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10 Things Only Working Parents Would Understand

10 Things Only Working Parents Would Understand

Becoming a working parent is no easy thing – far from it. Choosing to have a child and balance a day-to-day job can be a stressful, demanding, exhausting way to live your life, and it can equally be a thrilling, enjoyable, and wonderful way to balance out your desire for a family with your need to advance and continue your career.

So if you’ve just become a working parent, are considering becoming one in the future, or know all too well the experiences that being a working parent entails, then check this list out!

1. You schedule absolutely everything.

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    One of the most important things you realise when you become a working parent is that you need to schedule everything. You’re not just dealing with your own schedule or both you and your partner’s – you’re dealing with another person’s, someone who doesn’t need to go to work or maybe even to school yet, but who needs your loving attention most hours of the day.

    Therefore, scheduling is key. You learn that sitting down one night to actually go through the next few weeks is incredibly helpful, as it allows you to juggle your career with downtime as well as making sure the child’s needs are well met and that someone familiar is always there. You learn that it’s not easy, but in the end it is worth it, despite the sleepless nights and potentially endless spreadsheet/timesheet making.

    2. Your sleep is a precious thing.

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      When you becoming a working parent, you learn that your sleep becomes even more of a precious, guarded commodity. Yes, sleep is a vital need at every stage of your life, but the pleasure of sleep is never quite so enhanced by the act of becoming a parent, particularly a working one at that.

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      You find yourself rejoicing at early bedtimes and praying that your child sleeps through the night, to give you a few blissful hours of uninterrupted, restorative dreamtime. The idea of sleeping in, or even better, having someone take your child for the night, is an oasis of delight you cling to desperately. Yes, adults are supposed to need a full seven to nine hours, but as a working parent with no time to nap during the day, you’ve learned that four is just about survivability, if not at all pleasant.

      3. Your guilt levels – occasionally – skyrocket.

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        We live in a culture of dichotomy – we’re expected to be perfect and perfectly balanced at all times. You can’t stay at home all day, but then you can’t be wholly committed to your work, even though, in a strange way you’re expected to be both. Therefore, with all the pressures of society bearing down on your as a fresh working parent, it’s not unexpected that there are times when you feel guilty.

        Some people will say that they ‘don’t know how you could leave your child at home’ with someone else, even if that someone else is a trusted family member or loved one, and even though you might have been expecting this, it can still hit hard and painful. Still, you know better than anyone that being a working parent means being able to further your career and still be a parent, so while this wave of guilt stings for a little while, it ebbs away and you get back to rocking your own personal balance, not society’s idealised one.

        4. Your family time becomes preciously guarded.

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          When you become a working parent, your actual family time really does diminish in the face of… well, everyday life, let’s be honest. When you’re not working or sleeping, there’s very little actually in the waking hours that you get to spend with your family, and it can be a real strain on your physical and mental health.

          Therefore, you start to guard your family time. Weekends become no-go zones for anything related to work, and even though you might be exhausted and crying out for a lie-in, you become more determined to do something with your children on that weekend, even if it’s something simple and enjoyable. Holidays too, become more protected, and you realise you would do anything to safeguard those few weeks free from work.

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          5. You start to develop stronger boundaries.

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            Before you had kids, you might have been fine dealing with multiple workloads and assignments, even if they extended out into the weekend or after hours. Sure, no problem, you can handle anything! However, as soon as you become a working parent, you’ll probably find yourself starting to develop a spine of steel when it comes to your working hours and leaving work very firmly at work.

            Yes, it might be a shock for your boss or superior at first, but developing tougher boundaries between the realms of work and life outside of it mean that you become mentally healthier and spend more time with your loved ones. Your boss will probably even develop a respect for you too for being able to let go and learn about your real and true priorities.

            6. You become a master at multitasking.

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              Multitasking has become a little bit of a strange thing in recent years – scientists tell us that it’s impossible, and yet so much of our day to day lives depend upon being to juggle a lot of things at the same time, and being able to wear a lot of different hats (figuratively, of course) at the same time. When you become a working parent, the problem merely exacerbates.

