5 Tips for Managing Your Mental Health as a Working Parent
It’s no secret… Being a working parent is tough AF! ... and we haven't even begun to talk about being a working parent during a whole panasonic *ahem* I mean... pandemic. Sighhhhhhh
For Leroy and I, since Xaryah was born, it's been quite the whirlwind. Everyday we wake up early, prepare our meals for the day, prepare Xary for her day, get ourselves ready, face traffic to drop her off and to get to work, work whole day, face traffic back to Xary then home. From there, we go through the routine of feeding Xary her dinner, do her bedtime routine and get a few moments to ourselves before we’re completely burnt out and it’s time for our bed… Then the same cycle happens again the next day.
I can’t speak for Leroy but for me, this cycle has taken quite the toll on my mental health. I mean… I barely get time to play with my daughter on an evening, and even if by God's grace we do reach home a little early and I do get time with my baby girl, I’m usually too exhausted to keep up with her and her excitement at having time with her mommy.
My main aim with balancing my career, wifehood and motherhood is to remain mentally healthy while achieving all my goals. I need to feel mentally and emotionally healthy for myself, my relationships (both with family and friends), my career and most importantly, my child. When I rejoined the workforce after maternity leave, balancing everything seemed practically impossible... I mean, how do I give 100% of myself to everything? Since then, I’ve found a handful of activities (I will give the 5 most helpful ones) that have helped me with remaining a bit sane while I continuously adjust to the ever-changing demands of being a first-time working mother in the midst of a pandemic.
"Me" Time - As cliché as it sounds, "Me" time is a necessity when you're a working parent. I feel like this goes without saying but as a parent, it's very difficult to get alone time (even bathroom time has been difficult for me to get recently) - but if you can, at least once a week try to commit to some time where you do whatever you want. This can look like you reading a book for a half hour, working out for an hour, a solo spa date... anything that helps you recharge and reconnect with yourself. Yeah... I know sometimes it's daunting to ask for help (especially if it's not family) - that guilt tries to eat you alive sometimes - but sometimes we gotta put our big girl panties on and do it.
Positive Affirmations - Y'all know I love me some positive affirmations... or Momantras if you will *wink wink*. My favourite ones right now are "I am the best mother for my child", "I am whole. I lack nothing", "I am living in my purpose", " I am a master of multitasking", etc etc etc. I also like to reiterate my gratitude for everything I currently have and everything will receive in the future. My Momantras ground me and serve as a reminder that I am an amazing human being, deserving of all good things and greatness coming my way.
Assess your relationships - Nobody needs any negative Nancys or damning Daniels in their life. During my time home (particularly when I was on maternity leave and quarantine leave), I did a lot of assessing of the relationships in my life. I took note of those persons who are genuine in their relationships with me and those who are not. From paying attention to the persons in my life, I realized a lot of "friends" were either jealous of me, trying to compete with me or a little of both. Ever heard the saying "not every skin teeth is a smile"? It hurt (because I genuinely thought these people were my friends) but I did have to adjust myself and reduce the amount of access to my life that I gave to these people. Since I've pulled back from those persons, I've noticed that my energy has been a lot lighter and blessings have been overflowing (Thank God!). People's negative energy can transfer to you so pay attention to whom your energy increases and decreases around because that's the universe showing you who you should stray from or who you should stay around.
Meditation - Meditation can be a part of your "Me" time but I still put it separate because it's something that helps me quiet my mind. As you would know, I am a busy body. I'm never doing one thing at a time and because of this, before I fall asleep, my mind is usually busy running through different things that I have done during the day and also what I have planned for the next day. Meditation helps me settle my mind and quiet it down before I sleep... and it really doesn't take long! I try to meditate about 5 minutes (if so long) every night. No phone, no book... nothing. Just me and my thoughts.
Don't compare! - It's so easy to compare yourself (and your child) to other parents and their children, especially if you're a first-time parent. I had to intentionally delete the Baby Centre app and unsubscribe to their emails because their constant reminders about milestones your child should have reached at whatever age used to give me anxiety. I used to feel like a horrible mother because my child grew her teeth and started walking later than the average child - both things I have absolutely no control over. I would be in work googling what should I do to help her accelerate her progress thus far (yeah I had it bad). I had to take a beat and remind myself that I am doing the best that I can and be grateful for the support system I have so that even though I don't get to spend too much time with her on an evening, she is not lacking in any love whatsoever.
Additional tip: Have lots of sex! As I've said before, sex is not only for reproduction. It's also for recreation and rejuvenation. It helps you to relax, reduce stress levels, you sleep better so your brain is sharper, it's good for your heart... should I continue? During sex, your body releases endorphins and oxytocin which helps you feel good and happy... and who doesn't want that?!
From one working parent to another, these are useful tips I've used (almost every day) and learned from other working moms in hopes of maintaining a balanced and mentally healthy life. You can adopt any (or all) of these to help you as you maneuver life during a pandemic, because I know it ain't easy one bit! Feel free to add your own tips in the comments section as well!