We all have bad days, and that’s totally normal. When I was a student with no real obligations or responsibilities, I’d respond to a bad day by curling up in bed with a tub of ice cream and Netflix until I felt better. Now, I’m a parent with two toddlers depending on me, so I can’t quite approach those rubbishy days in the same way I used to!
Parenting through a pandemic has led me to having a bad day every few weeks due to mental exhaustion, not having any physical support network to help out right now, and a host of other factors. Having such frequent days like this is far from ideal, but it’s meant that I’ve developed coping strategies for managing my toddlers and giving myself a bit of a much needed break. I know I’m not alone, and there are loads of us having days where we struggle, so here are a few things that have really helped me;
1. Put the TV on.
No shame, no guilt, just put it on. A whole day of Peppa or Duggee being on in the background can give an exhausted parent some much needed respite.
I find that if I put the TV on in the background, both twins will occasionally stop and watch for a few minutes, but otherwise they don’t pay it an enormous amount of attention. Just because there are screens on, doesn’t actually mean your children will be glued to them!
2. Get toys out for independent play
I’ve got a handful of toy baskets that I know will always lead to independent play, so these are the ones that come out when I need a break. The favourite in our household at the moment is our basket of lovely Holztiger animals.
I’ll put away all the toys that need to be really closely supervised – out of sight, out of mind! This means our beautiful Grapat pieces go away. They’re one of our favourite sets of toys, but the pieces are so small that the toddlers need to be super closely supervised with them. If you don’t have the energy to watch really closely, then don’t risk it!
3. Go for easy food options!
I really enjoy cooking from scratch, and many of our meals are lovely healthy dishes that we eat together as a family. However, on rubbish days, we change things up. I defrost something from the freezer that I’ve previously batch cooked, I cook veggie nuggets for everyone, or I just order a takeaway for us all to share! As long as your children are fed, it doesn’t matter what they’ve eaten on this day, and if comfort food is what you need, then don’t let anything hold you back!
I love a good pizza – when I order one for myself I’ll let the toddlers each have a slice with some salad or veg. This way we’re all enjoying the same thing but I’m at least making some kind of effort to limit their salt intake and up their greens (a feeble effort but it makes me feel like I’m winning at parenting on a bad day if my toddlers have eaten something green).
4. Go out
I can’t always do this one – getting twin toddlers ready to go out by myself often seems like a mammoth hurdle that I just can’t face on some days. However, when I do manage it, fresh air tends to help. Just a couple of laps around the park can lighten a dark day, and being outside is great for the toddlers too. Sometimes I do a couple of laps around the park and come home feeling revitalized. Sometimes I make a hot drink in a flask, let the toddlers roam free in a quiet part of the park, and just sit and watch them. Quite often they plonk themselves down close to me, and spend an hour examining stones and grass, eating the occasional fistful of mud. I can just watch them being toddlers while enjoying a hot drink with a change of scenery!
Four simple things, but things that he’ll me get through the challenging times whilst keeping my parent hat on.
If you’ve got any useful ideas, please share them in the comments!