Avoiding Toddler-Care Burnout
There is no getting around it bringing up a toddler requires a seemingly limitless supply of time and energy. If you have other children at home, especially if one or more of them are under age 5, the demands on your attention may seem even more overwhelming. Simply maintaining some semblance of order can be a daunting task, and worrying about such niceties as a child's language development may sound like a fantasy if you feel immersed in total chaos.
There may be other pressures, too. The parent who elects to stay at home (usually the mother but not always) may feel that her brain is rapidly turning to mush and that the stimulating worlds of education and career are passing her by. ( I've got a degree in history, and all I'm doing is changing diapers and listening to babbling. ) If both parents work or if a single parent is rearing a toddler, much of the work may need to be done at home after a full day working elsewhere.
Because so much is going on in your toddler's life, he needs meaningful attention and input from the most important people in his life. If you feel that you're just marking time, becoming demented, or enduring in a state of slave labor, consider the following anti-burnout ideas:
- There should be some time during your day when things become quiet. This usually can occur only after little people are in bed. You cannot collect your thoughts or anything else if kids are up until all hours of the night. Early bedtime for small children is not only good for them but necessary for you.
- Some of this quiet time should be real quiet time, designated for reflecting, reading, praying and journaling. A daily devotional will provide not only refreshment but perspective on how your parenting tasks fit into the big picture of who God is and what He's doing.
- Don't feel as if you are wasting your time and education to focus your primary attention on your children at this age. Believe it or not, the world isn't passing you by, and there will be plenty of time to make your mark in it later on. This doesn't mean you have to put your brain in neutral, however, or that all outside activities must come to a screeching halt.
- Try to remember that this particular period of your child's life is not only extremely important but, in fact, highly interesting. Many people take sophisticated classes and earn advanced degrees to understand what is unfolding in front of you every day. You can, in a very real sense, become a student of child development and the human condition in your own living room by being an observer as well as a caregiver. You may even want to consider doing some additional reading about this phase of your child's life. Take time for yourself. If you are a full-time parent at home, you will need regular time-outs not merely for errands but for personal refreshment. These might include exercise workouts, walking in the park, strolling through the mall or meeting a friend for lunch. Yes, you will need someone to watch your offspring while you do this, but it's worth the trouble and expense.
- Don't become starved for adult communication. When you reunite with your mate at the end of the workday, the first order of business should be some unhurried and attentive conversation between the two of you. Your child(ren) should see you do this and should be informed (as often as necessary) that this is your time together and their time will arrive shortly. Not only will this help maintain your marriage, but children who see their parents regularly connecting and showing affection will feel much more secure about the stability of their world.
- Married couples should also maintain their date night, once a week, if possible. Important news for fathers: Never stop courting your wife, especially now. Notes, flowers, and unexpected gifts speak volumes and breathe new life into your relationship.
- Build relationships with other parents who have young (or even older) children. Many parents meet regularly in small groups, whether assembled spontaneously or organized by their church.
Hundreds of local groups affiliated with MOPS Mothers of Preschoolers meet on a regular basis across the United States (and in a number of other countries as well), offering support, conversation, and pleasant activities for mothers and their small children. (For the location of a MOPS group in or near your community, call 1-800-691-8061.) Local crisis pregnancy centers often put together single-moms' groups and activities. In the setting of such a get-together, you can share wisdom and woes, find support and encouragement, release laughter and tears, and even receive exhortation, if necessary.
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Other Things to Consider
Relationships: Communication Gaps
Parenting Teens: Communication Problems