Parenting is a demanding job. You often donít get breaks or sick days and are expected to work 24 hours, seven days a week. Many attachment parenting practices have children and parents in very close proximity to each other a great deal of the time. This can lead some mothers to feelings of being overwhelmed or smothered and can lead some to believe that maybe attachment parenting just ďisnít for them.Ē
If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed or burnt out by the demands of parenting, you are in great company! Many parents feel that way, regardless of their choice in parenting practices. It IS hard and you DO deserve a break, even if the realities of getting one are somewhat complicated.
The first thing I recommend to parents who may be feeling overwhelmed is to take stock of your cues. How do you know you are at the end of your rope? Be as specific as possible when answering this. Physically, are you experiencing headaches, neck aches, or other symptoms? Are you more irritable or moody lately? The key is to identify the signs that you are becoming overwhelmed so that you can recognize them as soon as they begin. This is likely not the first time you have felt this way, and it certainly wonít be the last. Donít beat yourself up over it! Use it as an opportunity to learn more about yourself, how to respond to stress, and how you can best cope with these feelings until they pass.
While seeking to identify you cues, you are modeling for your children a skill that is at the core of attachment parenting: attunement. While often attunement in attachment parenting terms means tuning into how your children are feeling or experiencing a moment, it is a skill that can be greatly beneficial to check in on your own feelings and well-being. Ultimately, the more you tune into yourself and your own needs, the more accessible you will be to meet the needs of your child. The more you tune into them and model to them how to check in with themselves, the less distressed they are likely to be later in life because you will have instilled in them a very valuable skill: self-regulation.
Many parents, mothers especially, feel guilty for taking time or space for themselves. One of the biggest myths of attachment parenting is that your kids need to always be in your arms or that their needs must always come first. That mentality will lead to burn out in almost any case. It is healthy for both you and your children to take breaks when you need them. By spotting your cues that you are becoming overwhelmed, you can then make arrangements or adjust your schedule in a way that you can take a break while the kids are being cared for by someone else. If you let fear or guilt lead you into thinking that you shouldnít take a break or that you donít deserve it, you are likely to feel worse over time and your relationship with your children is likely to suffer from it.
Yes, your children want to be with you, but I am certain they also want you to be happy and for you to be able to spend your time with them with a fresh mind and recharged batteries. Think about how you would like your children to treat themselves as adults. Treat yourself with the same loving care that you would hope they will have for themselves in the future. The way you behave is more likely to influence their future behavior than anything that you might say to them about how to care for themselves. In this sense, caring for yourself is never a selfish thing to do. It is important that you take the time to refill your cup so that you are able to pour out that love to others, and you are modeling healthy self-care and attunement skills in the process.