              However, you soon learn that rapidly switching your attention is a trick that can be learned and which soon becomes effortless after repeated practice. Mentally going over shopping lists and grocery runs while rocking the little one to sleep? No problem. Balancing a checkbook while reading a bedtime story and going over dinner plans with a loved one? You’ve got it. You learn about the art of juggling and become an expert at handling everything life throws at you.

              7. You become great at asking for help.

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                Admittedly, a lot of us have trouble in asking for help. We believe we can handle everything perfectly and efficiently, without any need of external support. However, when you become a working parent, that isn’t true. Well for most of us anwyay. You learn that asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness at all – in fact, it’s the strongest people who do it.

                You begin to learn to rope in available family members for babysitting shifts whenever possible, and even begin to outsource some of your pressing tasks and mundane activities to loved ones. They’ll most likely to happy to do their fair share, leaving you time to sort out your life and spend solid time with the people you love the most. Win-win situation, right?

                8. You realise how important ‘me time’ actually is.

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                  Strangely enough, one of the most common things that working parents have learned throughout becoming parents at work, is that the need for downtime and ‘me time’ is much more of a pressing, almost daily need. You might not have noticed it before, given that after work, all of your other time was usually ‘me time’, but now you’re a working parent, you realise how important it is.

                  It’s not selfish to want it, either. Recharging your body and mind, even for half an hour a day, can be a buoying experience, allowing you to separate yourself from the responsibilities of home and work alike, and allowing you to simply be. You learn that carving out time for yourself is a necessity for undoing the pressures of stress, and it’s something you crave and fight for dearly – especially when someone’s parents say that they will take your child for the night…

                  9. You begin to identify with your parents so much more.

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                    This one isn’t to say that you didn’t identify with your parents before – of course you’re likely to have done so at one point or another – but when you become a working parent, it’s so much more likely that you begin to strongly understand and identify with everything your parents had to go through when you were a small child or a newborn.

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                    You begin to identify with the late nights, the juggling of workloads, and the constant battle to deal with everything that arises with a young child. You begin to discuss things with them – ideas, beliefs, techniques, of how to balance work and home, of how to get your child to sleep, how to look after them, even something as mundane as how best to change their nappy – and begin to understand and share the same experiences as they had, and as their own parents had. It can be a wonderful thing, even if it involves exhaustion and dirty nappies.

                    10. You realise everyone has their own opinion…

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                      Everyone has their opinion on how to raise a child, about every aspect of their lives, and when you become a working parent, these opinions only rise quicker to the surface. Every parent out there will have an opinion about how you are raising your child and the fact that you are continuing to work whilst raising a child.

                      The most important and valuable lesson you learn when you become a working parent, is simply that other peoples’ opinions don’t really matter. You know what’s best for your child, and if working whilst raising that child is what you need, then that’s absolutely fine and something you really should be doing. By all means listen to advice from loved ones, but don’t feel under obligation to take it. When you become a working parent, you learn that as long as you can do your own personal balance, then you’re already ahead.

                      What are your tips and experiences of being a working parent? Let us know in the comments below.

                      Featured photo credit: Young father and his baby via shutterstock.com

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                      Published on November 14, 2018

                      Why You Suffer from Constant Fatigue and How to Deal with It

                      Why You Suffer from Constant Fatigue and How to Deal with It

                      With our busy, always on lives, it seems that more and more of us are facing constant tiredness and fatigue on a regular basis.

                      For many people, they just take this in their stride as part of modern life, but for others the impact can be crippling and can have a serious effect on their sense of wellbeing, health and productivity.

                      In this article, I’ll share some of the most common causes of constant tiredness and fatigue and give you some guidance and action steps you can take to overcome some of the symptoms of fatigue.

                      Why Am I Feeling Fatigued?

                      Fatigue is extreme tiredness resulting from mental or physical exertion or illness.  It is a reduction in the efficiency of a muscle or organ after prolonged activity.[1]

                      It can affect anyone, and most adults will experience fatigue at some point in their life. 

