by Shannon Serpette
As parents, we’ve all had moments where we’ve needed help from the only people who can truly understand our dilemma – other parents.
I’ve had my share of moments where I’ve sent the Bat-Signal out to my fellow parents to signify that I needed help.
With two kids in sports who sometimes travel in opposite directions at the exact same time for games, I’ve frequently had to rely on other parents to drive my kids back from games or practices while I’ve sat at my other child’s games.
I’ve had medical emergencies and procedures where I couldn’t take my kids with me. In order to make it work, I’ve needed other parents to let my children stay at their house for an extended playdate that my friends probably thought would never end.
I’ve reached the end of my rope at times, and needed a brief break from seeing the faces that I love more than anything else in this world. It doesn’t mean I loved them any less than the day before – it just means I’m human, and sometimes we all need a helping hand, even if we don’t realize it.
Parenting can be overwhelming – your emotions are heightened; the stakes are high; and you are constantly needed. It can feel like you’ve given all you can give and that there’s nothing left in your tank. No wonder you sometimes need some reinforcements.
We’ve all been there. If you want to give your parenting friends a boost when they most need it, here are the warning signs they are on the verge of having a full-on adult meltdown.
- They have that caged animal look in their eyes: Even the most dedicated of parents will get this look from time to time. Parenting is all-encompassing and there’s usually no time or energy to spare tending to your own needs, even when you desperately need a break.
- They seem to have a shorter fuse than usual: Parenting meltdowns usually don’t happen because of one incident – they are usually the result of parents ignoring the warning signs for days, weeks or even months. Then one day, the slightest thing going wrong can be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.
- They have trouble keeping their schedule straight: If parents don’t know where they are supposed to be from one minute to the next, it likely means they are seriously overworked. They may be trying to cram too many activities in an already packed schedule, or maybe they are having trouble prioritizing all their activities.
- They can’t seem to tell anyone no: Sometimes the only people parents will say no to are themselves and their children. But when outsiders ask for time commitments from parents, they feel bad saying no. Whether it’s the parent-teacher organization, an elderly relative who needs help or another parent who needs a helping hand, many parents will give until they have nothing left to share.
When you notice a parent is having problems and seems like they are walking a little too close to that fine line between sanity or insanity, they need a break. Not every parent will ask for help because they’ll feel like a failure admitting that they need help as a parent. After all, we’re supposed to the strong ones, the ones with all the wisdom and answers to other people’s problems. But sometimes, we need enough wisdom to realize how badly we need a moment to ourselves.
If you see a parent who needs a break, remember it could one day be you. You might be the difference between that parent having an awful day or a terrific one. Just by offering a little bit of assistance, you could help a parent who is going through a difficult stretch and you may be helping their child as well.
Here are a few ways to help a fellow parent who is struggling:
- If you see a total stranger trying to appropriately handle a toddler meltdown in a grocery store, offer a smile and a word of encouragement to the parent. A simple “You’re doing a great job” will make them feel much better about their embarrassing situation. A quick reminder that we’ve all been there and that someday they’ll wish their child was this age again may help them through the notorious grocery store incidents we’ve all faced and dreaded as parents.
- If one of your child’s friends has just had a new baby, drop off a freezer meal for the family. Not having to make dinner will be a big help for your friend. You could also ask if you could take her child to your house for a playdate with your child. With a new baby in the house, your friend would probably appreciate getting to nap when her baby naps. Sometimes getting a little extra sleep can really cut down on the stress you can feel as a parent.
- Invite an overwhelmed parent out for a cup of coffee – she might just need someone to vent to and to realize that she isn’t the only parent out there who feels stretched to the max.
- Ask a frazzled parent if she wants to go for a walk or do some other form of exercise. If she’s feeling stressed, some physical activity will do her a world of good, even if it sounds like the last thing that she wants to do.
Whenever I see a parent who is weighed down by what seems like insurmountable responsibilities and obligations, I remember moments in my early parenting years where I felt like that too. Not everyone has family to rely on for a much-needed break like I did, so I try to help whenever I can.
I always think of that old proverb: It takes a village to raise a child. If we all chip in when we see another parent in distress, our whole world will be better off for it.