Take A Moment to Breathe: Helpful Tips for Exhausted Parents and Overworked Nannys

The boiling water is overflowing on the stove, one of the kids is screaming in the other room, the garbage stinks to high heaven, the dog just took a piss on floor, the other two are pulling each others hair and going at it, you can’t hear a word the person is saying on the other line while you are trying to set up a play date and you just stepped on a loose Lego piece! OW!

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It sounds like you need a break. In the busy world of parents, nannys and caretakers, they can be far and few between, so take a breather instead.

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Sometimes, the number one thing we forget when taking care of someone else is taking care of ourselves. Taking care of another person can be a lot of work and if we take our job seriously we want to do this to the best of our ability. A great way to accomplish this is by remembering to take care of ourselves first! This doesn’t mean let a dirty diaper sit for 3 days on end or let every dish in the house pile up until we can’t see the faucet (i said faucet, not drain!) but it means prioritizing and rearranging the flow and structure of the environment to better fit everyone’s needs and if possible, some of their wants.

I don’t have any children of my own yet, but as a nanny I had the unique opportunity of providing comfort, care and support to children while not having a biological tie to them which allowed me to observe and structure things differently.

Related imageWe want to be the best parents and caretakers we can possibly be. When I was a nanny for two boys, one 3 years old and the other 7 years old, there was a lot to take care of and I only had 3 hours with the youngest and about 1 to 2 hours with the oldest a day. However, I had to pack a whole lot into that short time spent to meet the parents expectations. Additionally, all of the household tasks and errands that were asked of me prior to seeing the boys later in the day, which could be pretty overwhelming sometimes. It being my paid job I didn’t necessarily have the luxury of not completing what was expected to be done without a possible serious drawback.

So what did I do? Well, after some trial and error, I decided that I was going to do what I could to the best of my ability while still taking breathers in between. My main priority was always the children which included the nurturing of myself so before I saw the boys later that day, I focused on them when they got home while making sure to combine our flow. I did this in what i felt was the same way any parent would, because for me, this wasn’t just a paycheck these were other peoples lives, including my own.

Making lists and dividing up my time helped but I knew certain tasks were just not as pressing as others. For example, maybe there is a ton of laundry all of the time – well, throw in a load and then go work on something else or go take a bubble bath! If the little ones are home for the day – make sure everyone is fed, clean diapers and something to preoccupy themselves – this doesn’t mean I just plopped them in front of the television but some days you gotta do that and if that happens more often than you’d like, find something that mixes interests – educational with entertaining? YES!

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If there is laundry in the dryer and you don’t have the time or energy to fold it, leave it in there! You can reset the dryer to wrinkle-free or reheat the clothes the next day before you decide to fold.

Plan your meals before the week begins – maybe save something a little bit more creative or time consuming for a day with less on your duty plate and always have your go-to backups because let’s face it, you could make an award winning casserole with 3 side dishes and two desserts and they still want dinosaur shaped chicken nuggets for dinner and a Popsicle for dessert.

I recall actually forgetting to eat because I had so much on my mind and so many tasks to accomplish. Imagine making meals fit for at least 8 hungry mouths and never taking a bite of what you cooked? Even if that phone is ringing off the hook, the laundry buzzer is going off or one of the kids is screaming about a spider in the shower, sit down and eat if you are hungry, take a bath if you need to get clean or have a glass of wine if you want to relax.

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Some kids need to unwind for a bit after a long structured day in school while others need to stay in that structured mindset, if your kid comes home everyday and runs around like a maniac even though you’ve told them about a 100 times to do their homework, find a way to steer that energy into something productive that keeps their minds active – a great activity I did with my 7 year old is paint together (along with his 3 year old brother) or come up with a cool craft to do before homework so that they could channel some of that pent up energy and maybe find a new hobby or interest as a result. This was a fun and relaxing time for all of us.

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I understand it can be challenging some days, especially if you put a lot of pressure on yourself or have a very demanding family.  I’ll admit there were days when things got too overwhelming I  would sneak into the bathroom to cry for a few minutes even if I could hear them pulling each others hair in the other room.

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We all need basic essentials like food, water and shelter. Those things can be taken care of, when a child is old enough by themselves. Trust them to get their own water, grab their own snack and allow them to do so. Guide them in the right direction but also don’t consistently not get them what they ask for as a means to teach them. It helps to explain why you can’t do it but sometimes no explanation is needed, sometimes you don’t have time to explain or sometimes your reason is that you are very tired. Being tired or wanting to take a moment to yourself is an okay reason to not do something.

Be honest, open and direct. If they trust you, chances are they trust you have a good reason for doing or not doing what it is you do or do not do for them. If they are upset or angry about it, it is always good to ask them why but if they won’t communicate with you, then don’t force the matter, do exactly what it is you were going to do. Remember, it is okay to say “No.”

A double bonus to that practice is by allowing them to take initiative for their own needs and wants, it can help to empower them plus give you a a break in the meantime. As I said before, not doing something for them if you have the ability to do so doesn’t make you a bad parent or nanny especially if the reason behind it is stemming from a place of self love.

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Okay, okay, so my point is – life is ever-changing, free flowing and a lot of times completely spontaneous and unpredictable. You don’t know when you or your little one is going to get some awful stomach virus and be bed ridden for a week, you don’t know if your kid is going to be a sports athlete or have two left feet, you don’t know if your kid is going to love playing Pokemon, reading science fiction or running around in their underwear! Balance doesn’t necessarily come from structure, balance for your health and well being as well as for the ones in your life you love and care for comes from harmonizing with one another and combining interests and sharing experiences.

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Your children are like adults only smaller and with less time under their belt. Everyone needs to feel supported, whether you are a child or an adult. If you can take care of yourself in a way that isn’t selfish but is self nurturing and self caring while at the same time allowing your children to think for themselves and care for themselves through support, love and trust – with guidance and help along the way, you will be able to take a real breather, meaning you will feel at peace during those moments when the whole world feels like its falling a part around you.

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