Parenthood Requires True D.A.Dication
Recently, I have had the privilege of having my voice heard on a national level through various newspapers and radio shows. I have enjoyed raising awareness around the issues of food allergies, positive parenting/mental health and the importance of stay-at-home parents. However, when I was caught up arranging these appointments with the various media outlets, I noticed I was busier than ever.
I had to take stock for a moment and contemplate the fact that what I was trying to do was juggle these commitments with what is basically, a full time job. I told one radio presenter that I had the most ‘Wonderful Job in the World’ and at the exact same moment, live on National Radio, I was juggling a toddler in a high chair having an ice-cream at 10:30am and a dog that was picking up on my stress so started to pull my sock off my foot in frustration!
The truth is that I do have the most Wonderful job as the Stay-at-Home D.A.D to my beautiful daughter Sally but it is at the same time, a full time and demanding position. It is a role that requires a lot of energy, patience and pure ‘D.A.Dication’ as I like to call it. Never before have I been so dishevelled myself and I keep on viewing lots of my fellow Instagrammer stories encouraging me to consider my own need for ‘self-care’ and yet I am not heeding any of this advice. For some parents, their lives are such that they simply cannot find time for self-care and this certainly can have an impact on their mental health.
As a Psychiatric Nurse myself, I am fully aware that people do not like discussing their mental health but at the same time, we must all realise that every single person on this planet suffers mental health ‘issues’ on a daily basis. Some are obviously more profound than others but simply having a stressful day at the office or in the home can lead any ‘normal’ individual to seek other outlets to try to quell the rising feeling of frustration and stress within them. Some outlets are positive, like going for a run or sitting down for a cup of tea, a chat and a biscuit. Others are more damaging, like consuming alcohol and gambling.
The worst myth of all is that stay-at-home parents are not affected by these issues because they are not subjected to the average stresses of the working world. I would argue that overseeing the comings and goings of a toddler (multiple, if you have more than one) and possibly a few animals is equally, if not more stressful than most jobs. There are no tea breaks or lunches that give you that moment to re-group. Bathroom breaks often require a strict management schedule and can only be taken during ‘convenient’ times (when Donna has arrived home for lunch). To some extent, mornings are spent following a fluid restriction schedule. Tea (and all other diuretics) are out. Weetabix is definitely and categorically out. Espresso and high sodium foods are in. It’s down to a tee at this stage, or a lack of for that matter (excuse the pun).
There is absolutely no doubt that toddlers will wear you down and like the ‘Cobra Kai’ in the Karate Kid, they show ‘no mercy’, especially if they didn’t sleep well the night before and wake up narky! I often spend extraordinary amounts of time trying to present the most attractive looking plates of food only to witness them crashing down to the floor a split second later. I would then find myself down on my honkers like Daniel-son, doing the ‘wax-on, wax-off’, scrubbing our ultra-expensive and exclusive linoleum. I knew we should have opted for that hospital-grade wipeable Lino and not the pretty textured one that gathers all the food in its crevasses. That floor salesman spun us a yarn that day. An almighty yarn.
Don’t get me started on dogs and their eyes glaring at you begging you for a walk when you have literally just sat down because the toddler finally went down for their nap or their obsession with drinking a gallon of water after 10pm at night, causing them to consistently get up at 3am for their bathroom break. I suppose, in hindsight, I should have never invited Carlsson the Poodle into our bed back then when he was only 8 months old. I felt so sorry for him and his little post-surgery ‘cone’ around his head. Nowadays, I only get the corner of the bed and if I’m very lucky, a slither of the duvet. I have to sleep fully clothed just to keep warm. Socks and all. It’s no wonder my feet are so bald (those who follow my Instagram stories are aware of this unusual phenomenon).
Our modern society is thankfully focusing a lot more on openly talking about positive mental health. Strategies to look after ones mental health are readily available and are undoubtedly valuable. Working in Mental Health, I talk the talk by offering great advice such as getting enough rest, exercising regularly, engaging in relaxation exercises, meditating, doing creative tasks, limiting and managing stress. Fantastic in theory but unfortunately, not always the reality. Most of the time, I am unable to practice what I preach. This is not for want of trying, It’s simply not possible on a consistent basis. I do my best and that’s all I can do. It’s not perfect, that’s for sure, but its grand and that’s good enough. We read so many stories about perfect parenting. We see things on Facebook or Instagram about parents having ‘me time’, going to spas, massages, looking all relaxed and in control with slices of cucumbers all over their eyes. Perfection. Here I am, bags under my eyes, hair wild, beard even wilder, dressed in my finest attire… a tracksuit.
The point is….
“If the grass looks greener on the other side, it is probably astro-turf”