Life as a working parent can be so hard! I’m a teacher and I love what I do, but around springtime the stress starts piling up: spring progress report cards are due, kids need to be prepped for yearly state tests, fatigue from lesson planning all year starts to set in and it gets increasingly difficult to hold student’s attention once summer is just around the corner! Add in the daily grind of dishes, laundry, caring for a young child and just trying to maintain a house and it can be a stressful time of year.
Last year around this time my stress level was at an all-time high. I was experiencing the stressful teaching season and my daughter had decided to just stop sleeping for some reason. To say I was running on fumes is an understatement. I needed to take care of myself, I needed to sit down and take a nap or have a few quiet minutes to myself. Like many working parents, I did not do any of that- I just increased my coffee intake and kept moving.
One early morning, around 2 am I (finally) got my daughter to sleep and noticed what I thought was a bug bite on the side of my neck. By the time I left for work it was bigger and another one had joined it. In the back of my mind I knew something was wrong but didn’t want to take the time out to go to Urgent Care. By the afternoon it wasn’t looking any better, and was starting to hurt. I stopped by the drugstore to get some hydrocortisone cream, which did nothing at all. By the next day I had several lumps on the side of my neck and was in quite a bit of pain. I finally broke down and went to Urgent Care after school that day. It was shingles, most likely brought on by stress. Awesome. They gave me some gigantic blue pills to take and told me to rest up.
I felt like I had been run over by a truck, my shingles hurt and I still had to go home and parent a (very) active toddler who was fighting sleep like crazy. My husband wasn’t able to take any time off work, so it was just myself and my daughter at home. I didn’t think I would get any rest at all! I did manage to get back on my feet by cheating a bit!
I signed up for a grocery delivery service through Amazon. It was more expensive than going to the grocery store, but it brought my stress level WAY down and I could place orders on my phone while chasing my daughter around.
I hooked up our Roku and signed up for Netflix, Hulu and Amazon’s streaming video service. We don’t do much tv time in our house (we haven’t had cable for years) but I put on a few kid friendly shows, baby proofed the living room and napped while my daughter happily watched The Wiggles.
I broke out the messy toys. I have a stash of messy toys (sidewalk chalk, fingerpaint, etc) that I keep out of sight since it’s such a pain to clean it up after a toddler. I set up a messy art corner in our yard and let my daughter have a mess-filled afternoon while I rested in a chair outside with her. After she was done, I plopped her in the tub and quickly hosed down the yard.
I asked family for help. I hate asking people for help, but the first few days I really needed it! My mom was kind enough to take my daughter for 2-3 hours a day for the first 3 days that I had shingles. I didn’t do any housework- as soon as my mom got there I went right to bed! I also put my husband in charge of getting our daughter to bed, this gave me some much needed rest! It also gave him an appreciation for all the sleep I had been missing out on.
After about 5 days I was feeling better again, but it was such a great reminder to slow down and take care of myself. Now I have two little ones and am still teaching, but my stress is so much lower this year. It’s a struggle, but I’m really trying to take the time to breathe and destress daily.