminders and what feels like incessant nagging to the kids reminding them to do one thing or another in order to get out the door has honestly felt exasperating.
It is clear my current plan to inspire action is not working. Not even close! My husband and I have been trying strategies to help our sons take more ownership and responsibility for their tasks and chores. So, in truth, it is not my job to remind them. I look forward to the day when they get themselves out the door without needing a reminder from me. I can just enjoy the ride!
Yet, in truth, do I really need to wait until they are taking ownership and responsibility for themselves – before I enjoy the ride? This is the question I have been wrestling with. My logical brain knows the answer is a resounding, “No, I do not need to wait for things to get better in order to enjoy parenting.” My emotional brain asks, “But how?”
The answer to this question has been my quest this week. I realized I needed to increase my emotional capacity, to “recharge the battery” so to speak.
Here are a few things I have been doing to build my capacity and I am glad to say this has made my week feel less overwhelming and more joyful than last week.
Take time to breathe. The days that were difficult with the kids were also days when my work day was packed. Not only did I have numerous non-stop meetings, but the few minutes I had between meetings were used to frantically catch up on my endless To Do list. I was not practicing what I know to be important, which is taking some time to quiet throughout my day. Neglecting this important skill came at a cost. Needless to say, by the time my sons arrived home from school I was fully frazzled. I started prioritizing these moments of quiet and both my family and my nervous system are better for it.
Lower expectations. Everything on my To Do list is not going to be finished. This is a painful reality. No matter if this list is the work, home or children list, I need to adjust my sights and lower my expectations to match my capacity on a given day. After some adjustments I can better enjoy the moment rather than rush to the next item on a checklist. This small change feels glorious!
Prioritize play. Rather than feel relieved during the moments my sons are contentedly playing so I can catch up on a few more emails, I have been actively seeking out my boys to see what they are doing. With an attuned invitation, I enter into their activities to play with them. Additionally, I have been trying to make the most out of the moments they ask me to play with them. Intentionally making room for joyful play brings a healthy balance to my day.
Reflect on appreciation. I have been taking some time to write in my appreciation journal and reflect on the good things in my life. While I try to do this daily, I also take moments to reflect on appreciation throughout the day, especially when things are not going so well. I notice how some joyful reflection along with deep breathing keeps my relational brain on during times of stress and strain.
Talk to God. I have been talking to God about my parenting challenges, and asking for help. I have poured out my heart along with my frustrations and desires. I listen for His gentle whisper that often brings creative ideas and soothing peace in the midst of a storm. I ask for strength in my weaknesses as well as wisdom to navigate the challenges – like I want to scream because a child needs several reminders to put on shoes. I have made talking with God and listening for responses a parenting priority. This practice has resulted in some creative ideas that I hope will impact the pattern in our home.
Do you feel overwhelmed? Are you in need of a capacity booster? I encourage you to pick two items from above list that you feel would be easy to try, and start thriving today!