I am blessed to have 2 kids who, like their father but very much unlike their mother, are morning people. I am usually up no later than 6:30 even on days off because my internal clock seems to function very well on 7 hours sleep. For the most part, I enjoy the time I have in the morning with my girls.
My oldest is a young lady who is developing her leadership skills and sometimes takes her those skills a little too far, to the point of directing every movement, action, and reaction of the younger one. Unfortunately, this is usually accompanied by the morning scream of, “Sissy! NO!” or “Evie, you’re not the boss of me!” I have become all too familiar with these expressions over the past 3 years. The phrase, “Evie, you are not the parent!” is oft spoken within the confines of our household.
What makes these interactions more difficult is the fact that my youngest is now 3 and she has all the symptoms of the innate difficulties of being 3. I heard my entire pre-parent life about the terrible 2s. We got through the second year of Evie’s life with only mild blowups and meltdowns, and we felt pretty good about ourselves. Then 3 hit us like a storm. I think it was a friend who once claimed that we should refer to 3-year-olds as “threenagers.” There could not be a more appropriate term. They learn the word “no” when they are two, but at three there is a defiance and attitude behind the word “no.” Not unlike the teenagers we love so dearly. Norah is entering this phase with her proverbial guns ablaze.
Over the Christmas break I was blessed to be able to spend a good amount of time with my kids and my wife. We, similar to many other families, travel around a lot to enjoy the company of family and friends during the holidays. It’s wonderful to eat, laugh, and play together, but it also means we don’t get a lot of time at home. In many ways, this year’s break from work and school was no different than any other time off; even our regular weekends. We make plans to do things on the weekends because we have the time. This leads to chuck full “time-off” where we constantly on the go to the next event or obligation.
Heading back into the work week following Christmas, I came across an article by a website called Working Mother. It was a mother’s breakdown of how stress affects her life both in the home and at work, culminating with the epiphany that she was much more stressed at home than she was at work. This idea really intrigued me, because I have felt this same way before.
After doing a little digging into whether this phenomenon has been researched, I came across a study done by a professor at Penn State University.
WARNING!! SCIENCE AHEAD!!
She studied a group of 122 people for three days by testing their cortisol levels and asking them to rate their stress levels. (In case you are like me and don’t know exactly what cortisol does, I looked it up. The short answer is cortisol is a hormone produced in the adrenal glands that helps regulate blood pressure, control sleep cycles, increase blood sugar levels and boost energy to handle stress among other things.) Her findings showed that cortisol levels were higher while at home than they were at work. This was true for the participants across the board regardless of occupation, salary, gender, and education level. Stunning.
So, we go home to de-stress and find ourselves more stressed out than we were at work. We can only wonder as to why this happens. I will hazard a guess that we are tempted to constantly check our work emails and continue to work on projects at home, so our home life is becoming more and more integrated with our work life. The split between work and home that used to exist is disappearing.
So how do we combat and try to battle stress in a place that we are supposed to go to get away from stress in the first place? We need some “me time.” When we do not take time for ourselves we waste a unique part of the gift of life that we are given. As in all things, we need to live the aspects of our lives in with balance. That includes taking time for yourself. In Ephesians chapter 5 Paul says, “Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men, but as wise, making the most of your time.” This must include time for ourselves.
I know firsthand the struggles of coming home to a house where every small instance or event can lead to huge emotions by our offspring and correspondingly huger stress and anxiety levels for the parents that sometimes make us feel as though we are constantly asking the question, “How soon can I go back to work?”
My wife and I try to make a nightly routine of spending the last hour and a half of each day doing something together. Sometimes that means talking, or playing a game, or watching a TV show and finally eating dinner. I am going to also try to incorporate 30 minutes of time on my own at the end of every day reading, or drawing, or learning to play the guitar I just received as a gift. And I am going to do this away from my phone or other devises.
I would hazard one more guess that if we tried to make our home lives less stressful we would be happier, healthier people and probably better parents as well.
P.S. I have included links to the Working Mother and Penn State research articles I referenced in the post. If you are so inclined to read them, they are both quick reads that include more details than I included.