Recently I had the worst two weeks of my entire life. Yes, I’m being vague. No, I’m not going to tell you what’s been going on. It’s personal and private and It’s going to stay that way. BUT, suffice it to say I had literally NOTHING to give to my kids this past couple of weeks. Can you relate? Have you ever been so consumed with something that you are utterly and completely emotionally, physically, and mentally drained and you have no energy whatsoever to devote to parenting at all? I’m sure most of us has felt this way at some point. Or maybe for you it was sickness, surgery, depression, anxiety, “morning” sickness all day long while you have a toddler to take care of, or some other trial that makes parenting totally impossible. The fact is, sometimes parenting when you have absolutely nothing to give is a reality.
So how do you get through it? How do you parent when you have absolutely nothing to give?
Like nothing. At all.
I prayed hard. Harder than I have in my life. Sometimes for specific things, and sometimes for nothing more than “help me.” Just send your pleas for help out into the cosmos. It can be extremely therapeutic, and sometimes brings a little bit of a sense of peace.
You ask (beg?) for help.
I went WAY out of my comfort zone to rely on some of the people who offered me help. Of course people always say, “let me know if I can help you with anything!” and you appreciate the sentiment, but know they are just as busy and frazzled as you are so you never take them up on it. Well, this time I did. Many times. I got my in-laws to baby sit more times than was reasonable, I asked a friend to watch my kids for WAY longer than was typical so I could go to the temple, and I asked someone I usually wouldn’t have asked to take care of the kiddos while I did something completely selfish and just for me. But these things honestly helped me survive the past two weeks. I couldn’t have done it without them.
You talk to someone.
I was lamenting the fact that I needed SOMEONE to confide in, even though I don’t really have any friends that are THAT kind of friends. Don’t get me wrong, I have a ton of really good friends who I hold dear. But I never call them to vent or anything and I just didn’t want to call any of them up out of the blue to dump on them the deepest emotions of my heart. But that’s exactly what I needed to do. So I called up a friend and vented to her the deepest emotions of my heart. She, of course didn’t mind at all and was totally supportive and it turned out to be incredibly cathartic.
You take a break from life.
It’s OK to take it easy. To let a few things go. I didn’t go to all of church, even though I could (should?) have. I didn’t blog at all. I didn’t really do any of the normal stuff I do. I just couldn’t even. And that’s OK. I couldn’t give my kids much attanetion, but they had fun playing at friends’ houses. They were taken care of. It was all OK.
You throw yourself into whatever you can actually stand doing.
Anyone who knows me, knows I ain’t no domestic goddess. I hate to clean and my house is often a mess. Well, not this week. It’s the cleanest it’s ever been. My mind is so consumed with painful thoughts that all I can do is clean. It’s a menial task that doesn’t require me to use the few functioning brain cells I have left. It gives me purpose and keeps me busy. It gives me something to think about that doesn’t make me crazy. So my closet is organized, old clothes are at Goodwill, the dishes are done, the laundry is folded, and the counters are spotless. For once.
You slowly try to go back to normal.
A few days later I started to write. I decided I was ready to do something that always brings me joy, and I finally had the brain functioning to write without being completely distracted. Hopefully I will be able to do more and more, and have more energy and brainpower to give my kids.
Know that kids are resilient.
They’re not just resilient, but I really think they need less from us than we think sometimes. The older kids have been just fine microwaving leftovers for lunch. It’s OK if I’m not the fun mom entertaining them all the time. They can be bored enough to think up their own games. Netflix is not the devil. If they spend a little too much time with technology right now it’s not the end of the world. They can survive this too.
Most of this article focuses on how to survive a bad week, not how to be a great parent when you’re having a bad week. That’s because when you have nothing left to give, it’s OK to give less. It’s OK for your Best Parenting Self to take a back seat to Survival Mode Self. Your kids won’t die, your friends who help you out won’t hate you, and you can nurture yourself for a bit while you slowly get back to normal. You can do this. If I can, you can too.