                      For many people, fatigue is caused by a combination of lifestyle, social, psychological and general wellbeing issues rather than an underlying medical condition.

                      Although fatigue is sometimes described as tiredness, it is different to just feeling tired or sleepy. Everyone feels tired at some point, but this is usually resolved with a nap or a few nights of good sleep. Someone who is sleepy may also feel temporarily refreshed after exercising. If you are getting enough sleep, good nutrition and exercising regularly but still find it hard to perform, concentrate or be motivated at your normal levels, you may be experiencing a level of fatigue that needs further investigation. 

                      Symptoms of Fatigue

                      Fatigue can cause a vast range of physical, mental and emotional symptoms including:

                      • chronic tiredness, exhaustion or sleepiness
                      • mental blocks
                      • lack of motivation
                      • headache
                      • dizziness
                      • muscle weakness
                      • slowed reflexes and responses
                      • impaired decision-making and judgement
                      • moodiness, such as irritability
                      • impaired hand-to-eye coordination
                      • reduced immune system function
                      • blurry vision
                      • short-term memory problems
                      • poor concentration
                      • reduced ability to pay attention to the situation at hand

                      Causes of Fatigue

                      The wide range of causes that can trigger fatigue include:

                      • Medical causes: Constant exhaustion, tiredness and fatigue may be a sign of an underlying illness, such as a thyroid disorder, heart disease, anemia or diabetes.
                      • Lifestyle-related causes: Being overweight and a lack of regular exercise can lead to feelings of fatigue.  Lack of sleep and overcommitting can also create feelings of excessive tiredness and fatigue.
                      • Workplace-related causes: Workplace and financial stress in a variety of forms can lead to feelings of fatigue.
                      • Emotional concerns and stress: Fatigue is a common symptom of mental health problems, such as depression and grief, and may be accompanied by other signs and symptoms, including irritability and lack of motivation.

                      Fatigue can also be caused by a number of factors working in combination.

                      Medical Causes of Fatigue

                      If you have made lifestyle changes to increase your energy and still feel exhausted and fatigued, it may be time to seek guidance from your doctor.

                      Here are a few examples of illnesses that can cause ongoing fatigue. Seek medical advice if you suspect you have a health problem:

                      Anemia

                      Anemia is a condition in which you don’t have enough healthy red blood cells to carry adequate oxygen to the body’s tissues. It is a common cause of fatigue in women.

                      Having anemia may make you feel tired and weak.

                      There are many forms of anemia, each with its own cause. Anemia can be temporary or long term, and it can range from mild to severe.[2]

                      Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS)

                      Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) is a condition that can cause persistent, unexplained fatigue that interferes with daily activities for more than six months.

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                      This is a chronic condition with no one-size-fits-all treatment, but lifestyle changes can often help ease some symptoms of fatigue.[3]

                      Diabetes

                      Diabetes can cause fatigue with either high or low blood sugars. When your sugars are high, they remain in the bloodstream instead of being used for energy, which makes you feel fatigued. Low blood sugar (glucose) means you may not have enough fuel for energy, also causing fatigue.[4]

                      Sleep Apnea

                      Sleep apnea is a serious sleep disorder where sufferers briefly stop breathing for short periods during sleep. Most people are not aware this is happening, but it can cause loud snoring, and daytime fatigue.

                      Being overweight, smoking, and drinking alcohol can all worsen the symptoms of sleep apnea.[5]

                      Thyroid disease

                      An underactive thyroid gland means you have too little thyroid hormone (thyroxine) in your body. This makes you feel tired and you could also put on weight and have aching muscles and dry skin.[6]

                      Common lifestyle factors that can cause fatigue include:

                      • Lack of sleep
                      • Too much sleep 
                      • Alcohol and drugs 
                      • Sleep disturbances 
                      • Lack of regular exercise and sedentary behaviour 
                      • Poor diet 

                      Common workplace issues that can cause fatigue include:

                      • Shift work: Our body is designed to sleep during the night. A shift worker may confuse their circadian clock by working when their body is programmed to be asleep.
                      • Poor workplace practices: This may include long work hours, hard physical labour, irregular working hours (such as rotating shifts), a stressful work environment, boredom or working alone. 
                      • Workplace stress – This can be caused by a wide range of factors including job dissatisfaction, heavy workload, conflicts with bosses or colleagues, bullying, or threats to job security.
                      • Burnout: This could be striving too hard on one area of your life while neglecting others, which leads to a life that feels out of balance.

