New Baby: Managing the Stress of New Parenthood

1. Prioritize unapologetically

Time is of the essence. WaitbutWhy author Tim Urban once did a post called The Tail End. This post was published in 2015 and continues to haunt me Thanks, Tim! In the back of my mind, I know I only have like 700 hours of pizza eating left in my life! Ha, ok, that is one example, but the more meaningful, impactful, soul-stirring instances are the average measures of times we spend with our family.

Like, I probably only have 2,500-3,500 hours of time to spend with my own parents left in my life – pending no serious illness/disease or death takes them any earlier! Insert me crying at my computer now.

All of this makes me think about all the hours I spend doing laundry, commuting, looking for my cell phone (ugh!), or brushing my teeth. Those are things I have to do, sure. But what about those I don’t? The bottom line is, there are only so much time in our life. Only so much time we will get to do something – like have Christmas with our parents, play together in the backyard, eat pizza (!) or read to our children. At some point, it will be the last hour, the day last, the last time. Oh my god – last time – wah!! This completely terrifying and perspective setting article (I encourage you to read!) makes me prioritize entirely, utterly unapologetically.

Sure, there are things we all have to do. The dishes aren’t going to do themselves, the kids for sure need clean clothing and no one else can brush my teeth for me. But the tedious, non-needle-moving, low priority items? Things I can move off my plate or reduce in time and effort? Hell yes, I am all in on that! I turn down events, invites, phone calls, and even archive emails without responding, without regret. I sacrifice money to outsource things – like getting my tiny house mopped and vacuumed twice a month or having my babysitter stay an extra 30-minutes to clean-up the kitchen so I can see my kids when I get home from work. I multitask like a pro wherever I can for the chores and errands and say focused on the most important things – and people – in my life.

My Priorities: (an example in no particular order)

  • My family
  • Me (my wellness, health and happiness)
  • Success at work
  • Things that bring me and/or my family joy, excitement or new (learning) experiences
  • My important relationships – such as my marriage, friends, family and our community
  • The wellness of our home

Cutting even a few hours out of tasks that I don’t need or want to do each year is a huge deal in light of WaitbutWhy “The Tail End”. If I have to decide between seeing my best friend for a long overdue coffee or doing errands – I pick my friend and pay the $5.00 delivery fee for the toilet paper and formula.

Reading this might have left you with an “ahhh!” feeling of the stress I promised to take away in the header but let me assure you – once you get perspective, and start putting time in upfront to prioritize and implement time saving practices, once you dedicate yourself to focusing on the important, big, meaningful stuff and see where you can “trim the fat” – life gets easier! Not a priority to you or your family in some way? Goodbye. Easy.

2. Let the Little Things Go

In light of all of the above, my second in line is “let the little things go”. You have heard it a million times, I know. But humor me.

If you only have 2,000 hours left of seeing your mom, do you really want to fight with her about which restaurant is best for family dinner next week? Do you want argue with your spouse for 10-minutes about who left a wet towel on the floor? Sure, these things can be annoying and potentially more deep-seeded issues that need to be addressed in your life but letting the little things go, like someone cutting you in line at the grocery store? Better to let it roll off. That PTA mom that drives you insane? Let her get the last word.

Focusing on your big picture and what it truly important and impactful, the things that bring you and your family well-being, security, happiness/joy and growth? That’s what matters. That is where your mind, heart, energy and emotion should be spent. Get that right and other tension dissolves around you.

3. Look For Help

If you have the means to find help, do it. If you can outsource cleaning your toilets once a month, mowing your backyard, delivery of your groceries, or plowing your driveway, do it. Hop in on the meal-delivery services for food and cut out some cooking. Swap with your partner for dishwashing. Ask a family member for an extra hand in exchange for helping them with another favor. Can you hire a babysitter? Even a young (affordable) mother’s helper? Do it!

Getting a mental, emotional, physical break from “doing everything” means a lot. Stay-at-home-parents work their tails off, just like those parents who work outside the home. We all deserve a sanity break, even if it is just a few hours. Perhaps a more affordable option is swapping some time with another mom, or joining a gym that has childcare (and addressing me-time in a super healthy workout way!). Get creative if you must. Seek outlets for mental and physical breaks where and when possible.

