What About Me? Stop Feeling Resentment Towards Your Kids With These Self-Care Tips

Photo by Ian Espinosa on Unsplash

This post may contain advertisements and/or links for products and services that I value. I offer recommendations to products and/or services that I find helpful in my own life as a mom. I may receive a commission based on viewer purchases or interactions with these ads. You will NOT be charged any extra money. All prices will stay the same for you whether your purchase items/services through links found on this site or not! 

Updated 2/11/2019

 

So, you’re a parent.

That probably means you haven’t had sleep, money, time, or energy for yourself in…. how old is your oldest? That many years. Plus about 9 months for the pregnancy.

That much dedication is draining.

It can zap our will to keep going.

woman laying on bed

Here’s the worst case scenario when this kind of draining lifestyle goes too far:

Parents who are too emotionally drained start wondering where they lost themselves to the demands of their children. Then they feel terrible, because what kind of a selfish person would take good care of themselves when their kids’ every whim goes unmet?

So they buckle down and make themselves focus on the kids even more. The feelings of wishing for something better keeps coming back, followed by the mommy- or daddy-guilt. This cycle eventually builds into resentment towards the child for keeping you from your hopes and dreams AND for keeping you in a constant state of guilt for not being the perfect parent. But the parent keeps trying to be a good parent.

They flip flop between resentment, which causes them to be impatient and harsh towards their children, and the guilt, which causes them to coddle and pamper their children in an attempt to fix the resentment with false love. The kids are confused because of this flip flopping and don’t know what to expect from mom or dad. This can cause the children to act out, which frustrates the parent.

The parent continues in a vicious spiral downward until they stop and fix the initial problem.

(By the way, I’m not dramatizing this. I’ve seen it in action and it’s a scary thing. It can cause child abuse, suicide, and other scary side effects when this cycle has taken its tole for an extended period of time.)

Please note- depression or anxiety disorders may need professional help of a doctor and/or counselor.  These steps should not take the place of professional help.

Free Self Care Guide 2

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And what is the problem?

We all need things. The basics include food, water, and shelter- you know, survival stuff.

But there are other needs that are just as important- like feeling emotionally connected with people, feeling sexually fulfilled, feeling safe, feeling competent, feeling proud of yourself, etc.

Click the image below!
Meet Maslow: How Understanding the Priorities of Those Around Us Can Lead To Harmony And Improvement

And every parent needs a reminder to take care of those things for themselves. And a reminder that taking care of themselves is not selfish.

I believe that every parent has felt twinges of resentment towards their children at times.

After all, they do keep us from doing things we want, and that’s not fun.

So here’s what I do when I start to notice the beginnings of resentment in my parenting. Act fast- Don’t let those feelings fester!

1) Don’t React

Like, you know, yelling or swearing or whatever other less-than-perfect discipline strategies I use when I respond without thinking.

That’s the first step for me- Don’t react.

If I do, I get myself and my kids deeper into a negative situation. Then, I have to deal with that before I can leave to take care of my own needs- which often means that I’m drained and resentful while trying to manage my way through a delicate parenting situation.

It just doesn’t work.

So the best situation is to wait to react. Then I don’t make things worse right when I really need a break the most.

Of course, this is so much easier said than done.

I usually realize that I have some unmet needs when I flip a lid for no good reason. Only then do I stop to ask myself, “What is really going on here?”

That’s when I realize how drained I am.

It’s not the best method, and I’m working on fixing it, but the silver lining is that I usually can stop myself from flipping a lid in the future once I’m aware of my own needs.

So one bad moment can prevent future bad moments.

2) Listen to Myself

A better solution is to be aware of my needs before I flip a lid.

