I’m sure we’re all familiar with the stereotype of the overworked, exhausted parent of young kids.
They’re always tired and have a hard time focusing on their work.
They seem to get by by pumping themselves full of caffeine and end up frazzled and stressed more than energized.
They’re burnt out and not themselves anymore.
Obviously there’s an element of reality to that vision, although some of us fight hard to overcome it.
Parents of infants and toddlers tend to feel the pain more, but things don’t necessarily get easier as your baby becomes a preschooler.
Then if you add another child (or two!) the complications seem to multiple.
When you have a child, a lot of things change.
If you’re not careful, the person you were can become a tired/stressed/irritated version of what you were.
You may give up things that are important to you.
Change is ok and you can’t expect things to always be the same.
Your time is more precious than ever and you need to be more efficient to get things done.
With more attention to your priorities, you can still be an energetic, functional human being even after having kids.
Here’s How To Beat The Parent Trap:
1) Exercise With Weights
I know, I know.
You don’t feel like you have the time or energy to exercise.
Your kid needs you to feed him or read to him or help him build a giant Lego set.
Making time to exercise will give you more energy and the strength to keep up with the little guy (or gal).
Weight training is the perfect workout for any parent.
You’ll be able to lift your child without hurting your back or bend over to pick up a million toys without running out of strength.
With regular weight training, you’ll feel stronger and more physically capable.
And that becomes more essential as your child gets bigger and stronger too.
So find a time to train with weights, at least two or three days a week.
Even 30-45 minutes will do.
You’ll soon feel like the superhero that you hope your kids think you are.
2) Simplify Your Food Preparation
Early parenthood is probably not the time to start experimenting with two-day meat marinades and 20 ingredient dishes (unless that’s your thing!).
Heck, cooking at all can be a chore when you have a family of different preferences to cater to.
Cooking can be a time-consuming daily activity that you wish would go away.
So simplify, simplify, simplify!
I’ve never been much of a cook myself and becoming a parent means I started focusing on the basics of food preparation even more.
Get that lean protein cooked up in batches (chicken, lean beef, pork, fish, eggs), add roasted or steamed veggies, and support it with small amounts of nuts, seeds, beans, lentils, and starches (potatoes, sweet potatoes, yams, whole grains).
Refrigerate and freeze what you don’t need so you’ll be prepared for snack attacks (yours, or your kids’) later on.
While making food at home tends to result in healthier choices, don’t worry if you have to make the choice for convenience occasionally.
Those grocery store roast chickens can be a good option, and are often my choice when time is short.
Frozen veggies are just as nutritious and you won’t have to worry that they’ll spoil before someone eats them.
Keeping fruit and nuts (if your family can have them) readily available means you’ve got something around when the cries of, “I’m hungry!” inevitably start.
Be prepared with food, but keep it simple.
Time is too short to make Beef Wellington and Baked Alaska (apparently some of the toughest dishes to make!).
3) Get Help!
Whether it’s your spouse, a parent, sibling, friend, or hired help, you need support to be a good parent.
Admit that you can’t do it all and find a way of asking for help.
Even if you’re on parental leave, getting short periods of time away from your munchkin can be helpful for your sanity.
Taking care of children can be a thankless, draining task.
It can also be pretty damn spectacular and make your heart feel like it’s going to burst.
If it seems like parenting has become a bit more “draining” and a lot less “spectacular”, find a way to get some help so you can shift the balance back.
That trip to the gym can be your “ME Time.”
And chose activities with your kids that YOU enjoy, rather than always doing what you think they’ll like.
A happy parent tends to mean a happy kid.
4) Make Sleep A Priority
It’s not always possible to get the 7-9 hours of recommended sleep when you have an infant waking up every 2 or 3 hours throughout the night.
Even as your child gets older, they’ll probably have sleep disturbances in the form of nightmares or bedwetting or illness that interrupt your sleep.
I know it’s hard, but sleep needs to be a top priority.
Get as much as you can, whenever you can.
Skip TV or Internet time and go to bed earlier.
Take naps on the weekends, if you can.
Without the right amount of sleep you’ll never feel amazing.
5) Take Care Of Yourself
Acting like a martyr to parenthood isn’t doing you any favours.
Some people thrive on living the “stressed out parent” image, but it’s not helpful.
And kids need you to be calm under pressure….not always easy when you occasionally feel like you want to burst out in a fit of exhausted rage.
The better you take care of yourself, the better you can take care of others.
When you’re good to yourself, you’ll have a more positive version of you to share with the people who rely on you.
It might mean taking a bit of time to do something just for you: reading that book you’ve been meaning to read for ages, having a long bath, or watching a trashy TV show without feeling guilt.
Reducing your stress levels, even a little, will make you less likely to snap when you step on a piece of Lego in your living room.
And of course, the most important self-care goes back to the basics: sleep, exercise, and eating well.
You Can Be A Parent…And A Healthy, Happy Human
Priorities are the biggest shift that most parents experience.
Maybe you used to spend a considerable amount of time watching TV or on YouTube.
Or perhaps you stayed out late and slept in on weekends (ahhh, those days!).
Without making adjustments, you’d have a hard time with parenting.
Getting older probably means that some of the stuff you thought was important isn’t that important anymore anyway.
As your kids grow up, you’ll start to get more of your time back.
It’s not always easy to get back into things if you’ve left a lot of good habits behind.
Still, it’s never too late to improve the way you conduct your day-to-day life.
No matter what your age or how many kids you have, you can have a better life than ever before.
Take small steps to get YOU back.
You’ll be a better parent for it.