                      Psychological Causes of Fatigue

                      Psychological factors are present in many cases of extreme tiredness and fatigue.  These may include:

                      • Depression: Depression is characterised by severe and prolonged feelings of sadness, dejection and hopelessness. People who are depressed commonly experience chronic fatigue.
                      • Anxiety and stress: Someone who is constantly anxious or stressed keeps their body in overdrive. The constant flooding of adrenaline exhausts the body, and fatigue sets in.
                      • Grief: Losing a loved one causes a wide range of emotions including shock, guilt, depression, despair and loneliness.

                      How to Tackle Constant Fatigue

                      Here are 12 ways you can start tackling the causes of fatigue and start feeling more energetic.

                      1. Tell The Truth

                      Some people can numb themselves to the fact that they are overtired or fatigued all the time. In the long run, this won’t help you.

                      To give you the best chance to overcome or eliminate fatigue, you must diagnose and tell the truth about the things that are draining your energy, making you tired or causing constant fatigue.

                      Once you’re honest with yourself about the activities you’re doing in your life that you find irritating, energy-draining, and make you tired on a regular basis you can make a commitment to stop doing them.

                      The help that you need to overcome fatigue is available to you, but not until you tell the truth about it. The first person you have to sell on getting rid of the causes of fatigue is yourself.

                      One starting point is to diagnose the symptoms. When you start feeling stressed, overtired or just not operating at your normal energy levels make a note of:

                      • How you feel
                      • What time of day it is
                      • What may have contributed to your fatigue
                      • How your mind and body reacts

                      This analysis may help you identify, understand and then eliminate very specific causes.

                      2. Reduce Your Commitments

                      When we have too many things on our plate personally and professionally, we can feel overstretched, causing physical and mental fatigue.

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                      If you have committed to things you really don’t want to do, this causes irritability and low emotional engagement. Stack these up throughout your day and week, then your stress levels will rise.

                      When these commitments have deadlines associated with them, you may be trying to cram in far too much in a short period of time.  This creates more stress and can affect your decision making ability.

                      Start being realistic about how much you can get done. Either reduce the commitments you have or give yourself more time to complete them in.

                      3. Get Clear On Your Priorities

                      If working on your list of to-do’s or goals becomes too overwhelming, start reducing and prioritizing the things that matter most.

                      Start with prioritizing just 3 things every day. When you complete those 3 things, you’ll get a rush of energy and your confidence will grow.

                      If you’re trying to juggle too many things and are multi-tasking, your energy levels will drop and you’ll struggle to maintain focus.

                      Unfinished projects can make you self-critical and feel guilty which drops energy levels further, creating inaction.

                      Make a list of your 3 MIT (Most Important Tasks) for the next day before you go to bed. This will stop you overcommitting and get you excited about what the next day can bring.

                      4. Express More Gratitude

                      Gratitude and confidence are heavily linked. Just being thankful for what you have and what you’ve achieved increases confidence and makes you feel more optimistic.

                      It can help you improve your sense of wellbeing, which can bring on feelings of joy and enthusiasm.

                      Try starting a gratitude journal or just note down 3 things you’re grateful for every day.

                      5. Focus On Yourself

                      Exhaustion and fatigue can arrive by focusing solely on other people’s needs all the time, rather than worrying about and focusing on what you need (and want).

                      There are work commitments, family commitments, social commitments. You may start with the best intentions, to put in your best performance at work, to be an amazing parent and friend, to simply help others.

                      But sometimes, we extend ourselves too much and go beyond our personal limits to help others. That’s when constant exhaustion can creep up on us.  Which can make us more fatigued.

                      We all want to help and do our best for others, but there needs to be some balance. We also need to take some time out just for ourselves to recharge and rejuvenate.