I find that my body and mind give me clues to my own stability constantly- but they are easy to miss if I’m busy. These clues could be things like:

  • A headache

man covering his eye

  • Forgetting to eat or drink
  • Letting my kids get away with things that they usually wouldn’t get away with
  • Forgetfulness
  • Being late for things
  • Not putting effort into daily things- like getting dressed or putting on makeup
  • Short temper with my kids and my husband
  • Assuming that people around me have bad intentions in the things they do

Of course, not all of these things will apply to everyone, but these are some of the warning signs that tell me I’m forgetting to take care of myself.

If I can catch these things sooner, I can take action to fix the problem before I melt down.

When things get busy, it is hard to stop to evaluate yourself.

Self-evaluations can be difficult. People often don’t notice the effects of burnout in yourself until it’s done, even though there are warning signs. I often think to myself, “I can handle this. I can keep going.”

But that’s the problem. It’s like swimming out into the ocean. If I swim until I can’t swim any more, I will have no energy to get back to shore. I have to force myself to take a break before I am at the point where I can’t keep going.

For some great stress management tools, click the images below!

5-Minute Stress Managment: 7 Fast Acting Tension Killer Methods

The Magic of Happiness: How To Reduce Stress And Be Happy Every Day.: (How to be happy, Anti-stress picture book, Happiness, Positive Thinking, Stress Managment, Live stress-free, Overcome stress)

Pattern Coloring Book for Adults: Relax with this Calming, Stress Managment, Adult Coloring Book of Hand Drawn and Geometric Patterns (Adult Coloring Books) (Volume 3)

So, don’t be afraid to give yourself the relief you need early on. This will help prevent burnout rather than recovering from it.

3) Assess My Children’s Situation

This is the part of the process where you have to balance your responsibilities as a parent and your individuality as a human being.

That’s really tricky.

I have two rules of thumb about how to proceeded from here.

First rule- Once I have identified a need in myself, I next need to assess the severity of the need.

The ideal is that I would catch it soon so that I have a few days to find a good time for myself. If I can do that, I can take the steps I need to fix it. These could include:

  • Arranging a babysitter
  • Giving my husband a heads up that he might need to take the kids for an evening
  • Shopping for a treat
  • Finding quiet time after the kids are in bed
  • Arranging an outing

If I don’t catch it in time, I might only have hours or minutes to take care of myself before I have a freak out.

Second rule- Take care of the kids’ needs, not ALL their wants.

Click the image below!
Need It Or Want It? (Little World Social Studies)

Now is no time to be a super mom.

Now is time to simplify.

Again, this is balancing between parenting responsibilities and my own well being.

I can’t neglect the kids and I can’t neglect myself. So I have to figure out the difference between what HAS to happen and what COULD happen. I do a lot of extra things during the day that can be cut out during times of crisis. These might include:

  • Shopping (Usually there’s enough bits and pieces around the house to scrounge up a meal or having a few things in the freezer can save you on bad days.)
  • Cleaning (It can wait til tomorrow.)
  • Laundry (There’s always something to wear in the back of the closet.)
  • Dishes (That’s what paper plates are for!!)
  • Errands
  • Cooking (Cereal for dinner is just fine once and a while!)

Eliminating even one of these things might be enough to lighten the load.

There are things in my routine that I never will give up, even on hard days. You’ll have to make your own list of what is important to you and remember those essentials.

These are the only things I have to worry about during a crisis:

  • Hygiene for everyone (kids and myself)
  • School and homework
  • Meals (I mean that the kids won’t go hungry- but I still stand by my comment about cereal for dinner.)
  • Work (As in my work and my husband’s work- we still gotta have jobs to support our family!)
  • Safety

That’s it. Bare bones. These are the things we absolutely need to survive and retain our standing as responsible parents.

combat knife on tree trunk

It’s strangely relieving to simplify.

Just switching my focus is sometimes enough to give me the break I need. Just remembering that I don’t HAVE to do it all can give me the strength to do the essentials.

  • EXTREME Moments:

I want to take a minute to talk about those times when I only have hours or minutes to take care of myself or I’ll lose it.

