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Parent Soul Fever

by Stacey Libbert, Running Monologue 

This morning, I washed baseboards, cleaned behind the refrigerator, organized a closet and mopped all the floors.  It has been bliss. 

For a few weeks, I have been on a relentless schedule of work, travel, volunteer activities, and looming deadlines.  Not to mention nightly homework and extracurricular activities, which we purposely keep at a bare minimum for everyone’s sanity and well being.  What I needed most was some good, old-fashioned home time.  I wanted to sort some things, clean out the cupboard and knock down cobwebs.  I wanted to put on music and zone out while washing dishes.  I wanted to be alone in my house without any disruption or urgency. 

I took a kind of sick day.  I was sick of running around and constantly being “on” and engaged, so I took the day off from the craziness of it all.  Already, I feel my breath expanding and a sense of ease about things that only 24 hours ago were pretty big worries. 

Like most things, the busyness of my life is cyclical—sometimes it’s up and sometimes it’s down, but when the busyness meter reaches the red zone, I stop and take a good look at where I am.  I wish I could say that I maintain optimal balance all the time, but I don’t.  I thought that once I mastered the whole balancing act thing, I would be in a happy place indefinitely.  What I find to be true, however, is that I must constantly remind myself of my intention to raise a happy, healthy family in a warm, simple, and unrushed way.  I repeatedly must come back to center. 

Kim John Payne, the author of Simplicity Parenting, calls this “sickness” I’ve been experiencing a “soul fever.”  He uses it in reference to children who are overwhelmed, overstressed and overscheduled and describes it as “the emotional equivalent of a physical fever.  When small (or large) stresses accumulate, you may find your child with a soul fever … they are out of sorts, not at their best (and quite possibly at their worst) – and they may seem stuck in that frustrated state.  Payne suggests that we notice this and take it as seriously as a physical fever – slowing down, drawing the child near, suspending normal routine in order to give the child the calm and safe space to untangle their “emotional knot” – to return to their best, most balanced self.” 

This same concept applies to all people, most especially to parents who are often trying to be all things to all people—cook, maid, teacher, coach, chauffeur, advocate--the list goes on and on. 

But it’s often so much easier for us to extend care to our children than it is to ourselves.  We tell ourselves that we don’t have time to stay home, take a nap, do something we’ve been longing to do, sit down with a cup of tea, or simply sit without doing anything in particular.  We know we need it, but we won’t allow ourselves to do the very thing that would help us the most. 

I know because I’ve found myself doing the same thing, but I’m beginning to take my personal health, both physical and mental, much more seriously. I would never deny my children time to rest or time off from their schedule if they were tired or sick or grouchy.  I would do it without any hesitation because I care about them and want what’s best for them.  I would never dream of pushing them beyond their limits for the sake of maintaining an arbitrary schedule.  There is always another soccer practice or day of school.  I bet most parents would feel this way, yet we won’t allow ourselves that same level of care. 

We think that the world will stop spinning if we decide to lie down for a 30 minute nap or if we leave the bed unmade so that we might soak in the tub just a little longer.  Logically, we know this is not true, but still we resist and refuse ourselves a very basic need-- rest. 

In our efforts to create healthy, happy childhoods for our children, we tend to forget that we also deserve healthy, happy adulthoods.  How can we give our children what we, ourselves, do not have?  So the next time, you begin to feel irritable, impatient, overwhelmed or angry, take it as the first signs of a possible soul fever and treat it aggressively.  An ounce of prevention, after all, is worth a pound of cure. 

Some of my favorite home remedies include baking, hiking through the woods, napping, story time (with or without children, but snuggling is a bonus), warm baths, hot tea, and art supplies. 

What remedies do you use to prevent and treat “soul fever”?

Stacey Libbert is a writer, teacher and mom in North Carolina.  She is passionate about books, running in the woods, and making art, and her children are daily examples of boundless enthusiasm.  You can read more about  what lights her up at her blog, Running Monologue or you can find her on Facebook at Running Monologue.  Please stop by and say hello. 

Reader Comments (1)

As the head of a small business in which I have to wear many hats, I am under tremendous amount of stress on an almost daily basis (what you call "soul fever") and the only thing that keeps me sane is my daily meditation practices. Although not physical in nature, I found to be a tremendous help in lowering my blood pressure, improving my sleep and even making me (almost) tolerable to my husband.
Jan 2, 2013 at 12:39 PM | Unregistered CommenterEnviro Equipment Blog

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