                      6. Set Aside Rest and Recovery Time

                      Whether it’s a couple of hours, a day off, a mini-break or a proper holiday, time off is essential to help us recover, recharge and refocus.

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                      Recovery time helps fend off mental fatigue and allows us to simply kick back and relax.

                      The key here, though, is to remove ourselves from the daily challenges that bring on tiredness and fatigue. Here’s how.

                      Can you free yourself up completely from work and personal obligations to just rest and recover?

                      7. Take a Power Nap

                      When you’re feeling tired or fatigued and you have the ability to take a quick 20-minute nap, it could make a big difference to your performance for the rest of the day.

                      Napping can improve learning, memory and boost your energy levels quickly.

                      This article on the benefit of napping is a useful place to start if you want to learn more: How a 20-Minute Nap at Work Makes You Awake and Productive the Whole Day

                      8. Take More Exercise

                      The simple act of introducing some form of physical activity into your day can make a huge difference. It can boost energy levels, make you feel much better about yourself and can help you avoid fatigue.

                      Find something that fits into your life, be that walking, going to the gym, running or swimming. 

                      The key is to ensure the exercise is regular and that you are emotionally engaged and committed to stick with it.

                      You could also walk more which will help clear your head and shift your focus away from stressful thoughts.

                      9. Get More Quality Sleep

                      To avoid tiredness, exhaustion and fatigue, getting enough quality sleep matters. 

                      Your body needs sleep to recharge.  Getting the right amount of sleep every night can improve your health, reduce stress levels and help us improve our memory and learning skills.

                      My previous article on The Benefits of Sleep You Need to Know will give you some action steps to start improving your sleep. 

                      10. Improve Your Diet

                      Heavy or fatty meals can make you feel sluggish and tired, whilst some foods or eating strategies do just the opposite.

                      Our always on lives have us reaching for sweets or other sugary snacks to give us a burst of energy to keep going. Unfortunately, that boost fades quickly which can leave you feeling depleted and wanting more.

                      On the other hand, whole grains and healthy unsaturated fats supply the reserves you can draw on throughout the day.

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                      To keep energy up and steady, it’s a good idea to limit refined sugar and starches.

                      Eating small meals and healthy snacks every few hours throughout the day provides a steady supply of nutrients to body and brain. It’s also important not to skip breakfast.

                      Eating a balanced diet helps keep your blood sugar in a normal range and prevents that sluggish feeling when your blood sugar drops.

                      11. Manage Your Stress Levels

                      Stress is one of the leading causes of exhaustion and fatigue, and can seriously affect your health.

                      When you have increased levels of stress at work and at home, it’s easy to feel exhausted all the time. 

                      Identifying the causes of stress and then tackling the problems should be a priority. 

                      My article on How to Help Anxiety When Life is Stressing You Out shares 16 strategies you can use to overcome stress.

                      12. Get Hydrated

                      Sometimes we can be so busy that we forget to keep ourselves fully hydrated.

                      Water makes up about 60 percent of your body weight and is essential in maintaining our body’s basic functions.

                      If we don’t have enough water, it can adversely affect our mental and physical performance, which leads to tiredness and fatigue.

                      The recommended daily amount is around two litres a day, so to stay well hydrated keep a water bottle with you as much as possible.

                      The Bottom Line

                      These 12 tips can help you reduce your tiredness and feeling of fatigue.  Some will work better than others as we are all different, whilst others can be incorporated together in your daily life.

                      If you’ve tried to make positive changes to reduce fatigue and you still feel tired and exhausted, it may be time to consider making an appointment with your doctor to discuss your condition.

                      Featured photo credit: Annie Spratt via unsplash.com

                      Reference

                      [1]Oxford English Dictionary: Definition of fatigue
                      [2]NHS Choices: 10 Reasons for feeling tired
                      [3]Verywellhealth: What is chronic fatigue syndrome
                      [4]Everyday Health: Why does type 2 diabetes make you feel tired
                      [5]Mayo Clinic: Sleep apnea
                      [6]Harvard Health: The lowdown on thyroid slowdown

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