No matter how much you love being a parent, all mothers know that it can be stressful. This is especially true for military wives, who have to adapt back and forth between co-parenting and caring for their children alone. Parenting is very busy, and you’re often just doing the best that you can without being sure if you’re actually doing the right thing. Managing your own stress levels can help you to have a more positive and healthy relationship with your children, so taking care of yourself is the best thing for the whole family too. This can be easier said than done, however, if you’re juggling work and parenting, as well as worrying about a spouse who is away.
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Learn The Signs Of Stress
In stressful situations, try to take notice of how you feel. You might notice that your blood pressure rises or your heart rate goes up. Your chest might feel tight, your heart might pound or you might feel dizzy. You might feel like you need treatment for heart burn. Take notice of what these symptoms of stress are when you feel these physical symptoms, as these signs are your body trying to tell you something. If you start to feel any of these signs, step back from the situation to take a moment for yourself and try to calm down.
Know The Triggers
Try to identify what the most stressful times of day are for your family. What are the stress triggers in your average day? Is it trying to get everyone ready for school, for example, or is it trying to get dinner on the table? Do you feel most stressed on your commute, or helping with homework? A lack of planning can add to your stress levels, and we then pass this stress onto our kids. Get as organised as you can and plan ahead so you’re prepared for these stressful times. For example, set out school uniforms and pack school bags the night before to avoid searching for things in the morning, or choose easier to prep dinner options.
Take a break for yourself sometimes and decompress. Sometimes we all need a break, and this is okay, especially for mums. Don’t feel guilty if you need to take five or ten minutes on your own, as long as your kids are safe. If you have someone else there, leave your children with them. If you’re at home, step into another room and close the door for a few minutes. Try breathing techniques, progressive relaxation, meditation, or prayer. These work to relax you and give you the tools to better cope with stress. You can teach these tools to older children too to help them with stress from things like exams.
Make exercise a family activity so you can fit into your packed schedule without giving up time with your children. This also helps to keep your children active. Choose something that you all enjoy doing and can do together, or perhaps let the family take turns in choosing a physical activity to do together. This could be walking, swimming, cycling, or playing a sport. Exercise helps everyone to cope with stress and builds healthy habits for your children. Go for a bike ride at the weekend, or set up a family Olympics in the garden or have some silly fun with a swing ball game with the kids. Just get moving.
Find a good support group. Your support group could be your friends, family or other mothers that are in similar situations to you. You could choose older women who have been through it before and can offer some perspective and advice to you. You could also look for a formal support group aimed at mothers. If you live on base, see if there is something already in place. Military wives often arrange things like book clubs, choirs, and coffee mornings to help each other. Whoever you choose to seek help from, make your support network is a group of people that you feel comfortable and safe with, so you can share your feelings and get constructive feedback in return.
When was the last time that you really laughed with your kids? Use humour to diffuse stressful moments. A lot of tension is held in the face, and a good giggle can help to release that and help you to forget about the things you were worrying about before. Luckily, kids are funny, so take the time to laugh together and enjoy each other’s company.
Accept help when someone offers it. You can’t be on as a Mother all the time. Sometimes you need time for yourself to do things alone, with your friends, or your partner. If help is offered, take it. Whether your friends offer to babysit so you can have a date night, or your parents offer to take the kids for the day so you can have lunch with a friend, take the offer.
As a mother, you have a lot to juggle, including housework, career, caring for kids, and helping with homework. All these demands can be a lot and it can be easy to only think about the things you have to do every day. However, if you’re better able to deal with your stress levels, you can keep the perspective on what is actually important. You’ll be better able to spend more quality time with your kids and make happy memories as a family.
Taking care of yourself makes you a better parent, so remember that there should be no guilt in focusing on yourself occasionally. The other advantage of learning to handle stress is that you’ll also be setting a good example to your kids. Good mental health practices can be taught to children from an early age, and seeing you take the time to look after yourself is a great way for them to learn. Normalise taking time out to relax, and talking about feelings in your household. Everyone in the family will benefit from emotional honesty and learning to put themselves first, at least some of the time.