Parenting can sure feel like an overwhelming, never-ending endeavor! Figuring out how to overcome parenting exhaustion can feel impossible. When you start thinking about the tasks that you are responsible for it is easy to feel worn out.
I don’t know about you but I am feeling pretty spent these days. The months of being the primary, full-time caregiver, short-order cook, entertainment, and more for my kids through this pandemic is starting to take its toll.
The reality that the kids will not be going back to a normal classroom has pushed me over the edge. And while I developed a pretty good strategy for managing their online distance/virtual learning in the spring, it still feels like a lot of work!
Living in this state of parenting exhaustion can be pretty tough. Utilizing all of those parenting tools and strategies require energy and consistency and that can be tough when you get worn out with constant parenting responsibilities!
Overcoming Parenting Exhaustion
I have been thinking a lot about how to overcome parenting exhaustion over the last couple of weeks. It is important for me to come up with some solutions that will help me make it through the rest of the summer. And hopefully, these ideas will get me into the fall without losing my mind or yelling at my kids on a daily basis.
Strategies to Make Parenting Easier When You’re Exhausted
As this time is constantly changing, thanks to Corona Virus, the strategies that we use to make it through will inevitably need to be flexible. That being said, I have been trying out some different ideas to lighten my load. Here are 4 strategies that can help you overcome parenting exhaustion.
Strategy 1: Pick Your Battles
Our family had a couple of new foster placements join us in early May. Because of this, we have been focusing a lot on boundaries, rules, and routines. This has proved extra challenging when everything is so different and unstructured thanks to this pandemic!
One of the toughest parts about boundaries, rules, and routines is that they require a lot of parenting energy and consistency. Plus, they often trigger a lot of push back from kids who are testing limits and not wanting to have new boundaries.
It can be tempting to just give up and let everything go these days. And for some things, you may find that it makes sense to let go a bit more than usual. But, kids need structure and consistency. One of our main jobs as parents is to provide this for our kids. (Which is especially important now that they don’t have their normal school, summer camp, or daily schedules.)
In order to make providing boundaries and structure easier on you, try this strategy to help you pick your battles.
Choose Your Top 3-5 Important Rules or Boundaries
Sit down and actually make a list. Determine what is most important for you at this time for providing structure to your home and your kids. Maybe you really want to focus on screen time or on getting enough exercise or eating healthy.
To be totally honest, it probably doesn’t matter which things you choose as long as you choose a few areas and commit to being consistent. In reality, having a few more months with extra screen time or not enough time spent reading, won’t ruin them for life.
The main goal in choosing your top items is to get clear on what battles are worth fighting over. Once you know, you can let some of the more minor things go. For example, if it’s not on your list, stop arguing with your kids about getting dressed every morning. Letting the minor things go helps you overcome some of your parenting exhaustion!
Strategy 2: Automate to Remove Conflict
Now that you have determined what rules you want to keep in place, the next step is to figure out how to make consistency as easy as possible. This will help you feel less parenting exhaustion as well as result in less fighting and push back from your kids.
The best way that I have found to help me stay consistent and lessen the fighting is to automate as much as I can.
Here is what we have done at my house to give you some ideas:
Device Limit Automation
To start with, my husband and I set all the kids’ devices up with a time limit. We also told them that we would no longer be adjusting their times or adding extra time. Having this automated through their devices works well.
We also added a second level of automation through our Google Nest Wi-Fi. This gives us a lot of flexibility to set time limits. We can also pause devices (including our TVs), and more all from our phones.
We made these changes by going through the process of setting screen time limits that I describe in this article. Letting the kids participate in setting their limits helps remove a lot of the fight. There were some tears and whining the first week. These days, though, the kids have adjusted and are finally playing more!
The next area that I automated was chores. I created a super simple magnetic chore chart. It is kid-led (meaning that I don’t have to do anything with it after setting it up.) We have also implemented some motivation. The kids have to complete their chore in order to have their devices the following day.
Again, this is just super simple, kid-led and has taken so much fight out of asking them to do chores. Now, they just check their chart, do the chore, and move on with the day!
Finally, we decided to really pair down on what we had in the pantry. This way the kids can just help themselves when they need a snack. Before I was doling out snacks multiple times a day. Now that they just have 5 or 6 healthy options, they eat when they are hungry and don’t binge on junk food all day!
Strategy 3: Implement More Self-Led Activities.
One of my concerns about school starting back up is that I feel like my kids have become so dependent on me. Being home with them and available 24-7 has been great in some ways. It has also made my children much more reliant on me for things that they used to do themselves. (Like pouring a bowl of cereal in the morning or getting a glass of milk on their own.)
We will inevitably have virtual learning woven into school for the coming year. I want to make sure that my kids are set up to be as successful as possible. I also need to find ways to be able to work while they are doing school!
This summer is a great time to start working on dusting off their independence and self-starter skills! There are lots of great ways to have your kids practice this. Here are a few examples that I have implemented around our house.
Worksheets and Social-Emotional Learning
I have print off the Little Brave Guide to Being Afraid and The Brave Guide to Anger. These are fun and helpful social-emotional worksheets that the kids have access to work on at any time. If they complete a page, they get some extra storytime at night from me.
Having worksheets out and going is helping them get back into the school midset!
Self-Directed Bedtime Routines
Speaking of bedtime, I have let them all know that they need to be showered, have their teeth brushed, and be in their jammies prior to bedtime. If they aren’t done on time, the don’t get stories. This allows them to take charge of their schedule and be responsible for multiple daily tasks.
We have also made a breakfast cupboard for the kids to help themselves in the mornings. They are able to choose from cereal, instant oatmeal, or toast and can choose when they want to eat. This feels like an important step in getting back to those school morning routines!
Practicing Independence Through Learning New Skills
We have also been learning how to cook simple things – grilled cheese, oatmeal, toast, spaghetti, etc. This has been a fun activity that gives me lots of room to praise their independence and responsibility!
Strategy 4: Find Space to Breathe
I am a true introvert by nature. This whole lock-down at home 24-7 has stretched my patience to the limit! I find that I am so much more short-tempered and easily frustrated. This happens pretty easily when you never work on refilling your own bucket with self-care.
Whether you are an introvert, an extrovert, or somewhere in between, this time of social distancing has been hard on most. It can feel challenging to find time to focus on your mental health while you are drowning in parenting responsibilities.
Finding space for self-care is so important though. If you are feeling that overwhelming parenting exhaustion, one of the best ways to recharge is to find some time for yourself.
This can look different for everyone! Some people may have the ability to get out and have their spouse or a quarantine buddy watch their kids. Others may need to build this time into the evenings after the kids are in bed.
You can also implement a quiet time each afternoon for everyone to focus on rest and rejuvenation. Provide your kids with some quiet time activities such as books, coloring, or puzzles. Set a timer that everyone can see and then take the time to do some yoga, meditation, or just take a much needed nap!
Confidence in Knowing How to Overcome Parenting Exhaustion
These 4 strategies have helped me slowly start to feel a little less exhausted. I am feeling a little more capable of heading into a new school year that is bound to be challenging.
Parenting can be one of the toughest undertakings we will ever have. This time in history is proving to add a lot of weight to our parenting shoulders. Make sure that you are taking care of yourself. Find ways to lighten your load as often as you can.
Wishing You Love and Light!