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How to de-stress your stressed mom life

Sarah Walker Caron is an award winning journalist, freelance writer and editor. She lives a happy life in Maine with her two children, where they love to hike, visit the beaches and have lots of silly fun. Check out her food blog at Sara...

Parenting without stress

Moms today have a lot going on between kids, relationships, work and home. It can seem like a never-ending revolution of things to do and places to be. Who wouldn't be a little stressed out? Don't worry! It doesn't have to be that way. Erin A. Kurt, author of Juggling Family Life: A Step-By-Step Guide to Stress-Free Parenting, has suggestions to make your stressed mom life run a little smoother.

Q&A with Erin A. Kurt

Kurt recently talked to SheKnows about her book and how to make life run smoother. Here's what she had to say.

SheKnows: What is the Life Cycle Technique and how does it work?

Erin A. Kurt: The Life Circle is a tool I created for myself actually. Back when I was teaching I was at the top of my career. I was respected from heads of schools and districts, I was winning rave reviews from parents and children and I could see and feel that I was making a difference in the lives of families. But... there came a time when I began to break out in hives and my lips swelled up to triple their size and I was constantly exhausted when I was at home. One weekend, after consoling me, my husband said, "You are successful and you are making a difference, but you have no life balance. You need to figure out a way to change this." I've always been good at taking something complex or difficult and making it simple, so this was another challenge for me. The Life Circle is what I developed to rectify the lack of balance in my life.

Basically, it is a tool that makes it possible to do all the things that are truly important to me, each and every month of the year. Spending time with my girlfriends, myself and my husband, as well as time for personal development are examples of what is important to me. My husband saw me enjoying life so much that he decided to use the Life Circle too! Then when we became parents, we realized that we continued to live balanced lives but other parents we knew weren't. The Life Circle is a tool that is a must for everyone, but especially people with children, because without it, life can control you instead of the other way around.

SK: It seems like everyone is stressed out these days between the economy and everyday expectations. How do you recommend families find peace at a time like this?

EK: I really believe that in some ways, the economic crisis has helped us. Families had to find innovative ways of spending time together and priorities shifted. Parents began to realize what truly matters in life and that one can do without a lot of excess and still be happy. I saw the focus of many mothers and fathers switch from, "How can I rise to the top of the corporate ladder?" to "How can I spend more time with my family?" In addition to this I see a huge trend happening where people are craving peace and balance in their lives. This is a great thing!

The first thing I always suggest is for parents to sit down and write their top 5 values in life. When they are truly clear about this they can design their lives around those values. It may mean downsizing to one car to achieve the kind of life they really want, but that's okay; the pay-offs are so rewarding! You know, I'll always remember a conversation I overheard when I was a teacher between a bunch of moms. This one mom was telling everyone about her family's next holiday location and all the other moms complained that they never got to go to places like this. The response of the mom going on vacation was, "Well, we choose to live in a small house and to lead a relatively simple life so that we CAN do these types of trips." I loved this because ultimately we choose how we live our lives. We need to get clear on what we value and then choose to live as closely to them as possible - even if sacrifices in some areas of our life have to be made.

As well, an issue I see often in my coaching programs is that we parents put too much pressure on ourselves and our kids. The amount of lessons and classes that our children are taking are creating havoc on the rhythm of our lives. Kids have the rest of their lives to explore their interests; they don't have to do everything between the ages of 3 and 12. I can't tell you the number of students I used to have who cried and cried over how stressed they were with all the activities they were involved in. I always say, "Slow down, do less, and enjoy more." Slowing down actually scares some people, but once they do it everyone in the family is happier.

Find out here why too many activities can be stressful to kids.

I also believe that it is important to have a tool to use, to help ensure that time is allocated for the things that are important to you. That's why I'm so excited to share the Life Circle with people. Even if one's life seems overwhelming, it is still possible to live life with balance; maybe not as much as one would like, but at least they can be guarnteed that they will get some balance and that is what we should be striving for.

SK: How should moms prioritize the elements of their lives (as in work, parenting, marriage, friendships, other family)?

EK: In my opinion all areas are equally important. We are complex beings and happiness comes to us through different channels. We get one form of happiness from a great night out with the girls and a different form from spending one –on-one time with our child or husband. For this reason, I created my Life Circle in the shape of a circle where each section is of equal size.

With that said, if you were to ask me which should be one's priority, family or work, I would always say family because it encompasses so much of what brings us and our children happiness and joy. In my book I discuss specific ways of making family a priority without it taking over your life. This is very important. I share the top ten things children really want their parents to do with them in the book. I surveyed children from all over the world and they were all saying the same things; that it is the simple things that matter and mean the most to them. This takes pressure off of parents and guides them to do exactly what their children truly want. Ultimately, it's all about balance.

SK: In the past year or so, we've been hearing a lot about the importance of "me time" for women. Do you think that me time is something that women should make time for?

EK: Absolutely! In my book I have three main sections which represent the 3 pieces that either make or break a family. They are: Getting Discipline Right, Family Time, and "You" Time. Without "you" time, mothers are not able to refuel and recharge. Without time to get away, laugh with your girlfriends, and do things that feed your soul, you will not have the energy to be the kind of mother you want to be – it's just not possible. A body can only take so much before it gets exhausted, impatient, grumpy or depressed. The statistics show that more and more moms are depressed, on anti-depressants, taking energy enhancing drugs etc. This is so sad and so unnecessary.

The problem with telling moms they need to take time for themselves is that they don't see when or how they can make that possible. In addition to this, mothers will always sacrifice their own needs for the needs of their family. So, what is the solution? Creating routines, being organized and using a tool like my Life Circle.

Setting up a routine allows for the mom to naturally get time for herself – while her child is having some alone time, she herself can have some. Organization is also key because it helps the family's life stay on track and ensures that all the necessary tasks get done easily. Finally, the Life Circle helps by ensuring that 8 days a month, moms will be doing things to recharge their battery.

Children can complicate our lives, however, routines, organization and planning are the antidote to this.

You may also like: 9 Sanity savers for busy moms.

SK: Who can best be helped by reading your book?

EK: People who already have children will truly appreciate my book. The comments I've been receiving from parents is that my book puts things into perspective for them and makes parenting simple and clear for the first time. This was my intention, so it warms my heart when I hear this. We've been given so many messages from TV and books that being a parent means that life has to be stressful and chaotic, and I'm here to say, "No, it doesn't." The explanation and training of how to be a confident and relaxed parent is all in my book.

New parents or parents still pregnant can definitely benefit from my book as well since I always say that being proactive is better than being reactive. If new parents learn my techniques during the early stages, they will avoid many difficult situations, stress, guilt etc.

Finally, many people have told me that educators should read my book because the techniques I teach are appropriate for anyone who works with children.

Next page: Kurt gives specific tips on juggling the demands of family, work and relationships

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