Everybody seems to hate January and I totally understand why: the overeating and overspending of the festive season have left us feeling fat and poor, just as we start stressing about school fees and going back to work.
But the sense of relief we all show on the 31st of the month is misplaced…because February is knocking on the door with all the stresses of January, but with the added expectation that you would surely have your life together by now. I mean, any decent adult would agree, right?
And so, you scramble to get some order and direction. You set up colour-coded calendars all over your house, download whatever new productivity app is most popular at the moment, and set up some fantastic goals for you and your family – like how early you all will leave the house in the mornings and how well you eat.
“When you drop a ball somewhere, take a breath, remember that you are human, and try again.”
This all works really well…for about a week. That’s when you forget to put something on the calendar, which means you now have less time than you expected, so you rush to get to the event on time, but now you don’t have enough time to cook the nutritious meal that you had planned so you just give in to the kids’ demands for fast food, which of course gives them a huge sugar spike, so they don’t sleep very well that night so everyone oversleeps the next day so you have to leave the house in a rush and so the downward spiral to insanity continues.
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If you read that last paragraph and started to feel your anxiety building up, then you know exactly what I’m talking about.
My best advice I can give you right now? Just…take a breath. And then another. And one more, really slowly, for good measure.
There is a hypothetical parent out there who can maintain the whole juggling act without faltering forever. It’s not impossible to do – everything has to fall into place perfectly and they never put a step out of line; it is technically possible to stay on the tight rope of parenting.
Hands up if this is your experience!
Didn’t think so. Every parent I have met goes through cycles, and the reason for that is simple: Parenting is messy, literally and figuratively. Everything involving people is, so for us to have an expectation that we can keep everything neat and tidy and in the right place is just ridiculous. At least, it’s ridiculous to think that you can run your ship that tightly forever.
Think about everything that you need to keep an even keel: loads of energy, lots of non-work time, good traffic, lots of help at home and children and partners who are always in a good mood. Even if you manage to keep everything you can control in check, what about the stuff you don’t control?
You could just give up. Yup, I said it. Give up. Let the laundry pile up, unfolded. Let the garden go brown and wild. Let the kids outgrow their clothes and the bills to go unpaid. Let your car never get serviced and your fridge always be empty. Never go on a date night with your partner and don’t attend PTAs. Just give up.
This would be a great strategy, if it wasn’t for the pesky fact that you love your family and want what’s best for them. So, what do you do? If planning doesn’t work and letting everything go to hell isn’t an option, what else is there?
Well, you could plan for failure.
Hold on, don’t leave! This actually does make sense, kind of. Here’s what you do: Make all the calendars and charts that you need and put all the strategies in place to keep the juggling act going, then do your best to keep it up for as long as possible.
Then, when you drop a ball somewhere, take a breath, remember that you are human, and try again. The real trick is not to get disheartened when this happens! I think if you can avoid beating yourself up and stressing when your plans don’t work out perfectly, you’ll stop a misstep from becoming that dreaded spiral.
And seriously, I think we underestimate what a few good breaths can do to help us along!
AfroDaddy, a.k.a. Terence Mentor, is a place for parents, especially dads, to come together and share in the “duality of parenting” – the fact that being a parent can be fantastic, wonderful and beautiful, while simultaneously being exhausting, frustrating and awful. A husband and father to two boys born 18 months apart, AfroDaddy shares his unique view and experiences, while opening himself to new experiences, learnings and people. You can find him at AfroDaddy.