Special Stress For Parents of Young Children
By David Wohlsifer, Ph.D., LCSW & Jeffrey Landsman, LCSW / April 1, 2014
April is National Stress Awareness Month. However, it does not take a designated month for parents of young children, ten years old and under, to recognize that parenting is stressful. Often, parents have the best of intentions to make everything work and everyone happy, only to find, in the end, that they are struggling just to keep everything afloat and no one from having a meltdown.
Time is typically the first thing to go out the window when you have a baby. Young children require assistance in meeting their most basic needs. Time set aside for spouses, work, and other interests is quick to go by the wayside in exchange for parenting's demands. This can be more complicated for parents who might be divorced and/or single parents.
Balancing professional responsibilities with parenting is an ongoing, challenging process. Acquiring adequate childcare is complicated. Resources for child-care are scarce, costly, and rapidly changing. Even in today's age of telecommuting, flexible schedules, and working from home, getting work done can be impossible, if children are present.
Children cannot understand that, when a parent is in the home, that parent might not be available. If children see you, they assume access and it can be very frustrating, as well as disheartening, to tell them otherwise.
Co-parenting and being married, while not mutually exclusive, are often at odds. Parents tend to "divide and conquer" child-related responsibilities. "I will drive him to soccer if you take her to karate," is how a conversation might go between spouses.
While it does get two things done at once, "dividing" is not conducive to togetherness. When things feel unbalanced, with more child responsibility on one parent, tensions can arise in the relationship, which will only get worse, if not addressed.
Finding time alone is often a fantasy when you have small children. Sleep deprivation, lack of time to think, read, and explore a parent's own interests are compromised. This can lead to frustration and resentment of children, spouses, and a longing for your pre-child life, which can be confusing and guilt provoking.
Managing the stress of parenting involves boundaries and balance. Finding appropriate child-care that works for your work schedule is essential to managing professional responsibilities. Often, this means thinking creatively. Talk to your coworkers and other parents and see what they do. Explore other resources in your family or community.
If you work from home, do not feel guilty about using child-care. Many parents, in an effort to save costs, keep their kids at home with them when they work from home, only to end the day with an argument and nothing done. Work is work, whether you are at home or not.
It has been said a "relationship is like a garden: if you don't tend to it, it becomes overgrown with weeds." Having children does not preclude the needs of parents as partners. Make time for yourselves as a couple sacred. Schedule private time, date nights, and do not comprise or jeopardize them. Your relationship is as important as your kids' needs, in that its wellness supports their growth.
Remember self-care. Make a list of the things that are important to you to do on a regular basis for your wellness. Schedule them as part of your day. Be realistic about what you are able to do, but do not neglect them, either.
If you think that you, you and your spouse, or family would benefit from outside support, don't hesitant to see a therapist. Therapy is a safe forum that can help everyone grow.
David Wohlsifer, Ph.D., LCSW, a licensed psychotherapist for over 20 years, is a board member of the American Family Therapy Academy, and co-founder of the Boca Raton Center for Psychotherapy in Boca Raton. Jeffrey Landsman is a licensed psychotherapist and co-founder of the Boca Raton Center for Psychotherapy in Boca Raton, a comprehensive practice serving individuals, couples, and families.
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