There’s no time to plan a getaway.

And this usually happens in the thick of things, so the kids are usually right there and they need me.

And there is the problem. They need me, but I have nothing to give.

Stick to the same two rules- Assess the severity of your needs (we now know that this instance is very severe) and take care of the kids’ needs, not wants.

That means your kids’ needs within the next 10 minutes, which are usually very simple. They just need to be safe for 10 minutes. They don’t have to have their lunch in the next 10 minutes, so feel free to postpone eating. They don’t have to finish their homework in the next 10 minutes, so feel free to take a break from it.

Start there. Try to stay calm. Where is safe for them while you have some quiet time? What activities will keep them occupied so that you can get 5 minutes of peace?

man sitting on gray dock

This is where the good ol’ tactic of putting a movie on comes in handy. My kids don’t watch a lot of TV, so it holds their attention very well.

If you have a fenced backyard, you might send them outside.

Or maybe it’s best for them to go to their room for a while.

Whatever it is, simplify your mindset of what needs to happen. If you are at that point where you only have minutes, the only need that matters is that they stay safe for a sec.

That really frees up your options to meet your own needs. You can be a responsible parent and take care of yourself at the same time. There is no need to beat yourself up over 10 minutes of quiet in your room.

Besides the fact that you feel more rejuvenated after, you also set a good example for your child. They learned that when they are frustrated or overwhelmed, they can calmly take care of the necessities and then handle their own feelings in a safe and responsible way.

Children who know how to do this will become successful adults and model citizens.

4) Don’t Get Distracted

Be aware that your needs change every day, so a bubble bath isn’t going to fix the problem each time.

But it could be exactly what you need on some days!

Consider what you are craving at the moment. Here’s some of my favorites that fill my needs:

  • Eating a treat that I don’t usually get to enjoy
  • A cozy bath
  • A girl’s day with my best friends
  • A date night with my husband
  • Quiet time after the kids go to bed
  • A walk outside
  • Sitting around a campfire or being in nature
  • Getting dressed up and looking good
  • Having a clean house… or at least one clean room… even for 5 minutes
  • Going out to eat
  • Snuggling my husband
  • A warm cup of hot chocolate

Again, sometimes my needs are different so no single activity will solve all my problems. My poor husband often wants to help, but he can’t read my mind to know what to do for me.

I am in charge of communicating what I feel and what I need from him- in specific detail and in kind words.

I have made the mistake of asking him to pick up a treat, only to find that I wasn’t in the mood for what he brought home. It’s my job to make sure he knows if there is something specific I want or don’t want.

Don’t make the mistake of putting yourself off.

sleeping woman in train at daytime

Don’t swim until you’re exhausted- leave yourself energy to get back to shore. Don’t listen to that voice in your head that tells you that you’re fine right up until you’re not fine anymore.

You’re worth taking care of.

Really.

Besides, your well being directly affects your kids. See my post on Taking Care of Others When you Have Nothing Left to Give.

5) Don’t Forget your Significant Other

Although I am getting better at taking care of my own needs, I have to put extra effort into watching out for my husband.

grayscale photo of man and woman kissing each other

He has his own ups and downs in the parenting life and it’s my job to be a support to him when he needs a break, just like he supports me when I do.

So I’ve got to listen to him.

Not just his words, but I also watch him for signs that he might be getting burnt out. Some of my husband’s signs are the same as mine, such as irritability, but some are different.

  • Spending more time alone- like going outside or being on his phone
  • Comments about having a tough day at work- especially for several days in a row
  • Quiet, not talkative
  • Not laughing
  • Worries about money more than usual
  • Wants to buy things
  • Less interest in being healthy (poor diet and less exercise)

My husband’s warning signs are usually cured by some time away doing things he likes to do. Here are some things that usually fill my husband’s needs:

  • Fishing, camping, or other outdoors activities
  • Hanging out with the guys
  • Watching a movie (but not a chick flick- something he is excited about)
  • A good night’s sleep
  • A Saturday or a day off of work
  • A little lovin’ (Fun for me too!)
  • Date nights
  • Buying things like fishing gear
  • Going out to eat

It took some time and a lot of effort to learn these quirks about my husband, but I’m so glad I know them now!

