Warning: Parenting Is Hazardous to Your Health

Parenting should come with a warning label.

Let’s start with pregnancy. It’s been said that the physical strain of pregnancy and childbirth can take a year off your life. For some of us, that experience might have shaved off about five years. Remember that life sucking machine from the movie, Princess Bride? Well, that’s what labor felt like for me.

After the kid is born, it’s all about the kid. You barely have time to shower and throw on some lip-gloss let alone check in with your physical and mental well-being. Sure, you’re in and out of doctors offices all the time, but you rarely (if ever) see one for yourself. Oh, you’ve had a migraine for a week? A weird bump? A lingering cough? Who has time to check in with a real doctor? That’s why they invented WebMD.

When your kid starts preschool, it’s all downhill from there. Children become carriers for all things germy and disease-ridden. There is no doubt that you will get sick when you have kids. Often. If your child has a runny nose and cough, expect to wake up the next morning with the same problem. You’ll probably get even more sick than the kid, but you don’t have time to wallow in Kleenex-wrapped pity. Get back in the kitchen and make their lunch! And, speaking of lunch, who has time to eat it? You might serve your kid organic and nutritious meals, but you’re often relegated to live off saltines, canned chili, and whatever particles of food are left on the highchair.

Physical health aside, let’s talk about something that can wreak even more havoc on the body. I’m talking about our mental well-being. Were you anxious and neurotic before kids? Yes? That was nothing. Expect your anxiety level to multiply a thousand times. Not only is the world a dangerous place, but so is your house. If you’re like me, every single drawer and cabinet door is child-proofed.  There are baby gates everywhere. There is an alarm on all the doors (just in case the kid tries to escape). TV’s are secured or strapped against the wall. All cords are stored away, oven doors and toilet seats are locked, and there is absolutely nothing breakable around. The kid’s room is practically empty other than a few stuffed animals and a baby monitor. Sometimes all you want is some peace and quiet, but once you finally get it you’ll freak out that something is wrong.

There is no peace. Ever.

Your mind will always be thinking about the what if’s. You hear of horrible stories and experiences from other parents and then play the “what-if-that-happened-to us?” scenario over and over in your mind. There’s a good chance that the new cough or slight fever is the H1N1.  You worry about letting your kids walk down the street or go to a friend’s house. You worry about vaccinating. Is Jenny McCarthy right? Will my kid end up like Rain Main if I vaccinate against polio? Maybe polio isn’t such a bad thing.

Is it any wonder why there are so many mom blogs and twitter accounts with the words – alcohol, bottle, rum, drink, etc… So many of these moms are so stressed out that they don’t know how else to cope. Drinking moms could be laughed off as being cliche if major tragedies didn’t occur from play-dates fueled with martini’s. We’ve all heard the horror stories about that. So, while some moms drink, others need Trazadone just to ease their restless and worried mind. I have a feeling that the consumer demand for sleep medication is dominated by parents of young children.

On a serious note, it’s not that uncommon to put yourself second (or third, fourth, etc…) behind your kids.  We will (literally) break our backs for our kids, but even that might not be a good enough reason to tend to ourselves. We need to prioritize our own physical and mental health, too. We need to eat well, exercise, and stay healthy. We need good coping mechanisms to deal with stress: think yoga, lunch with friends, or a walk around the neighborhood. We need to sometimes check out in order to check in with ourselves. As difficult as it might be, take some time every week to do something for yourself. Parents are caretakers and the role of a caretaker is often the most difficult job in the world. You’re so busy tending and fretting over other people that you don’t do the same for yourself. Make the time. Get your partner, family member, or friend to watch the kid(s) for a few hours every week and don’t feel guilty for doing so. Your family, your body, and your sanity will thank you for it.