I’m a mom with a young kid who hasn’t been well for over a month. It’s nothing serious, thank goodness, but it’s painful at various points in the day, causing us ALL to lose sleep (yaawwwwwn) and of course I hate that I can’t do anything to make it better. I want to be there for my kid, and I have discovered stores of patience I never thought I had, but I have a super clingy and needy kid on my hands who I am the primary parent for, 24-7. I have a spouse, but work is insane, so I don’t have much help in that regard right now. With schools being out and even schoolwork requiring my supervision, I don’t have time for me. Because I need to sleep with my kid these days, because of the illness, it’s not like I can do stuff after the lights are out. I want to be productive in my work life, but I have to squeeze in things where I can (hello electronic babysitter, you old friend) and I have zero time to expand and grow, just when I was building momentum. On one hand I feel guilty for wanting the time to myself (though rationally I know I shouldn’t) and on the other I’m screaming silently inside because I NEED A BREAK!
Do you have any advice for me? Or just a commiserating word to help me deal with my difficult situation right now? (Oh, and the illness is not going to go away anytime soon.)
Thanks in advance,
Dark Circle Dolly
Dear Dark Circle Dolly,
First and foremost, I am so happy to hear that your little one’s illness is nothing serious. I feel for you because it seems all you can offer your child (in this regard), is pain management versus alleviating all semblance of pain and discomfort. The latter of which I am sure you and every mom would gladly do without giving it a second thought. It’s difficult to watch anyone we love suffer. The stakes are even higher, and the heart hurts more intensely when it’s a child who is suffering in any capacity.
Without knowing the full details of your little one’s health challenge, I think you have a lot more options than you are aware of. The “secret sauce” of child-care providers and the school system (public or private), is a regimented (weekday) schedule. Early childhood care providers can attest to how adaptable even the youngest children are to adhering to the concept of time, or a routine. For example, there is story time, nap time, and lunch time, etc., which is repeated daily, or on a consistent schedule. That said, I recommend adopting a weekday routine that mirrors (even if it is loosely based), on what your child is accustomed to during the average school day. You can even Google some age-appropriate curriculums or activity ideas that works best for you and your child. Maintaining some form of a consistent routine will help your child once they are able to return to school, and it helps your child’s time spent with the amazing electronic babysitter be more productive.
But wait…there’s more!
While your child is busy e-learning, this grants you (wait for it…) a few moments to yourself. *Queue sounds of angels singing while playing harps. * If your child is old enough to work somewhat independently, I encourage you to allow them to do so. Of course, you will be there for guidance and to monitor their activities, however (and just like in school), the child is expected to work independently on certain exercises. Which frees you up to make lunch, prepare snacks, and even get dinner started. All in the name of helping you carve out well-deserved time for you, even if you have to piecemeal your way to finding this precious commodity initially. And speaking of lunch, please do schedule a lunch period during the weekday for you and your child. It doesn’t need to be anything elaborate or fancy-just a structured meal time where the child gets to enjoy their food uninterrupted, and you get a moment to enjoy personal time, care, and nutrition. If your child is under four or five-years-old, maybe a nap is incorporated into lunch time. The bottom line, the time is already there. It’s now about using time differently to accommodate your personal situation and needs. It’s also about making sure time works for you rather than against you.
You mentioned that your child is “super clingy” and often sleeps with you because of the illness. Are you receptive to modifying this bedtime arrangement? If so, I recommend putting your child to bed in their room as often as possible. Given that the child is accustomed to you being there prior to sleep, perhaps you hang out for story time, and afterwards make yourself comfortable until your child falls asleep. Once asleep, you can now retreat to your room or favorite space in the house to have some personal time before bed. I’m sure it’s more convenient or even practical to allow the little one to sleep with you, versus you having to go and see what’s wrong if something arises during the night. As the child gets older however, you both will need your privacy, so why not consider introducing or reintroducing this level of independence now, if this is an option?
Children are very resilient as they are smart. Just like parents have intuition, I believe that children have a similar intuition when it comes to their parents’ needs. Some children appear to be clingy, or display signs of (or similar to) separation anxiety because they rely on mom or dad for comfort. There are some instances however, when the child realizes that mom or dad needs a similar level of comfort from the child. At which point some children learn at a very young age how to take care of, or even pacify the parent on some level. The easiest way to assess if this is true for you or your child, is to gauge how well the child gets along when you or dad is not around. Does the child express that they miss you, but manages to carry on normally? Or, is the babysitter, or temporary caregiver riding like the wind (with a police escort), because the child is too upset and needs to return home-STAT?
That part of yourself which is screaming at you for a much a needed break is spot on. I encourage you to make time for yourself to grow and expand for the sake of your family, and for you. Especially considering that you’re the 24/7 parent right now. From what you have shared, you have nothing to feel guilty about. You are doing the best you can given your circumstances. Which is all anyone (including you) should reasonably expect. As a parent, you’re always teaching your children. Using this example, you are showing your child how to matter. By modeling self-care, the child learns that everyone is permitted to have a form of “me” time. That goes for them, dad, and yes, even mom.
You are also entitled to a break, so give yourself permission to take one often. Something as little as 15 or 30-minutes at a time (daily) will add up exponentially, thus creating the opportunity for you to be rewarded handsomely by way of increased productivity, creativity, and overall happiness. You have the right to use time for your benefit as much as everyone else’s. I hope your child’s health improves soon.
It’s time to say good-bye to those dark circles once and for all, Dolly!
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