Getting that break will make you feel less stressed, more productive and refreshed when you come back on board. Even an hour! You’ll do better, you’ll feel better. It might not be every day, heck, it might not be every week – but a moment to yourself should not be a complete rarity.

4. Find tools and systems

Whether you start using an app for calendaring family activities, a chart to schedule everyone’s chores, a document that tracks homework schedules or laundry days – finding methods that save you time, effort, and energy will decrease your stress and lessen your overflowing plate.

See my suggestion here for Streamlining Your Busy Day, Ways to Make Mealtime Easier, How to Add Time Back to Your Busy Day with These Digital Delights and this post about how to keep your kid-chaos house cleaner!

5. Manage a Positive Attitude and Perspective

“A man is but a product of his thoughts. What he thinks he becomes.” – Mahatma Gandhi

There are thousands of quotes on attitude and perspective I could have included here, they are all the same in the end. Life is the way you see it, it is how you react to it, it is the attitude you bring to the table, the thoughts you take away.

Instead of fighting your way through the day, focusing on the negative or the hard – find the joy, find the happiness, see the smiles, allow yourself to laugh. Seek to understand, to show compassion and fill the room with love. Be positive, be productive – for yourself and for others.

My toddler can challenge me in many ways, many a days, like anyone’s child could! This can cause stress, of course! However, I choose, more often than not, to react with love, kindness and understanding. Even when I am putting up boundaries, and showing him right from wrong, I try my best to approach every situation as a moment to be positive, productive and to teach, not punish or fight. This approach brings me (and my children) so much less stress.

You hear me preaching? I am not perfect – by any means in the world! Childrearing is a challenging, relentless job. But time is so limited! As a parent who works outside the home and carries many other commitments and responsibilities – the moments I have with my children, my husband, even to myself – they must be good! I must see them as good or make them good. For each day is a real blessing and I only have so many days left! Don’t you? One day, it will be the last time I rock my toddler (ever) – even if it is to sleep after he fought with me about bedtime. One day, it will be last time my infant spills all his food on the floor – which sounds like a good thing – until he is all grown up and has moved away and my shiny floors are empty and longing for tiny little feet and big messes.

For now, I will see the good – so I can enjoy more moments! Once you start being the positive force, life becomes easier, more productive, more joyful. If you can shape your perspective and attitude each and every day – you will see the consequences outright. “Once you replace negative thoughts with positive ones, you’ll start having positive results.” — Willie Nelson.

6. Look for ways to be physically healthy (in both food and diet)

Physical wellness is a huge part of feeling good and reducing stress as a new parent. I really don’t have to tell you this one! Find ways to to address your diet and incorporate healthy snacks and meals into your life – for you and your children. Drink water, lots of water!

Break a sweat! There are gyms that offer childcare and mommy-and-me-yoga classes – get outside and play with your kids, stroller walk around the neighbor or throw on a work-out video in your living room! Where the is a will, there is a way!

7. Aim for social connection and productive relationships

Being a parent – especially a new one – can be scary, isolating, and super busy all at the same time! It is critical you find social connections and maintain (happy, healthy, positive) friendships!

Keep in touch with your family, meet new moms (or dads) in your community, get social as volunteering events or prioritize that coffee with your favorite co-worker or a drink with your best friend. Make time for you and your partner that is not about “doing” “working” or “managing” but is about fun!

Playdates are a great way to be around other parents – but even just going to the park or library and chit chatting with other moms is a good way to keep social and build a network. Don’t be afraid of joining parent’s groups or going to a new workout class. Your life doesn’t have to completely revolve around your children – and if you have the time for anything outside of work and family – healthy relationships are a key to happiness and a stress reducer!

Becoming a parent is also the perfect time to cut out any toxic relationships – if you haven’t done so already! You have now birthed the perfect excuse.

8. Seek to find joy and happiness in the here and now – with what you have!

Unhappiness is the product of wanting what you don’t have. It is waiting for the future, focusing on the negative, playing victim and not addressing problems in your life.

Seek joy, positivity and happiness on a regular basis.

See the good, be the good. Give people the benefit of the doubt.

Want what you have here and now, in this moment. Make a habit of concentrating on the present and what you actually possess (physically, emotionally, mentally, and figuratively) instead of the things you don’t have and the “later”. If you commit the happiness and joy in this moment, the here and now, tensions and strains that go along with unhappiness will dissipate.

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