It is affirming to see some fathers pushing baby prams and taking parental leave. My Dad never saw the inside of a poopy diaper. By my generation childcare was starting to go in a gender equal direction. Now, I see my children parent with even more equity. Yet, I also see family stress spinning in their homes. The load they carry is often heavy and overwhelming.
Mothers, fathers and families are not meant to raise their children on their own. Many cultures, past and present, surround families with care and guidance. In the Sudan and Kenya, the midwife becomes like a second mother. When I was born, my aunts and grandmothers took over many of my mother’s chores and remained entwined in my life until I left the farm.
When any of the children needed a kind ear, we rode our bikes to grandmother’s house . . . and there were no big bad wolves along the way. Grandma always provided a safe place and time to truly be present with us. Her emotional support eased the stress on our family.
Today’s Family Stress
Now, we see grandmas behind the cash register at Tim Horton’s or the bank manager’s desk. The reality is that grandparents are often establishing new careers, taking university classes, traveling or living several provinces or states away. Still, families need a support circle that provides non-judgmental encouragement, nurturing, and empowers parents to feel powerful and competent. Hillary Clinton describes this need in her book, It Takes A Village.
“Children exist in the world as well as in the family. From the moment they are born, they depend on a host of other grown-ups—grandparents, neighbors, teachers, ministers, employers, political leaders, and untold others who touch their lives directly and indirectly… Each of us plays a part in every child’s life. It takes a village to raise a child.”
Everyday duties and demands can become exasperating with no one immediately available to share the load. Too often, single parents struggle. They are often responsible for bringing in the primary income while feeling inadequate and alone. Plus, they can easily feel guilty for not feeling tired and not giving their children their all. With so many demands, they can easily become isolated.
Here are some ideas for you if you are a single parent, co-parenting, or are in a committed coupleship raising a family.
Ten Ways to Ease Family Stress
- Take what parental leave is available to you.
- If you are nursing your baby, get support from La Leche League.
- If family is unavailable for regular support, adopt an aunt, uncle or grandparent from your neighborhood or place of worship.
- Have potluck meals or fun outings with other families.
- If you are solo parenting, consider applying for a Big Sister or Big Brother.
- Become a team player with your child’s day care workers and teachers.
- Keep your career eye open for child friendly organizations where the hours are flexible and/or day care is onsite.
- Keep self-care on the front burner. Your children will benefit from quality time with you. What is the worth of quantity time of a worn-out, disgruntled, or stressed-out parent? Not much and you are more vulnerable to speaking or acting in a wounding way.
- Create a community that supports rather than stresses your family. If carpooling rides to the office or scheduling children’s activities becomes too challenging, give yourself permission to make alternate plans.
- It is OK to say “no” to what does not work or serve you or the family. Be kind to yourself and your children.
Family stress is inevitable but overwhelm is not. Put some of these ideas into action to help you and your family thrive.
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Patricia Morgan MA CCC helps her readers, clients, and audiences lighten their load, brighten their outlook, and strengthen their resilience. To go from woe to WOW call 403.242.7796 or email a request.