Our life has been so much more balanced since we started being more aware of our individual needs and our needs as a couple. We look out for each other and give each other breaks OFTEN. We keep each other going. Our marriage is stronger and our kids are happier because we are happier. We are better parents.

black stacking stones on gray surface

I don’t always notice my husband’s burnout and he doesn’t always notice mine. We still have miscommunications about it. We still have to be patient with each other.

But things are better. We feel more balanced. We feel less strained.

It was so worth the effort to learn these things about my husband. If you have a partner, I strongly recommend this method!

 

Know that mommy/daddy guilt happens to every parent.

Catch it early and don’t let negative feelings fester.

Find out what you need as an individual and get those needs met. That will allow you to continue to have the strength to be a good parent over the long-term.

Sincerely,

Mrs. S

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Why Sacrificing Makes Parents Happier- And How You Can Be Happier Too

Photo by Sebastián León Prado on Unsplash

This post may contain advertisements and/or links for products and services that I value. I offer recommendations to products and/or services that I find helpful in my own life as a mom. I may receive a commission based on viewer purchases or interactions with these ads. You will NOT be charged any extra money. All prices will stay the same for you whether your purchase items/services through links found on this site or not! 

Updated: 2/8/2019

Stanford University conducted a longitudinal study to monitor children’s self-control and how it impacted them in later years as adults.

The study is referred to as the “Marshmallow Test”.

closeup photo of marshmallows on bowl

Here’s what they did:

  • 4 year old children were brought into a small room with only a table and a chair. They were given one marshmallow. The researcher promised them that they would be given a second marshmallow if they waited to eat the first marshmallow until the researcher returned.
  • Then the child was left alone with the marshmallow.
  • Some kids ate the marshmallow right away, unable or unwilling to wait for a few minutes for the second one.
  • Some kids were able to sacrifice temporarily by waiting the necessary time period in order to double the reward.
  • In watching the footage of this study, it is clear that ALL of the children struggle to wait. They frequently touch, lick, hold, and pick at the marshmallows. They hold their faces in their hands, try to look away, bounce up and down, and show many other physical signs of distress as they wait.
  • But, about 1/3 of the children are successful and receive two marshmallows.

Later in life, the researchers followed up to see how these kids turned out. Those who had enough self-control to wait for their marshmallows had many advantages in their life- higher SAT scores, less frustration, more focus, more decisiveness, better organizational skills, more confident, more self-reliant, etc.

Call it what you will- waiting, sacrifice, delaying gratification, working hard… The results are the same.

As parents, we are asked to sacrifice for our kids…. A lot. All the time.

Our kids’ needs and wants often come before our own.

  • We spend our money on the kids first- paying for soccer cleats, dance outfits, music lessons, etc.
  • We spend our gas on the kids first- driving to school, practices, games or performances, the store, friends’ houses, etc.
  • We spend our time on the kids first- helping with homework, going to their performances or games, and playing Chutes and Ladders.
  • We spend our energy on the kids first- worrying about how they are doing in school, planning their future, working multiple jobs to provide for them financially, and teaching them skills.
  • We even give our sleep up for our kids- waking up at night with the baby, calming a child who had a nightmare, and waking up early to get them ready for school.

I hear this question from parents frequently, and I’ve been surprised to find myself asking the same thing on tough days: “When is parenting (and all this sacrifice that comes with it) worth it?”

In other words, “When can I eat my marshmallow? Where’s my reward? How long do I have to wait?”

