We still haven't made paid maternity leave a national policy, which means a lot of new mothers return to work "drunk" with sleep deprivation. Poor sleep isn’t healthy for anyone — mom, baby, companies, nor the economy.
Working mothers, you deserve a moment of silence and reflection — you’re amazing. Parenting isn’t easy. That's why the subject is one of the most researched areas in the field of social science.
So if you feel like you're on the struggle bus most days, here are six scientific-based ways to improve your parenting:
1. Make sleep work for you
If your little one isn’t sleeping through the night, make the most of the time that you’re able to sleep. Start by believing that sleep is vital. Prioritize it so you’re not spending sleep time doing other stuff. Lastly, make your bedroom completely dark, cool (somewhere around 65 degrees), and be asleep during the hours of 10pm to 2am. Sleeping during these hours is most invigorating for your mind and body.
Consistently sleeping badly makes us moody, unhealthy, and more likely to make bad decisions. Poor sleep also makes us less effective in the workplace. This could translate into making less money, being stuck in a job or career you don’t love, or missing out on opportunities.
2. Count your cuddles
Hugging makes us release the powerful love hormone oxytocin. Besides the physical feeling, hugs have been scientifically proven to make kids smarter, stimulate growth, bond with adults, create healthy kids, plus other scientifically proven benefits. You know how they say that “absence makes the heart grow fonder?” Maybe that’s why a hug feels so darn splendid at the end of a workday.
3. Remember that toys aren’t messy; they lead to growth
The pressure of a clean home, happy child, great social life, and career success is legit — you’re not alone. But don’t feel badly if you have a few toys scattered about. Children need to play, and they need to play a lot. According to the book Einstein Never Used Flash Cards, “play is to early childhood what gas is to a car.” It allows them to express themselves, use their five senses, and explore how things work. Play also helps with motor gross skills and physical and social development.
4. Wear a smile more than lip-gloss
Emotional contagion really does exist. When you’re happy and content, so is your little one. If you’re feeling exhausted, sad, or frustrated, those feelings usually transfer. Remember how you first got your baby to smile? You may have smiled at them and then they ‘caught’ your feelings and smiled back. Research shows that smiling makes us feel good, too. Even when you’re having a rough moment, try to find a reason to smile.
5. Model what you want to see
A research study that looked at 2,000 parents showed that 3 out of 10 of the best parenting competencies mentioned “modeling:” Let your child see you expressing love, demonstrating acts of kindness, eating and drinking well, and paying attention to your overall optimal well-being. We can’t expect our child to be an avid reader or articulate a noteworthy discourse on the benefits of fresh air if they don’t see us reading, opening the windows, or spending time outside.
6. Live life outside of your child
Being around a child 24/7 can be tiring and may not allow bonding, communicating, and socializing with other adults. It’s natural to miss your child, but if you find it really, really hard to separate yourself, then you may need to do some inner work to examine why. Research indicates that sustained contact with an emotionally needy parent takes a negative toll on a child. If you’re working, you automatically have a life outside of being Mommy, so that’s great.