How much stress can today's parents take?

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Charlie Brooks

posted in Parenting

How much time do working parents spend with their child? A study published last year in the Journal of Marriage and Family suggests that it’s more than previous generations, but it still doesn’t feel like enough to me. Some days, it seems like I’m only around to send the kids to bed.

It gets worse when work-related stress follows me home. This boiled over for me last week when a combination of deadlines, work stress, and whininess from the kids finally pushed me into an angry outburst. Luckily, I stopped myself at, “Sweet holy fu—,” cutting off a key consonant.

But it doesn’t really matter if you barely manage to contain your profanity – the stress is easy to see. Kids can sense tension. No parent wants to spend the few hours they have with their kids in a gloomy, angry mood. Sometimes you need to leave the stress at work, no matter what.

Much easier said than done, of course. Very few people have the luxury of turning off stress, even when their problems are fairly trivial when viewed objectively. No matter who you are, there are going to be some days when your work-life balance is just out of whack.

That’s my view from the subjective perspective of an office-bound parent. Stay at home parents have a similar problem. Even though they spend more time with the kids, they’re working even harder during the course of a day. It can suck when caring for loved ones starts to feel like a chore.

As I mentioned above, parents spend more time now with their kids than they used to. But on the flip side, a report from the American Psychological Association indicates that younger Americans are more stressed now than older generations. With digital media and higher expectations, it’s hard for parents to catch a break these days.

Stress Relief

Without having the benefit of knowing everybody else’s situation, I can only offer a coping mechanism that usually works for me. My advice boils down to a few words from Cole Porter: Be a clown.

My idea of being a clown is perhaps a bit too literal. I juggle, perform magic tricks, and make balloon animals. You don’t have to perform circus tricks, though. Reading a funny story, telling a joke, or just playing the classic “got your nose” game can help provide fun memories.

You don’t have to clown around often, but taking some time to do something silly with your kids can ease some pressure. Even if it doesn’t get rid of it does form happy memories. In the end, kids remember those times well.

The other coping mechanism is probably more important, as it’s something everybody should always remember: it’s okay not to be perfect. Some days, the stress gets to you and you just can’t shake it off. It happens occasionally, and you just have to accept that. Sometimes making an effort is all you can do.

The bottom line for millennials seems to be that we’re more stressed out, but we also get to spend more time with our kids. Hey, at least we have that last part.

How do you cope with work-related and parenting stress?

Images by Nick Youngson, Alan Cleaver

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