Tips To Keep You Going!

Parenting is a lot of work! But to be the best parents we can be, we have to take time to nurture ourselves as the people we are outside of being Mom or Dad. Psychologist Rick Hanson, PhD, and acupuncturist & nutritionist Jan Hanson, MS, authors of Mother Nurture: A Mother's Guide to Health in Body, Mind, and Intimate Relationships, are here to help!
Rick Hanson, PhD and Jan Hanson, MS

The question
Click here for more Mother Nurture Sometimes I get so frazzled! Last Wednesday was the worst. Jordan, our three-year-old was sick, my husband was out of town and I had a big project at work. But it doesn't have to be anything that big. Just riding herd on Jordan, doing housework, dealing with work, and finding some time to be with my husband is enough. I feel like my nerves are all raw at the end of the day, so I'm more dragged out and snappish than I want to be.

Rick and Jan Hanson answer
My previous column and this one discuss the importance of comfort in the stressful life of a family: Comfort is compassionate, calming and regenerating, a cool hand on the forehead, a warm bath at the end of a day. The previous column considered empathy, acceptance, and gratitude. Let's look at some additional ways to comfort yourself, your spouse and your children.

So much of ordinary daily life as a family is jangling: children scream and cry and whine and pout, spouses grumble and bicker, phones ring, dogs bark, cars jostle in the daily commute, tempers flare, unexpected bad news comes in the mail and someone's at the door. One key to comfort is soothing. It's a wonderful word whose root meaning is truth. Wow!

We soothe a sore throat by sipping tea and honey; we soothe a child's owie by covering it with a bandage and lots of kisses; we soothe a spouse's frayed nerves with a warm look and a gentle touch. Soothing relieves the pain, mollifies hurt feelings, and helps the tense mind or heart unclench its fist.

How can you soothe yourself? Soothe your body with a minute of long slow breaths, a shower or bath or a nap. These do not need to take much time; it's amazing how quickly we can feel soothed again. Soothe your emotions with acceptance and forgiveness for yourself and others; imagine a warm, golden balm settling over your feelings, softening their edges, and gently carrying away distress. Soothe your mind by stepping back from arising thoughts and watching them as if you were in a movie theater; imagine that your thoughts have less weight than the shadows of birds on a pond; and you can shift your attention to something peaceful and positive.

Another aspect of comfort is encouragement. People encourage you by saying things like, "It will get better, he won't be two forever," or "I know you can do it" or "You're a great mom!" Encouragement means to give courage, and the origin of the word courage is to have heart. We are encouraged by things that give us heart, give us hope and keep us going.

What are the sources of encouragement in your life? What inspires you to stay on your course? Can you increase them? Can you let them know that you could use some encouragement? How can you encourage yourself? What gives you hope? What heartens you, gives you confidence as a parent and spouse?

In previous generations, support for making a family was woven into the fabric of daily life. Children were reared within a rich network of relatives, neighbors, older and younger children and other members of the village or tribe. Today, however, we must make deliberate efforts to create support for our family and ourselves as parents -- or there won't be much of it.

Support can be intangible or tangible. Intangible support comes as soothing, encouragement, and the other kinds of emotional care discussed throughout these two columns on comfort. Concrete support comes in the form of someone else walking the baby, doing a sinkful of dishes, driving the carpool, or paying the bills. Is there a specific thing that you could ask your spouse to take on, sometimes or regularly, that would be a real comfort to you? And within a wider circle, one of the nice things about the mothers' clubs that have sprouted up is the "in a pinch" role in which mothers lend each other a hand. Could you make arrangements with other parents, formally or informally, to give comfort by helping each other out?

Asking for support can make one feel needy, embarrassed, undeserving, guilty or ashamed. Previous experiences of being ignored or rejected when asking for something can make it even harder. If this applies to you, it can help to remember the ways that you have been strong and durable as a parent, and that you are in this pickle through a profound sacrifice of love to your children and family. You need the support of others to fulfill your commitments to your children and family, and I believe that spouses and the larger community of adults have an ethical duty to give you the support you deserve.

Priming the pump
Often it's the little things that make a great difference. Right now, as your read these words, is there a little something that would give you comfort? Perhaps it's as small as shifting a bit in your seat, or loosening a belt, or looking at a recent drawing by your child. The fruits of that little bit of comfort can give you the relief or the energy that enables you to do even more for yourself, which gives you more fuel, and a positive cycle is begun. You can do small favors for yourself.

For example, you might create little escapes from your burdens. Plan and schedule breaks and other forms of self-renewal. Arrange to take a bubble bath, read a book, or take a nap. What do you need: people, space, time alone? Sit in the sun, go to a mothers' meeting, listen to music, get a shoulder rub, look at the light on the leaves.

Looking outside yourself, is there is someone, something that could give you a little boost, enough to prime the pump? Who could come through for you right now, at least a little bit? Your own mother or dad? A sister or brother? A friend who is a bit further down the parenting road? If you regard yourself as asking for very little, that can make it easier to ask.

Your essential being
Perhaps the ultimate comfort is a deepening, often spiritual, sense of our own soul, our own innermost being. It can really help to turn more toward our essential being: always already aware, interested, loving, and happy -- in whatever form we experience it. It is comforting to take refuge in our essence in the tumult of family life.

What works for you to deepen a felt sense of your essential being? What comfort might you find there?

Tags: support

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