Why Kids Drain You and What to Do About it

I think we have all had seasons in motherhood where we have felt utterly drained by parenting young children. Sometimes this season is only a day, and sometimes it’s years. It’s easy to feel like we’re supposed to and obligated to keep up all the time. In the times when we’re finally out of energy, some of us are left feeling defeated, frustrated, exhausted, or worse. A common question I get is, “Am I doing something wrong here? What can I do to make this more sustainable?” Sometimes it helps to step back and understand what’s happening first.

Our children have poorly developed frontal lobes. The frontal lobe is the part of the brain that can process complex emotions, create some self-awareness, and think of long-term plans. When this part of the brain hasn’t developed, we have children who have intense needs and need a lot of co-regulation to get through a day.

Co-regulation is the interaction between you and your child in which intervene with your wn intentional calming energy to help them regulate their emotions (which they are less capable of doing). Giving that to a child that currently has a high need for co-regulation is almost literally draining your energy.

We adults, of course, do think about the future and plan. We want to expend the energy in ways we know we need to for the future. So, our own needs go unmet, and we use reserves to try to do things and burn out. The point is: We need time to recover.

During these draining times, I encourage my patients to start with 15 minutes. We can usually find 15 uninterrupted minutes during our day for ourselves. This is a great place to start because it doesn’t feel as overwhelming as going away for a day or more and is easily accomplished. Of course, 15 minutes isn’t going to solve the draining season all by itself. The idea is that 15 minutes is just the start. Fifteen minutes once this week can lead to 15 minutes a day, and we start seeing just how worthwhile this time can be. These 15 minutes are a gateway to true self-discovery and self-care.

So where can we find these 15 minutes? Anywhere. Can you skip one shower this week? Can you turn on one more episode of your kid’s favorite show this week? If you have a partner, can you ask them for a few extra minutes on the weekend? Probably so.

The other big key here is that this is not selfish. You need a healthy time to recover for yourself and your family. Your children will get so much benefit out of your self-care efforts. They will have the best version of you, which can help them strive to be the best versions of themselves.

When you’re drained, momma, start with 15 minutes. It will not solve all the problems, but it is a good start!

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