So, we’ve survived another Christmas Holiday and are back to our usual routines. Christmas and Holiday is a contradiction in terms isn’t it? I always feel exhausted after the Christmas ‘break’ and am usually inconveniently comatose on Boxing Day! The following is heart-felt from me; a working mum of 5, Ex-Primary School Head Teacher, recently 62 years old and gloriously a grandma.
Moving into 2023, I suggest we parents follow the profound advice of the cabin crew - when the oxygen mask drops down, put your own on before helping any
dependants. It is in every member of our family’s interest that we are firing on all cylinders so SELF CARE is my 2023 New Year’s Resolution for all of us.
Here we go:
1. Plan next Christmas.
Before it’s a dull haze (like child-birth), vow now not to start ridiculously time-consuming family traditions that result in your older children being disenchanted when you choose not to continue them and making Christmas a massive anti-climax - even into their 30s!
To achieve this I suggest that you:
- Introduce by May the idea that the elf on the shelf has emigrated - but never mind…
- Remember to not sprinkle reindeer glitter up the stairs next year.
- Don't do the footprints - you will curse yourself if you do.
- Plan in advance to limit Santa snacks to something you want to eat at 1 a.m. on Christmas morning (same for Rudolph - I stoically gnawed a carrot in the cold for many years…).
2. Ensure both your child and yourself get enough sleep.
The majority of my children were terrible sleepers. I used to explain it away by telling myself (and anyone else who would listen) that it was because they were so intelligent and were just too eager to learn than sleep. I also told myself that sleep deprivation couldn’t kill me. I was wrong on both counts. Those mums who I saw as mature, self-confident grown-ups who didn’t treat their 2 month old as an equal, had their children sleeping through the night almost immediately. I commend them. Sleep matters…a lot. There is so much great advice and help available. If you are struggling, I say - put yourself first and seek that help. It’s better for everyone in the long run.
3. Step back - Allow children to be children.
Say goodbye to the pressure of over-parenting. Instead, take a deep breath, stand
back, witness and observe. Leave room for open-ended play and recognise the
benefit of allowing our children to explore, ask questions, problem-solve and remain curious. If we schedule every minute of their day we exhaust ourselves and we deny them room to thrive in their own way. Rigid schedules and step-by-step directions contradict a child’s individual innate learning programme. Give them time and enjoy watching the way they work through a problem.
4. Be fierce about setting expectations about Digital Media use, and be confident in your decisions.
Lock your own phone away for part of the day as a role model (I am
so guilty of 'do as I say not as I do') and set some time aside to play and watch digital content WITH your children so that you know what they are accessing. Short term pain for long term gain.
5. Get outside more.
I know - I sound like a broken record on this point - but seriously, it’s a no brainer. It’s free, the proven health and well-being benefits are endless and it’s easy - both whilst you/they are outside and when you all return home. You will be full of all the positive effects of good hormones, healthy microbes, vitamin D and exercise. You’ll all sleep better too. *NB Invest in some waterproof trousers for yourself. It really is a game-changer and makes being outdoors with your children a whole different experience.
As we rightfully evolve as people in our own right (not just defined as mums or dads) then our parenting will be an ever-changing process. Let go of unrealistic expectations and constant comparisons. If we enjoy our children we will want to spend that precious quality time with them, and they will have the benefit of us. And a happy you is the best thing for them.
Slow down and enjoy them, time flies.