Remember those hazy days before you had kids, when you thought you knew everything about good parenting? Your pre-kids self had it all figured out. You read books and articles about everything from baby-wearing to potty training. You were fully prepared to be a calm, kind and firm parent to your sweet, smart, well-mannered offspring. You would balance work, life and raising your kids with ease because you had a plan.
And then you had children.
Now, you understand how demanding and exhausting parenting really is. You’re still doing your best, but the reality of children and all their needs, quirks, noises and messes can be overwhelming. Even the best-laid plans can get thrown out the window when you’re juggling — forget balancing — it all. Sometimes, you yell when you know you should speak calmly.
Maybe you order pizza instead of planning a homemade dinner. Maybe you skip teeth-brushing one night, you let them watch TV for an extra hour or you just can’t muster the energy to make them clean their rooms.
After all, you’re only human. Today, parents have more information available to them than ever before, and while it’s nice to be able to connect with other parents online or to quickly research ear infection symptoms in the middle of the night, all of that information from blog posts and social media can make you feel inadequate. The truth is, though, that you’re probably a terrific parent.
If you’re doing the following five things, then you’re doing just fine and the kids are, despite all of your worries, alright:
You Read to Them
The simple act of reading to your children has so many benefits. You create a bond with them, encourage their language development, foster a lifelong love of reading and set them up for success in school.
You Let Them Play
Crafts, games and activities can, of course, be a lot of fun for you and your children. But kids don’t need constant entertainment or structured activities. They need freedom to use their imaginations, explore their environment, learn about their own capabilities and create their own fun. Unstructured playtime, especially outside in the fresh air, is healthy.
You Offer Simple, Healthy Food
Maybe you have a picky eater and you worry she’ll never get enough nutrition from her diet of string cheese and applesauce. As long as you offer healthy foods and model good nutrition by eating them yourself, she will get there. And you don’t have to prepare organic, made from scratch gourmet meals every day. Keep things simple and save your sanity. See Kid-Friendly Weeknight Dinners from Whole Foods Market and Care.com for some ideas.
You Keep Them Safe
It sounds so basic, but keeping kids safe is a huge part of good parenting. Do you buckle them into safe car seats? Do you teach them about danger, both inside and outside of your home? Do you talk with older kids about who they’re hanging out with and establish rules about making good choices? Teaching your children to be cautious but confident is something you probably do every day without realizing it.
You Make Sure They Know They’re Loved
Whether you’re a parent who loves to cuddle quietly or wrestle wildly with your kids, whether you always sing them a special bedtime song or make them your famous chicken soup when they’re sick, you do little things every day to show your kids how much you love them. They may throw tantrums, fight with their siblings, refuse to eat vegetables or make you so frustrated you feel like you’re going to explode, but they love you. As long as they know you love them right back, it’s all good.
You love your children with a fierce love you never even knew you were capable of, but it’s OK to admit parenting can also be hard. You’re giving your children your best and you deserve to give yourself a break every once in a while, too. Hang in there, the kids are OK.
How do you give yourself a parenting break? Tell us in the comments.