Prioritizing Survival and Sanity.

Parenting is hard. Like, really hard. I know this is not a revolutionary concept, but sometimes I think people forget that it’s an innately challenging task because it seems like everywhere I turn people are making it SO MUCH HARDER ON THEMSELVES.

And I get it. I used to do that too.

But then my mental health started to decline and I started prioritizing my parenting decisions differently. I started putting my own mental health and my own sanity at the top of the page of Things To Consider and I lowered my concerns about whether my kids would sill be eating only mac-n-cheese at every meal when they were 30.  And it has made ALL OF THE DIFFERENCE IN THE WORLD.

Now, this actually worked on BOTH sides spectrum. It wasn’t just the “What I Stopped Forcing” side, it was also the “Things I Started Forcing” side. While I stopped making our kids eat the dinner I was cooking Donnie and I, I also  found that my kid’s messy rooms made my anxiety sky rocket so I started keeping tabs on that more. With Nikki, I basically make her keep it clean and her standards are close enough to mine that basic low-level nagging does the trick if she falls behind. With Wes? I make him make his bed every morning and put up his clothes in the hamper but I just take over the rest. 

Now…This my personal recipe for sanity. And that recipe is very specific with no long thru-line of consistency. Every moment calls for a different perspective. There’s no “Free Range” or “Helicopter” or “Hands-On” or any other generic classification for my parenting style. Every moment is different for every kid and it’s all relative to ME. Cooking 3 meals every night may make you angry and you may be able to ignore messy rooms so your parenting may shift in the opposite direction in both cases. But the point that I learned is that YOUR MENTAL HEALTH MATTERS MORE THAN WHAT THE PARENTING MAGAZINES SAY.  If all of the things that look hard to me actually make it easier on you? THEN KEEP DOING IT!

Many parents/professionals believe that me not forcing my kid to read every night is going to jeopardize their education and their reading skills but fighting with my kid about reading has darkened many nights in our home and I finally just decided that our mental health needed to take priority above reading goals and I accepted that he was testing at a fine level for his grade and so forcing him to read was an unnecessary pain for both of us.

And do not even get me started with reading out loud. For someone who loves to read so much you would think I would LOVE reading to my kids but I never have and never will. I read the baby board books to them but once books had more than 10 words on a page? I TAPPED OUT AND NEVER TAPPED BACK IN AGAIN.

I just think we all have to take the advice from professional articles and the parenting groups and add it to the knowledge of things that make us happy and miserable as a person AND AS A FAMILY. Then we have to evaluate what is important for each individual child and each family unit and sometimes…more often than not in my family…the happiness of the individual or the whole shifts the balance away from the advice from parenting articles. 

And the an important factor to me is that I explain this to my kids. I explain to them I have no problem making them something different to eat if they don’t want Indian food, because cooking several easy meals doesn’t bother me at all. But I also explain that they need to make their beds or my anxiety spins out of control. WE do things for each other’s mental health in this house. My daughter and my son both have stressed out moments and I’ll step in and offer to help them with things if it will ease some of the burden. And then they do it for me in return. 

I stand by the fact that there are is no guarantee that any of our parenting decisions are going to have the result we are aiming for. We all know kids who turned out exactly opposite of how you would have expected based on how they were parented..for better or for worse. And because there are no 100% right models that we know FOR A FACT will produce happy and well-adjusting caring socially conscious adults, we need to weigh many factors when making parenting decisions. And since we are weighing many factors, why not throw our own mental health and happiness in the mix? And why not put it at the top of the list of concerns because – at least in my house –  a mentally healthy Mom is a better Mom in EVERY scenario. 

I remember one time Heather wrote bout how much she disliked doing crafts with her kids and thought I don’t mind doing crafts, but I hate sleepovers. So you know what? We do crafts but we avoid sleepovers. We all need to remember that just because some of our friends post pictures of huge sleepover parties and our kids attend them and long for something like that in their lives, does not actually mean we have to do it for them. It’s okay to never buy glue or never do elf on the shelf or never go to museums or any of the stuff you see other parents doing if any of that makes any of you crazy. 

Chores are another GREAT example. I grew up with ZERO chores. ZERO. NONE. I didn’t have to do ANYTHING in my house or yard as a kid. I went to college with a notepad of instructions on how to do laundry because I had never done it before. And you know what? I became a Mom at 19 and everything turned out fine. 

Donnie, on the other hand, had ALL of the chores and was doing his own laundry by age 12 and you know what? HE TURNED OUT FINE TOO. 

My kids have to make their beds and help keep their rooms clean but that’s about it. Sometimes I get them to help me with BIG chores but only if it will really help, because hounding them to do it right makes every job harder on ME. Since I started prioritizing my own mental health, it is often easier on ME to just do it myself. And then I haven’t ruined an entire day by badgering them about the HOW of raking leaves!

But if your kids helping you out makes you less anxious then MAKE THEM GET OFF THEIR ASS AND HELP YOU OUT. I make my kids make their bed because that helps my mental health and it was totally worth the transition phase of the constant nagging to be where we are now which is that 5-6 days of the week I don’t have to remind them! It’s wonderful!

YOU DO YOU. Read the articles. Listen to the experts. Take in your friend’s parenting techniques and opinions but never EVER forget the value of your own mental health. If some parenting method or technique is making you more stressed, then maybe evaluate how important it is in the BIG PARENTING PICTURE OF FAMILY HAPPINESS.

Be kind to yourself. In the end, we don’t really know what is and is not going to work with our kids so why not place a higher value on our own sanity and happiness because that is very much happening RIGHT NOW and it’s affecting the entire household.

Thanks for the thoughts of love and light yesterday. The day didn’t end with our dream “best case scenario” – but it ended with the results we thought were the most reasonable to hope for. I think we all slept better last night than we’ve slept in awhile so that should tell you something! 

2 thoughts on “Prioritizing Survival and Sanity.”

  1. PREACH! This is so very true and easy to forget. I have high levels of anxiety about my boys growing up not knowing how to do housework and chores because I worry about their future spouses blaming me for making them sexist. Isn’t that ridiculous? Just typing that out I see how messed up that sounds. But it’s a real worry. Never mind we have ongoing conversations about sexism and their dad is a shining example of a man that shares the housework burden. So thank you for giving my perspective a little bump in the right direction. Xoxo

  2. I love this and I whole heartedly agree! We all have to do what keeps our personal mental health in check. I found that making lunches was making me angry and resentful EVERY night, partly because I make multiple meals for people too (thank you for validating that choice)! So I started making my kids make their own lunches and I feel so much better! For some people, they like making lunches and think it’s easy and no big deal (true too!), but I just hate it. So, problem solved. I also don’t enjoy reading out loud now that my kids are into chapter books (the one exception being Harry Potter). But we recently discovered that they will sometimes listen to audio books, and it’s been so fun for them. We just listened to the Best/Worst Christmas Pageant Ever and they laughed and laughed. You do you. I should hang that motto above the door. Thank you!

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