By SARAH PEACHEY
Author’s note: I chose to use the term Mom or Dad throughout this column. That can also mean parents, guardian, stepparent, grandparent or whatever other role you may play in raising children.
Being a parent can be extremely difficult. Being a parent in the world of social media can be even worse. Scrolling through Instagram photos, Facebook newsfeeds and Twitter tweets often inundate parents with what they should be doing, that what they’re currently doing is incorrect or harmful or that others are doing it better.
It can be difficult and stressful to experience that frequent “perfect life” presentation, but it happens in parenthood all the time. But the reality of the situation? A mom that maybe showered, minimal make-up (if any), kids that may or may not still be in pajamas as mom rushes into a grocery store for two simple things she’s forgotten to grab over the last three visits due to fussy children that just can’t keep it together.
Or maybe you’re a stay-at-home parent tasked with piles of laundry you still haven’t started because Tommy spilled his juice all over the floor and he’s complaining it’s sticky while Nancy sits in her high chair screaming for more goldfish just one more time, even though it’s the fourth time she’s said that. All of this goes on while you’re wondering how you’ll complete that laundry, but also wash the dishes, get the kids bathed, figure out dinner (can we do cereal three days in a row? Maybe I should switch to pizza…) and still give yourself just 10 minutes to sit in a quiet room once the kids are in bed. Sound like a familiar experience? Maybe you’ve been in these situations. It happens to even the best of us. But these are situations you’ll rarely find on social media.
And that’s just the civilian family scenario.
My scenarios are what I like to call “Momesty” — Mom Honesty. Momesty removes the concept of the perfect mother (or father) and instead, provides a more realistic depiction to which most, if not all, parents can relate. It’s about being real with people about some of the darker aspects of parenthood few people discuss. Like when our greatest parenting victories of the day are that the house is still standing and the children are fed and alive.
Parenting can get a little more difficult when invoking the military lifestyle. One parent is often left at home while the other is working longer hours, going on deployments, leaving for temporary duty or away for training. Kids come to depend much more on the parent they see most frequently, which, whether we like it or not, makes us bear the brunt of the work. Many parents grin and bear it, but it doesn’t hurt to acknowledge the more difficult side.
When parents focus so much energy on their children, it takes a lot out of us. It’s like a sensory overload. Ever been stuck in a house with two (or more) toddlers? Those little buggers can tear a house apart in 2.5 seconds flat, yelling and screaming, opening cupboards, eating whatever is found on the floor, pulling things off shelves, etc. By the end of the day, 10 minutes of total quiet can be a welcoming moment.
So here’s my dose of “Momesty:” While it’s incredibly important to care for your children, try not to forget about yourself in the mix. Here are some activities that can help ease your sensory overload and indulge, even if only for 10-20 minutes:
- Spend some quality time talking with your service member. We don’t always get a lot of one-on-one time, so soak it up! Enjoy some conversation, but set rules or guidelines that your discussions won’t include work or the kids. Let it be time to reconnect.
- Read a book. You can pick up a funny parenting-related book like “Dad is Fat” by Jim Gaffigan or “ Momzillas” by Jill Kargman. Or pick up a military life book like “1001 Things to Love About Military Life” or “Stories Around the Table: Laughter, Wisdom and Strength in Military Life.” You can also pick up whatever is your favorite genre
- Eat your favorite snack. Hiding in the bathroom or pantry is still an option. You know, just in case.
- Drink lots and lots of wine. Or beer. Just kidding… Sort of. Try a relaxing tea brew or a cup of coffee on your front porch.
- Indulge in a favorite hobby. It could be playing an instrument, knitting, crocheting, crossword puzzles, adult coloring books, etc. Anything that can feed your soul.
- Take a bubble bath with your favorite music and a glass of wine (Kidding). You can always invite your spouse to join in, too (not kidding).
- Do some binge watching of your favorite TV show on Netflix, Amazon or On Demand alone or with your spouse.
- Go for a walk down the street, around the block, or even longer. If you’re a runner, take a run in the evening. That little bit of exercise can help reset your mind and prepare you for the next day. Make it even better by inviting a good parent friend who you can talk to without feeling judged.
- Yoga can help wind you down after a long day with stretches designed for relaxation.
I don’t believe that parenting is a job, but it is definitely some form of work. It isn’t always easy and things get extra hairy when doing it alone. Take good care of those kiddos, but don’t forget yourself. Try out those 10-20 minutes and hopefully it can help feed your soul and prep you for the next day ahead.
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Sarah Peachey is a 20-something journalist from Pennsylvania, back in the Mid-Atlantic after voyages to the Deep South and Southwest. She lives with her husband, toddler and newborn. She began a career in journalism with The Fort Polk Guardian, an installation newspaper, winning three state awards for her work, and she now freelances for military spouse support sites and consults for MilitaryOneClick. She has a passion for politics and fiery debate. She considers herself a bookworm, pianist, wine enthusiast and crossword addict.