The ray of hope from this study is that the children who were able to wait had amazing positive qualities as a result of this one trait- the ability to wait. They didn’t benefit from actually getting what they wanted (the marshmallow) but from the waiting itself.

These are qualities that helped them in almost every other aspect of their life. They exceeded their peers in school, work, finances, relationships…. And yes, parenting.

closeup photography of woman smiling

All that came from the undergoing the process of waiting. And the ability to “wait well” rather than giving in to temptation early.

So maybe waiting- or making sacrifices- isn’t that bad.

Waiting is a learning process, like life’s version of going to school. Everyone has days when they don’t want to go to school, and that’s ok. Nobody wants to wait. Nobody wants to sacrifice. 

But the reward for waiting- especially waiting well- is way more than two marshmallows. It’s success across all areas of YOUR life- just like what those kids experienced!

That means better finances, better jobs, better family and home life, stronger friendships, less stress and frustration… FOR YOU!

What an amazing promise!

person writing dollar sign on sketch book

Here’s the other great thing about this study- They found that self-control doesn’t have to be innate within us.

We don’t have to be born with some amazing, natural talent for waiting or sacrificing.

Even the children who ate the marshmallow could practice and practice until they learned to wait. In fact, sometimes those children who had to work hard to learn this skill were better at waiting than the children who were innately good at it in the first place.

Here’s some tricks that those children used to learn to wait:

  • Children can be taught skills like using their imagination to decrease the temptation, such as imagining that the marshmallow is burnt. This makes temptation less appealing.
  • Or, children can use their imagination to entertain themselves during the wait, making the time pass more quickly. They can drum their fingers or sing a song. Anything to take their mind off the marshmallow.
  • Or, they can remind themselves that the reward is worth the wait. Picture the reward at the end to inspire yourself to keep waiting.

There are endless strategies that children- and adults!- can use to help themselves learn to sacrifice.

If this really works, I want to try it.

It helps to be aware of the kinds of temptations that come our way. There are two kinds of “marshmallows” that I encounter in my adult life.

1) Being Rewarded by Getting Something I Want

One of the hardest facts of adult life is that there are often no tangible rewards for our efforts.

woman sitting on gray concrete pavement near white metal railing at daytime

We bust our butts and nothing really happens. All the money we earn goes towards paying rent and basic groceries. It can be very frustrating!

But rewards don’t have to be tangible.

Thank goodness there is another way to reward yourself that’s all up to you. Anyone can feel this reward no matter their circumstance. At the end of the day, can you look back on your efforts with a feeling of pride? That’s rewarding yourself.

But it only works if you stop and notice your own progress. It takes conscious thought to look back on my day, pause to notice my accomplishments, and take in that pride. That’s rewarding.

The problem with this approach is that there are days when I forget to stop and make that conscious effort to reward myself.

If I forget to reward myself for several days or weeks on end, the stress accumulates and can lead to feeling burnt out.

2) Being Rewarded by Avoiding Pain or Stress Rather than Receiving Something Positive

This concept reminds me of a monkey trap. For those of you who have never trapped monkeys (actually, I haven’t either… but it’s still a great metaphor for life.  This method is discussed more here with slight variation), here’s how to do it.

monkey

Image from https://oneragamuffin.wordpress.com/2013/04/08/those-crazy-spider-monkeys/

Find a vase with a narrow neck- just barely wide enough for the monkey to slip its paw into. Fill the vase with rocks until it is too heavy for the monkey to lift.

Put some kind of food around the jar to bait the monkey. Add a few more pieces of food into the jar, just on top of the rocks.

When the monkey comes along, he will eat the food and soon discover the last bits inside the jar. He reaches in, grabs a fist full of food, but can’t pull his hand back out now that it is full of food.

All he has to do to be free is let go of the food and his hand will easily slide back out of the jar. But he won’t sacrifice what he has to avoid a bigger problem of being caught.

