Parenting without your brain turning to mush

Parenting without your brain turning to mush

After long bouts of wiping noses, changing diapers, rocking babies, singing songs and playing with toys, do you feel like your brain may be turning to mush?

Before you get mad at me, let me say parenting takes considerable brain power. There are endless questions to answer, schedules to juggle and important conversations to have. Parenting will challenge your brain in ways you may have never imagined.

When my children want to talk to me, I try to really listen and participate in the discussion and have since they were tiny. In fact, so much of my brain space seemed to be occupied this way I needed to have time to have my own thoughts.

My solution was having my own lunch time. I fed the kids first and set them up with an educational activity. Then I had a half hour to an hour to have lunch to myself and my own thoughts.

So how else can you stretch your mind while raising kids?

Perhaps start by listening to or reading educational material. This can do double duty. While you listen to nonfiction material, your kids will hear it too. They may not understand everything, but you’ll be surprised how much they do pick up.

Same with reading. Read part of a book aloud or simply discuss what you are reading with your children. I learned a great deal of history from my mother because she was always reading about it and talking to me about what she read.

Take on a project that challenges you — perhaps something in an area you have never explored before or something you did before your children arrived.

I have always loved photography but found I had little time for anything but baby and kid pictures the first couple of years of my sons’ lives. I can still remember the day I picked up my camera and started really taking pictures again. It was like something woke up that had been sleeping while my children had refused to do so.

What have you set aside to concentrate on your kids? Could you pick it up again, at least a bit? What things would you like to try that you haven’t?

Although I grew up around my family’s farms, I had never really been the responsible party. I just did the fun things. So when our kids were preteens, we decided to start a farm. We just had one breed of chickens at first. Then came more breeds. Then we tried ducks, sheep and cows. And we tried to do it all in a specific manner.

To say each species and situation stretched us would be a bit of an understatement, but I learned a lot and so did the boys. My brain started humming again.

When your kids are really little, find ways to have adult conversations. Connect with people that have a similar interest. For me, that was writing and farming. But whatever your interest, find people you can talk to about things other than diapers, sippy cups and sleepless nights. If possible, join a group. Give yourself a reason to have someone else watch the kids while you take time to rev up your mind.

Do something creative, whether you think you’re the creative type or not. I put myself squarely in the noncreative camp. My art-gifted husband and children will tell you I draw bad stick figures. And unfortunately, they are right. However, I do manage to channel my creative bits through photography, writing and a bit of knitting — very light on the knitting. I can do a knit stitch and a pearl stitch, but I can’t mix them or manage to count. Perhaps that will be a future challenge.

Spend time with your children. They won’t be little forever or even all that long. But take time to keep your mind working.

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