There are few things in life that cause as much stress, worry, frustration and irritation as raising children. The days when they seem to constantly be fighting, whining or when their relentless needs and demands can seem endless. Parents pray for the hours before bedtime to pass with speed and usually find themselves falling asleep; worn out from mental exhaustion as quickly or even before the kids do. Those are the days when it seems that keeping your sanity while raising children seems impossible.
It may be that an important part of being a parent is learning to live without sanity. There are so many aspects of childhood and children’s behavior that seem to have no logical source or solution and the mischief and mayhem which accompanies a house filled with children is filled with senseless acts and irrational expectations. Many of these seem to be intended to try the patience of the parents; or to fulfill our own parent’s prophecy and wishes that we would end up having children just like we were. Once a parent is born so much understanding and insight into why our parents did and said the things they did is gained! Even so, there are many things that a parent can do to keep the internal balance and stability that their children seem intent on stealing at any moment.
For one thing; an important part of parenthood is learning to tune out many of the non-essential, unimportant and meaningless behavioral quirks of their children. Once you realize that they will grow out of it – it becomes much easier to quit putting so much energy into why your child bangs their head against the wall, or cries every time they hear an airplane overhead. It is rare that anything with childhood is permanent. You may be at the brink of insanity because your children seem to be in cahoots at 2am each night as they make their way into your bed to sleep and steal your covers. Lack of sleep can do funny things to a parent but soon; they will rarely if ever come into your room and you may miss these sleepless nights. Keep in mind that tuning out is much different than not listening. Tuning out means hearing the sibling fight and not feeling the need to intercede until that pivotal moment when you know someone is about to get hurt. Tuning out is cooking dinner and nodding in intervals while your 3 year old rambles endlessly asking you silly questions and pretending to be your mommy. She thinks you are listening but you are really thinking about having a bikini body and sitting on the beach with your husband again. Tuning out is sitting at your laptop surfing the web while cartoons are blaring in the background and tuning out is listening to the hysterical words and screams of your two year old (knowing they are just being brat) and feeling unphased and content to finish folding the laundry without exploding.’
Another way to keep your sanity while raising children is to try and spend as much time as possible with other adults. Sure, the kids can come along but having the camaraderie of adult companions who are all deprived of adult conversation can go a long way to making your feel better. Instead of going to the park alone or taking the kids to McDonalds by yourself where they are destined to drive you crazy on the car ride alone; enlist a relative or friend to go with you. The constant whines of the kids will seem like soft background noise against the common sense communication of another adult. Most parents who are driven to insanity rarely if ever get out of the house and when they finally do have lost the capacity to act normal in public. These parents can be spotted just about everywhere by the nervous ticks they have, the inability to lose their maternal tone, their constant access to germ-x and their haggard, unshowered appearance. Those folks have definitely lost their mind!
Another tip to holding on to the last shreds of insanity when the children seem determined to turn you into a wall climbing, Zoloft addicted maniac is to either change the scenery or introduce the kids to some body of water. For kids those are the two things that can instantaneously and completely turn around the attitudes of children in a hurry. Take them outside, to a park, for a walk or better fill up a pool with water, or allow them to run through a sprinkler. Sometimes just giving them the hose or a bowl of water and 2 paint brushes can be just the thing. Chances are when the children are at their worst; mom and dad are too! By using the outdoors or water; two of the most natural elements that children respond to they will calm down and you will relax. Within 30 minutes, you may even be counting your blessings, smiling and laughing again at the crazy antics of your children.
Keeping your sanity while raising children is often about redefining the word sanity. For childless people sanity means something completely different than it does to a parent. Sanity for a parent may be 2 minutes of quiet or the ability to pay a bill on time or even the chance to have a 5 minute conversation with a client without trying to muffle the screams of kids. Sanity means a bowl of popcorn and a really good Disney movie that has magically given you 55 minutes of peace. Sanity can also mean driving to the store to pick up a gallon of milk without the kids or using the bathroom without an audience. Sanity can be taking a shower without rushing to get it down because the baby might wake up and can mean 10 minutes of watching your children get a long for the first time all day. In so many respects there are hundreds of tiny moments throughout the day that can be sanity savers.
When none of those things work or when you truly feel like you are going to literally go crazy; call or visit that one person you know who has 4 kids that act like raving lunatics every day of their life. You know the one mother you try to avoid because her children are more annoying than yours, who is constantly engaging the children in useless, loud and irritating banter. Every one knows that one mother or father whose children are so chaotic and out of control that you wonder how in the world she survives a minute in her house. You hear them screaming long before they get out of the car, can tell the minute you walk in Wal-Mart if they are somewhere inside the store. Call that family, talk to that mother or father, spend 5 minutes with those kids and you will feel sane by comparison. This experience will not only help you keep your sanity while raising your children but may also invoke feelings of deep seeded gratitude and thanks that you have the family you have and drive home the idea that life at your house, with your kids is not so bad afterall!