When it comes to parenting your little ones, life can sometimes feel a bit monotonous. You may feel that all your day consists of is - feeding, winding, changing and settling. Oh, and a bit of housework thrown in for good measure!
Although consistency can be a great thing, for many, the “same-same” each day can make parenting feel a bit like ‘groundhog’ day. In turn, this can cause parents to feel a bit flat or unmotivated and the predictable pattern of living can start to feel suffocating.
What often exacerbates this is that for the first year in particular, it can feel like the only focus is on SLEEP - including how to get your baby to sleep, and keep them that way. And, if the focus is not on sleeping, then it is on feeding and winding. As a result, it can feel like all the joy has been taken out of parenting.
However, parenting should not always feel like “hard work”. There is so much joy and fun to be had as a parent, it is just about learning how to find it. Particularly in those earlier days where life can feel a wee bit chaotic. Below are some simple suggestions for how you can bring the joy back in to your parenting:
Take a balanced approach to your routine
Routines, in my opinion, are a fantastic way to give your day structure and help to promote good feeding and sleeping. As a mother who had three babies aged two and under, having a routine was the only way to survive!
The trick to routines of course is consistency, so your baby/babies can get into a good rhythm of feeding and sleeping. However, it is important to take a balanced approach to this. Once a routine is established, it is okay to “break-free” from time to time. It is okay to have your baby sleep on the move - such as in the car and pram. It is okay to occasionally have the routine run a bit differently.
Do not hold on so tight to your routine that it forces you to stay at home all day, every day. Balance is everything, and nothing bad is going to happen if you have a few days where things look a bit different. Especially if doing things differently means that you are able to get out and about and enjoy doing something different!
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Plan a few activities each week
It is a great idea to plan a few activities each week that you are going to look forward to. Variation is key to creating balance across the week, and can help to break that feeling of ‘monotony’. The trick here is to keep the activities simple.
Activities could simply be walking with a friend to get a coffee, going to visit family or friends, or even just going to the shops. It can help to plan these activities for your baby's “awake time”, but remember, it is okay too if they sleep in the pram or car as you head to these activities, or come home from them. Allow flexibility in your week!
Do something for you each day
It is so hard to find “me time” when you have a baby, but if you can, I really encourage you to carve out a small amount of alone time each day - a time where you can get a break from the routine and focus on yourself. As always, keep it simple and easy.
Me-time could simply be sitting outside in the sun and having a coffee, having a bath at night, or spending 10-minutes reading a good book. It can help to lose the phone as well, so often we spend mindless time scrolling through social media when we can be using that time for something more rewarding.
One thing that Covid-19 has taught us is that we are capable of doing things differently. Technology has meant that we can do more online, and connect more easily with others. So use these changes to your advantage! If you find it too hard to get out at night, organise “online drinks” with friends, or even a Zoom-pub quiz! There are some creative ways that you can add in variation, all from the couch. When activities are easy to add in, we are far more likely to do them.
Consider joining some baby-classes/groups
Consider looking into baby classes or groups that are held within your community. If they are safely operating, I would highly encourage you to join them. These groups are wonderful ways to connect with other parents, and enjoy some fun with your little one.
A word of advice from Little Ones’ sleep consultants though - try to avoid classes or groups that clash with your baby’s lunch nap. Aim for morning or afternoon classes where you can, as these will be easier to fit around your baby’s naps.
Get out and move each day
I cannot stress just how important movement and exercise is. Exercise is one of the best ways to release serotonin - which is our feel-good hormone. Exercise also provides us with an opportunity to get amongst nature, get fresh-air, and have a change of scene. It is one of the best things that we can do for ourselves each day to break free from the monotony of home. Remember, it is just about getting out and moving - you don’t need to go for an intense gym workout to get that serotonin hit!
Keep up the date-nights with your partner
Relationships often take a back seat when you have a baby, but stealing small amounts of time to work on your relationship or have a date is really important. Again, think about how you can creatively achieve this. A nice dinner at home is totally fine! As is a quick coffee date in the morning. Keeping up the dating is a great way to keep things varied, and of course, fun!
There is no disputing that parenting is tough, and some days are going to feel harder than others. At times it can feel incredibly isolating and lonely. However, there is still so much you can do to keep things fun and upbeat. It is about planning ahead, being creative, and keeping things simple. However you wish to achieve it, the aim is to try and do things differently where you can - and the JOY of parenting will certainly follow.