Tips for being a less-stressed parent
Here are some of my top tips for being a less-stressed parent.
1) Be prepared.
Ok, raise your hand if you've ever had to change your baby's nappy in a disable loo, and realised you've left either the wipes, or the nappies, or both, at home??
Get your nappy bag and empty it. Like, right now. Go and tip it all out on the floor. Give it a quick wipe if it needs it...I used to find mouldy satsumas at the bottom of my bag...but maybe that was just me.
Then organise all the stuff you already had in the bag. Lay it all out in front of you and look at it. Put it into piles. One pile for nappy changes, one of snacks, one of toys, spare clothes, put all the random bits together, in a pile.
Now I'm not going to tell you to throw any of it away. Chances are it's in there because at some point you needed it, and at some point you might need it again. I want you to go find some pouches - some zip pouches, like wash bags. Or a sandwich bag. Anything you have that can keep these little piles of organised goodness in their place. If you need to invest in some pouches for this, then go check them out here. I have a pouch for EVERYTHING. And I mean everything. And as the kids get older they get used for different stuff. I still carry snacks everywhere I go, and now instead of teethers and wipes I have a nerf rocket and tissues.
Ok, once you've done that, think about what was missing from your bag. Do you need a spare set of clothes? Are there spare socks in there? No? Then go grab a couple of pairs and put them in your spare clothes pouch. If you have food pouches with you to feed baby, make sure you have a clean spoon, a bib and a little bag to put dirty things into. No one wants to find a dirty spoon stuck to the inside of their bag 2 weeks later, am I right??
Now, pop your newly organised pouches back into your nappy bag and admire your work. It will actually help to organise your mind too, as you will start to think of things in the categories that you've organised them into. When you start to get ready to leave the house, you'll think about;
- the nappy pouch - have I got nappies and wipes and nappy bags in there?
- the spare clothes pouch - do you need to replace anything in there that was used yesterday?
- food - what meals are you going to be outside for? When will your kids need a snack and have you got everything you need, plus a contingency snack for when their banana breaks in two and they have a meltdown???
- toys - where are you going? Do you have a teether? A ball if you're going outside? What's their favourite thing to play with at the moment - maybe grab some Mr Men books (perfect nappy bag size) and pop them in their too.
When you're done, there should be nothing rattling around inside your bag. It should all be inside a pouch.
2) Set your expectations.
Now, for this one, you're going to need to try to see the world through your child's eyes. Just spend a day observing how long things take when you have a baby and/or a toddler with you. How long does it actually take to get out of the house in the morning? How long does the walk to the park actually take. Not how long does it take you, but how long does it take with your child. This will be different for everyone, depending on the character of their child, whether their child is walking yet or trying out a new scooter, or if they just love walking on walls...
How many things are you trying to do today? Is it too much? What are the important things that need to get done, and what can be dropped or added on as an optional thing if you're having a good day? Sitting in the garden with your baby/toddler and watching them explore grass and leaves might not seem like you're doing a lot, but to them it's quality time spent together and they're learning a whole lot of stuff about the world around them. So when someone asks you what you did today and you automatically say 'oh nothing really', think again. And set your expectations based on that mindset, rather than a pre-baby, adult-only life.
3) Spend time with other families who make you smile and appreciate being a parent.
I only learnt this when I had my second child. I realised that a lot of the families we hung around with were quite frenetic, and after a while it really got me down. Once I realised how differently I felt after hanging out with different, more mindful and slower-paced families, how much more I enjoyed my children and actually felt glad to be a mum, it changed a huge chunk of my life and made me a lot happier and more content. Now this isn't meant as a judgement on anyone. Everyone is different, and that is a wonderful thing. We need frenetic families, choatic ones, stressful ones, ones that go a million miles an hour, and we also need calm ones, ones that go slower - we need all kinds of families, all around us! And it may be that the slightly more chaotic ones are for you! I think what I mean is, find your tribe. And enjoy being in it.
4) Go slow.
This goes alongside point number 2) really. I'm really thinking about how long it takes your child to walk home from nursery, or get to the corner shop and back. If you imagine it will be a quick 10 minute walk and you'll be back in time for lunch, then you'll be stressed if your child starts to point at all the different leaves and discovers ants walking up a tree etc. Whereas if you 1) prepare, and 2) set your expectations, then you will have a quick snack in your bag ready for starting lunch out and about, and you will be able to enjoy looking at the leaves and the ants too. Allow yourself to go slow alongside your child.
I really hope this has given you some helpful tips, and I'd love to know if you have any other ideas or things that you do to keep your head in the game when you're mumming/dadding!