Friday, October 30, 2015

Survival Parenting - Five Ways to Make it Through

So. It's been a while.

There I was, with a plan, with a schedule, with energy to move forward.

And then October happened.

October is usually my favorite month. October in New England is beautiful, and probably my favorite month of the year. The weather is ideal. You get some chilly days, but you also get some warm days. The weekends are filled with fun things to do. Apples. Pumpkins. Fairs.

Of course, this year, I managed to miss most of those. I spent much of the past month fighting off some sort of illness that grabbed my body in early October and moved around within me, rendering me some level of "sick" for over three weeks. First it felt digestive. Then I was certain it was strep. Then it felt like a bad cold. And finally, when my face was swollen and I was dizzy from fullness, I was finally diagnosed with a severe sinus infection. I was at the doctor multiple times, and I tried every remedy I could think of. I used my traditional home remedy of apple cider vinegar, honey, and cinnamon. I tried a new remedy I found with fresh lemon juice, honey and vodka. I tried essential oils. I steamed. I flooded my body with water. I tried multiple OTC drugs, and finally ended up on a pretty powerful antibiotic. Even after that I'm still struggling to get back to 100%. This particular illness was not messing around.

So this isn't about how to prevent, or shorten, or relieve an illness. Sometimes you get something stubborn that laughs in the face of your best intentions. Sometimes, you're sick. This is about how to survive as a parent when you're struggling.

1. Lower Your Standards.

Seriously. This was hard for me. I have routines that I worked hard to develop in September for homeschooling. I have routines that I spent time building to keep the house in order. I meal plan to keep our grocery shopping and dinner menus consistent.

And I had to let that go. I just wasn't able to keep up. Every night I would look at my ever growing to-do list before collapsing into bed and feeling guilty. When I finally gave myself permission to relax, I felt better. It doesn't mean that you will be living in chaos forever because you can't keep up with the picking up, and it doesn't mean that your daughter will lose ground academically when you have to use more DVDs and less focused instruction. The girls watched a lot of YouTube

2. Let Your Kids Know

This is twofold. First, the girls were worried about me when I was at my worst. Letting them know that I was ok, even though it didn't seem that way, calmed them when they were concerned that Mommy was in bed before they were, or was eating soup instead of the dinner they were served.

It also helped by giving them a solid reason for maintaining certain behaviors. The girls are used to being quiet when Daddy is on the phone, so it made sense for them that I needed more quiet because my head hurt. They were also willing to help. They brought me tissues, cough drops and water when I asked, and we talked about taking care of each other as a family.

3. Embrace Technology

iPad. TV. Movie days. It. Is. OK. You are not lazy. You are sick. When you're congested and coughing and sore, reading aloud feels like torture. When you can't manage to clean up the kitchen, cleaning up after a craft is just silly. They'll survive.

4. Ask For Help

Now I need to clarify. I actually canceled our regular sitter. First, although my doctor assured me that after the initial period I wasn't super contagious, I really didn't want to be responsible for sharing anything with another family. Sitting in a dance waiting room is one thing. I can keep my distance. Inviting someone into your home is another. Second, although my standards were lowered, I still didn't want anyone judging the state of our home. And finally, my kids don't do well with a sitter while I'm still home. When I go out, they obey beautifully. When I'm home, even when I'm shut in my bedroom, they know that Mommy is there and react accordingly. It just didn't make sense. Actually, it turned out she was sick as well and was perfectly happy to take a few days off.

But I did lean more heavily on Adam. He had a crazy month as well, and had I not been sick, I would have actually have him lean more on me. But I let him take care of me. I didn't stress when he handled bedtime on his own or got up with the girls and kept them quiet so I could sleep. Our marriage is a give and take. I didn't need to be the stay-at-home-martyr. He took on the bulk of the house, and that helped me. Was everything done like I would have done it? No. But I didn't care.

5. Pace Yourself.

Over the past month, I've had a few stretches where I felt like I was getting better, and each time I jumped back in with both feet and tried to catch up. Mistake. First of all, I wasn't really better. Sure, I didn't need to be in bed, but trying to catch up on a week's worth of housework in a day wore me out.

After I finally got medicine, I took recovery as a process. I got our homeschool stuff back on track (and shockingly, she hadn't lost one bit of ground, and actually progressed more than I'd expected). I caught up on laundry. Then I started tackling one space at a time, making sure to give myself some down time every day.

But most importantly, if you find yourself in a survival parenting stage for any reason - illness, pregnancy, stressful situations, whatever - you need to make sure that YOU tell yourself that it's OK. Survival parenting is temporary. The kids will survive. You will survive.

And the mess will eventually get cleaned up.

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