You’re burnt toast. Black bacon. A Coke shaken too hard, opened, and spewing everywhere.
Everyone has days where they feel like this, but for working parents, this is the norm rather than the exception.
It comes from having the honor of being called employee, partner, and parent all at the same time. (By the way, these three things really are honors, even though it may not always feel like it. Ask the unemployed, the single people in your life who crave a long-time lover, or a couple spending thousands on in-vitro.)
I’m betting you already know how blessed you are, but that doesn’t change the fact that sometimes it’s all too much. Way too much.
Maybe you’re exhausted from changing dirty diapers or going over kindergarten sight words. Maybe you’re tired of giving one hundred percent at work and getting a low-performance rating on your job review. Maybe you’re tired of having a relationship with your spouse that’s more co-worker than romantic partner.
Me too, my friend. Me too.
However, my guess is it’s more than just the exhaustion and loss of intimacy that’s getting to you, isn’t it?
I’m betting you feel stuck. I’m betting you don’t see things getting any better.
I mean, it’s not like you can quit your job, hand your children over to the neighbors for a while, or go for a weekend getaway when you work every Saturday.
But you see, you can’t let yourself stay stuck.
If you do, you’re headed for a one-way ticket to burnout — a journey that may very well leave you too broken to do the very things you need to do.
And no, I don’t have an easy answer. But I do have suggestions that will help you feel less stuck and exhausted and more happy and energetic.
They’re not miracle cures, but they’re small changes that will help you get more enjoyment out of life.
As a working parent, you’re always running against the clock, and maintaining a healthy relationship with your partner and children feels impossible.
But it’s not.
It’s all about how you handle the spaces between the spaces of your never-ending list of responsibilities.
And the spaces between the spaces may not be many, but sometimes “it is what it is,” and those “mini moments” are all you’ve got.
Mini moments with your partner
Use small but precious moments to remind your partner they’re special.
You’ll be amazed at the positive effect of giving your partner a long hug when they arrive home, offering up a well-deserved compliment or thank you, or engaging in a ten-minute cuddle session while your seven-year-old is bathing.
You’d be shocked how much a five-minute talk at the kitchen table about your day can repair the distance the daily grind has created in your marriage.
Take the advice of a happily married woman of twenty-two years.
The little things matter.
The little moments add up to make a marriage strong. And the best part is they also increase your well being and give you more energy to love your children the way they deserve.
Work a mini-moment plan with your partner to benefit both of you
Unless your partner is leaving the burden of housework and parenting after work solely on your shoulders, chances are their emotions are as threadbare as your own.
And to make each of you happier, work out a schedule of mini-moments you will give each other to relieve the stresses of your day.
For example, sit down and talk with your partner. Ask them one or two small things you could do to help them recover from a long day at work. Is it thirty minutes to play a favorite video game or forty-five minutes at the gym? Do they simply want to sit in peace and watch an episode of their favorite show?
Tell them you’ll make it happen. Then, you can use this time to do some of the chores that need doing — lunch packing, baby bathing, or picking up around the house.
Then tell your partner what you need in return.
If it’s a hot bath and a few minutes of reading cuddled in your robe, ask them to give you this simple pleasure. Meanwhile, your partner can do more after work “must do’s,” such as picking out the children’s clothes for the next day, starting dinner, or helping with homework.
If you work the plan, both of you will be more relaxed and recharged. In addition, most of the housework will have been taken care of so you can use the extra time to enjoy each other and your children.
Other ways to find more mini-moments
By making these small changes, you’ll start to see the connection between you and your partner grow.
However, there are even more ways you can find time to create those “mini moments.”
For instance, a little bit of work on the weekend can free up some major time for you and your family to enjoy each other.
- Pre-plan meals.
Create meals that you can freeze and just throw into the oven. If all you have to do is let them cook, think of the time that will free up to reconnect with your spouse and children.
- Lay out a week’s worth of clothes for baby.
I used a 5 day organizer when my children were little. Fill it on Sunday and save yourself the hassle of a marathon run to get ready for work.
If your children are older, lay out a week’s worth of clothes for you.
If you do this, you’ll avoid the last-minute “I’ve got nothing to wear” scenario.
- Leave work at work.
Your job has taken precious time from you. You’ve given one-hundred percent to it for probably far too little financial reward.
That’s why you have to leave it there when the workday is over.
Which is more important? A nod of approval from the boss or your mental health and the stability of your marriage and children?
You already know the answer, don’t you?
The bottom line:
Author Alain de Bottom said:
“To be a parent is to be the chief designer of a product more advanced than any technology and more interesting than the greatest work of art.”
The same holds true for a successful marriage.
And you might not feel it right now, but you can rock this working parent thing.
There’ll still be times you’d pay a million dollars for a nap, but you can take small steps towards making a happier existence for the most important things in your life — your spouse and children.
And I promise those are steps you’ll never regret.
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This post was previously published on medium.com.
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