As a mother of twin 4 year old boys and a Marriage and Family Therapist I am constantly trying to evaluate the way I deal with my husband and children. Daily I think ‘is this the best way to handle this?”, “would I be a good example for my kids or clients?,” Well the answer varies depending on the day. We all know as parents that life happens and we do and say things that don’t align with who we think we are or want to be.
The great thing is each new day we can start again and try to align our values with our actions. How am I supposed to that when I spend every minute of the day just trying to put out fires, stop fights, drive kids to activities, feed babies and clean up the inevitable messes that arise with kids, especially multiples? Yeah I know. However you can. It just takes a little upfront planning. Just like sleep training the kids, short term pain to get to long term gain.
So what is the plan Lenore? It varies with the individual, however here are some ideas:
- Open communication (how to parent as a team, share responsibilities, etc.)
- Start dating your spouse again (if you are a single parent then get out on your own)
- Stress reduction activities
Here is a term that is overused ‘open communication’. As in any cliché there is a core of truth here. To me it means taking time, even five to ten minutes a week to discuss where the kids are in terms of development and how you want to work together on parenting them. For instance with babies the plan would be around schedules, food, socializing, how much to expose to other children, grandparents, etc. Toddlers, how much tv, socializing, sleep routine, potty training, etc. And so on. It also means discussing the roles you each have in the family and how they are working for you both.
Honestly we all go through the day and it turns into a week, months, years and wonder how far apart we are from our spouse, significant other or even oneself in terms of how we wanted things to turn out. To stop periodically and do a check in will help to ensure that all things that you and the family are doing are again aligned with your values.
Going on dates again with your spouse will ensure that you retain that connection with the person you chose to have children with and spend your life. Once a week is ideal, yet not completely reasonable for us all. Once a month is critical. Even if it is going for a walk, hike, bike ride, coffee date, lunch, dinner, movie, or whatever you did before family chaos. On a side note there are studies that say if you do something that gets your heart rates up together it bonds you more. For instance, seeing a scary movie together, or going to an amusement park and riding roller coasters. Always worth a try however no scary movies for me thank you.
Now don’t forget to get some ‘me’ time. A little stress reduction activity goes a long way. Anything that gets you to clear your mind and lessen the strain that comes with parenting. One thing I find that works really well for me and my clients is meditation and breathing exercises are amazing at calming the world down around you. Also finding people to talk to like other mothers/fathers (or mothers/fathers of multiples) to get that feeling that you are not alone.
What if you are so stressed and don’t believe that things can get better? Well, sometimes they just do as the kids get older. Sometimes they don’t. When do you need help from a professional?
- If you can’t seem to find ways to talk with your spouse or anyone
- Always fighting with your spouse
- Using alcohol, pills, etc. to cope
- Sleep issues, too little, too much
- Constantly angry, yelling all the time
- You or your spouse are anxious all the time – take the anxiety assessment http://www.psychology.com/assessments/assessment_start.php?p=2
- Or if one of you is very depressed – take the depression assessment http://www.psychology.com/assessments/assessment_start.php?p=1
Seek help – ask for a referral from your doctor, look for a therapist on CTAMFT website (CT Association of Marriage and Family Therapy) http://www.ctamft.org, your insurance referral list, EAP (Employee Assistance Program), or clergy. Don’t suffer in silence.
Lenore Pranzo, MA, LMFT is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in Redding, CT with a private practice in her home and is a mother of 4 year old twin boys. She works with couples, teens, groups and individuals on issues including substance abuse, fertility, anxiety, depression, marital strain, and stress management.