by Pallas Hutchison
If you don’t have kids, I’d like to tell you that parenting is scary. I’m constantly second-guessing myself and comparing myself to other moms. Am I pushing the girls too hard in school? Am I over-scheduling or under-scheduling their week? Where are they developmentally and where are they supposed to be? What high school will provide them with the best education? How will I pay for college? Do they get enough social time, media time, homework time, exercise, one-on-one time…? The list goes on.
People who know me may be surprised by this. I get compliments on how well behaved my kids are all the time. Teachers gush over how helpful and kind they are. Friends who aren’t ‘kid people’ don’t mind babysitting. Acquaintances that we run into in public, like the waitress at our favorite restaurant, comment on how polite they are. My youngest actually received the “Good Citizenship Award” at her third grade graduation, an award that goes to one kid who displays exceptional helpfulness and kindness throughout their entire time in the school – in her case, K-3. That says something, right?
Positive reinforcement from all of these sources doesn’t stop me from stressing out. It takes a conscious effort to prevent somatization, which basically means that mental or emotional stress manifests itself as a physical symptom. For me, emotional stress settles in my shoulders and neck, making me stiff, sore and irritable. This in turns can inhibit my physical activities, which increases irritability, causing more pain and now there is a downward spiral. [The next blog will talk more about the pain cycle, with links to research.]
To live without pain, the cycle needs to break. To break the cycle, something needs to change. Accepting that I can’t change overnight is the first step. I won’t succeed if I expect instant results, basically setting myself up for failure. By setting realistic goals, I begin to reduce stress. With a goal in mind, my outlook becomes hopeful and I further remove myself from the pain cycle.
Things I’m actively working on to reduce my child-rearing stress:
Pain Cycle Image