By: Jamie Perillo, LPC
Do you go to bed with anxiety, feel your chest tightening when you think of your family’s daily schedule? Do your muscles tense when you consider how you will get from work to your child’s bus stop in time to pick them up, gather the kids and give them their snacks, assess homework, pile them into the car for baseball, drum lessons, and girl scouts?More parents are reporting increased anxiety, depression, and an overall increase in stress. When, as a child and family therapist, I see parents for stress related issues I ask, “Who is your support network?”
Several generations ago parent’s lived in close knit communities or tribes, receiving readily available support from grandparents, relatives, or community members. Today due to technology, transportation, and the economy - parents often go it alone or with minimal supports.
In our westernized culture a sort of “Supermom” phenomena has developed. Parent’s often say they feel they need to be able to do it all, do it well, and do it alone or they are not good parents. They show feelings of inadequacy or failure if they need to ask for help. Yet the very nature of being human is our ability and need to connect with others.
A lack of support and false idea that being a good parent means being able to do it all alone is extremely stressful. You don’t have to do it alone. Whatever the source, support is an essential component of being a parent and being human.How Do You Get Support?
There are two types of support needs: physical and emotional. Phyiscal needs are daily activity supports. First, assess your current supports – where do you feel you would benefit from some extra help? Start your own Mommy or Daddy team by reaching out to others. You can fashion your team by joining a parents ‘support group, play group, or creating your own book group. Instead of dropping your child off at practice, reach out and talk to other parents – perhaps start a carpool with a parent nearby or take turns making community dinners where each parent brings a dish to trade off on days your child has games, reducing the stress when you return home. Find dependable and available sitters or offer to swap days with another parent for caretakingPerhaps your daily routine has a good rhythm but you need emotional support - someone to vent to or a friend to laugh with. Gather your team. Use your reliable sitter or friend who will care for your kids so you can have some “you” time. Start a “Mommies night,” join a basketball league, have date night with your spouse, or search your local adult education program for an activity that will interest you. Join a monthly parent’s support group, seek a reputable online parenting forum, or find support with a professional for your emotional needs.
Next, designate the level of support from each “team member.” Think of your team as a bullseye – your center target consist of your closest and most dependable supports then moves outwards. Some will be priority players and some may be backups. There are friends you know you can count on who are team players, providing a healthy balance of give and take. Other friends you might contact and hear from a week or month later. They may still be good friends, and a good laugh, but perhaps not the team members to use in a bind. Then there are the people in life – I’m sure you know one or two – which you want in your life, but they are unreliable for physical or emotional support. You don’t have to kick them off the team, just be mindful of where they stand, so you are not disappointed. Remember you are the captain – you can hire and fire team members as you choose.Once you have your team in place, practice seeking out different members for different types of support. As you do you will notice a change in your stress level, and perhaps even in your anxiety or mood. Your kids will notice too. Another benefit of actively seeking support - you are teaching your children to do the same.