Real survival strategies

In my January column, I wrote about the topic of self-care — in particular, how self-care is not enough. 

With no guaranteed maternity leave, childcare payments as big as second mortgages and a rising maternal death rate, it’s tough to be a parent in the U.S. I think we need policy and cultural change — not tai chi and coffee dates. 

That said, I realize change takes time. 

Meanwhile, we need to live our lives. I wanted to learn how parents these days are coping (like, really coping). 

So I checked in with friends, acquaintances and my favorite no-bull$hit Facebook mom group, and asked about their survival strategies for dealing with the daily difficulties of parenting. 

Here’s how some of your peers are getting through their toddler-filled days: 

Just say no 

Too many commitments? Too much pressure? It might be time to set some boundaries. 

  • “I don’t agree to volunteer for things that I truly don’t like doing. Having more time for the things I love to do is a great stress reliever. I have learned to say no.” — Colleen 
  • “Stay off Pinterest, Facebook and Google where it seems like everyone is parenting ‘better’ than you. No, they aren’t. Everyone is running their own $h!tshow. They’re just not being honest about it.” — Catherine
  • “Having designated adult space in my home, where the kids can’t leave their toys, is one of the things that keeps me going. For me, this creates mental clarity and visual peace. Having kid clutter overtake everything is akin to constantly being touched — you may enjoy it at first, but eventually it becomes suffocating.” — Tianna 

Claiming (or stealing) time 

Parenting can be all-encompassing. Getting time for yourself probably won’t happen by accident — you might need to work for it. 

  • “I keep my sanity because my husband and I trade off mornings to sleep in on the weekends, and he forces me to go out at least one weeknight every week. If I didn’t have that time to be ‘just Stace,’ I would’ve lost the entire spark of who I am.” — Stace
  • “I take PTO when I’m completely healthy and my daughter is in school. I put my feet up and binge-watch Netflix.” — Stacy 

Dismissing screen guilt 

In parenting circles, there tends to be quite a bit of hand-wringing about screen time. But in a world gone mad, sometimes the only thing standing between a mother and a nervous breakdown is five consecutive episodes of Octonauts.  

  • “All the PBS Kids and nature programming on Netflix. I don’t feel a whit of guilt about it if it means I’m not screaming at my kids while burning dinner and forgetting about laundry in the washer.” — Anna
  • “Technology is my friend and co-parent.” — Kara

Gym childcare 

  • “The two hours of childcare at the Y has been a lifesaver for me as a SAHM. It motivates me to exercise and gives my son a chance to socialize with other kids and adults. And on those days when I need some time to myself, I just sit in the lobby with my coffee, a good book and zero guilt.” — Michele  
  • “My one concrete piece of advice — GYM MEMBERSHIP. I’d go nuts without the two hours of childcare and the stress relief of exercise. They’ll have to pry my membership out of my cold, dead, broke single-mom hands.” — Kelly

Low-key socializing  

Don’t underestimate the power of getting by with a little help from your friends. 

  • “A girlfriend and I do ‘basement wine’ once a week after the kids go to bed. It’s lovely to have low-pressure, low-cost time with a friend to remember who I was before all this.” — Anna

Shannon Keough lives in St. Paul with her husband and two children. Send questions or comments to