There are times in our lives when it is better to lose a small prize to avoid big pain.

man pressing his knee

I stress about meal times. I don’t want to prepare food, cook the food, set the table, and clean up after the meal. If I put a little work into preparing freezer meals, I can avoid the pain of cooking a meal from scratch after a long day at work. I’m rewarded by having a little less frustration in my life. 

I also work hard to avoid financial distress. I am rewarded by paying for my rent because I don’t get evicted.

I eat fewer carbs to avoid bad health. I’m rewarded with a slimmer figure and more energy.

I pack snacks in my purse before I go to Walmart to avoid a h-angry child. I’m rewarded with a calm child and a smooth shopping trip.

Again, these things are MUCH more rewarding when I stop to take notice of them. I can be so preoccupied with life that I don’t see the silver lining. What’s the cure? Gratitude!

Be grateful for the stress that you DON’T have. Be grateful for the time you SAVED! Be grateful for the things you HAVE paid for.

If we don’t stop to notice, what is all our hard work for anyways?? 

A few months ago, I hit a slump in rewarding myself. Here’s what it looks like when a person goes without reward for too long:

  • I didn’t felt motivated enough to put in work now so that I could avoid pain later.
  • It felt like I was stretching my physical and emotional limits just to get the necessities taken care of. But I wasn’t getting enough done to feel proud of what I had accomplished for the day.
  • No reward from getting something good…. No reward from avoiding something bad…. No rewards at all. 
  • It seemed like my to do list was just as extensive as it was when I woke up that morning. And I had less motivation to do anything the next day because all that effort didn’t seem worth anything.

(For more in depth look on how to increase your motivation, click the image below.)
The Motivation Myth: How High Achievers Really Set Themselves Up to Win

  • As my motivation spiraled downward, I tried to remedy this situation by giving myself a much needed break.
    • The weird thing was that it was never enough. I couldn’t get a long enough break in without being interrupted by a child in need or work or a dirty house. Each time my leisure time was cut short, I craved it more and more. I found an unexpected pattern- for a few weeks, I was getting more down time than I had in months, but I felt worse than I had in months.
    • I thought the leisure would fix my stresses, but it only amplified them by keeping me away from the necessary tasks to decrease my stress- like cleaning the house or going to work.
    • Besides that, I didn’t use my “me-time” wisely. Instead of thinking about all the things I was grateful for or feeling proud of my efforts, I focused on how upset I was. The more “me time” I took, the more unhappy I became.

And yet, I still wanted the leisure time. I was in a bad habit of having it and didn’t want to give it up- even just to switch back to healthy levels of leisure.

It was a depressing situation to be in.

But this study gave me hope, and so, I decided to conduct an experiment on myself.

Here was the big question: Can I teach myself to wait for my marshmallow?

green plant beside white desk

I stepped back to remember what is most important and determined to make the sacrifices I needed to get those things or become those things.

Obviously, my kids were top of the list. So I started acting like it.

I started sacrificing for my kids again. I put aside my “me time” to play with my kids, to get the shopping done, to help them with problems, to go to work, to clean the house, to cook food. You know, all that mom stuff.

And I set aside a healthy amount of time for myself at the end of the day, with a determination to make it a positive and healthy time to review my day. 

I loved my productive “me time” so much that I created a resource for all parents. Here’s a copy for you to enjoy! Just follow the link.

Free Self Care Guide 2

Click here to receive your FREE Parent’s Guide to Self-Care! 

The results were quick.

I felt happy and fulfilled in my life, especially as a parent.

I was so pleased with the results of this experiment that I decided to continue it for the long-term.

My hope with this experiment is beyond the checklist that I can get done every day. I want to develop some of the positive outcomes that the children in the marshmallow test had. I want to be self-reliant, organized, confident, smart, and financially successful. I want to be and feel in control of my life.

If you would like to join me in this challenge, please do so and share your successes and temporary setbacks in the comments below to help each other along!

Sincerely,

Mrs. S

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