The Secret Life Of High-Energy Parents

Post written by Sherri Kruger. Follow me on Twitter.

We’ve all encountered those perky, high-energy parents always smiling, laughing and running around with their kids. These are the same parents who even have time to do things for themselves. All this, while you were just starting to feel proud of yourself for getting the kids up, fed and out the door before noon. Ugh.

Annoying right? Well fear not. I’m going to share with you some of the secrets behind these high-energy parents. Follow these tips and you can be well on your way to becoming one of them yourself.

A note to those high-energy parents reading this article – please don’t take offense to me calling you annoying, I’m really just jealous but working at it. :)

1. Sleep. There’s no coincidence that this is number one. The easiest way to top up your energy level is to start with a great night’s sleep. When the kids are down and the house is quiet grab a book or magazine head off to bed and read for a while. It’s easier to drift off to sleep after some down time and with nothing else to do around the house. Some people need 8 hours of sleep others require less. Get as much as your body requires.

2. Don’t overbook. Don’t try to do too many things in any given day. This is especially true if you have very young kids. Running around all day every day is exhausting and really drains you of energy and enthusiasm. Keep some days, evenings and the occasional weekend open to catch up on rest and to just be still. Don’t feel you need to explain everything all the time either. If you’re busy just say so and if you’re not but would rather have a night off, just say so. No one will think any less of you, in fact you may plant the seed with them to do the same.

3. Get a life. Nothing injects energy and a renewed vibrancy into your life like getting out and having a life of your own. Reconnect with old friends, get a bite to eat after work with a co-worker or meet a close friend for coffee. Avoid a babysitter and invite other parents around with their kids. The kids can play and you can socialize and have much needed adult interaction.

4. Adopt a “good enough” mentality. Very few things will ever be perfect. This includes the state of your house when you have kids or pets. Try and avoid stressing over the piles of laundry, dust bunnies in the corner, or less than perfectly stocked pantry. Plug away at these things a little at a time. Strive for progress not perfection.

5. Have an easy meal night (or two). Keep the gourmet 5 course meals for special occasions or at least limit them to a couple times a month if you wish. Quick, easy, and nutritious meals are great for a family on the go. If you don’t already, seriously consider setting up a weekly or monthly meal plan. It helps take the guess work out of meal time and allows you to eat well consistently.

6. Get active. It seems a bit counter intuitive but the more you get up and get moving the more energy you’ll have. Get back into an activity you used to love or try something entirely new. Think aerobics, kick-boxing, yoga or weight training. Try running, signing up for a dance class, or start swimming.

7. Do what you love. Doing something you’re passionate about energizes you. Passion allows you to get excited about something and it rarely feels like work. Do you really enjoy painting, drawing, or photography? Or is writing, dancing, or teaching more your thing? Don’t know what you’re passionate about? Dabble. Dabble in a bunch of different things to see what gets you excited. Things you fear may not be enjoyable could turn out to be your new love. Have an open mind and go for it.

8. Get help. One sure fire way to burn out is to try and do everything yourself. You are not superwoman or superman so stop holding yourself to this unrealistic expectation. Ask for help. Get your kids to take part in some of the chores. My two year old helps me clear the table and load the dishwasher. I’ve never really asked him to do it but he just likes to be included and to do what we do. Hey, works for me! If you’re having a dinner party ask people to bring a main dish, a dessert, or a salad. It’ll save you from spending the entire day cooking and from being exhausted even before your guests arrive.

9. Live to your own schedule. Every family is different and what works for one may not work for another. Set your own schedule and manage your time around your passions and those of your family. Time management is key for preventing burn out. Read more on this in our article: 7 Time Management Techniques For Real Families.

10. Down time. Nothing zaps our energy more than feeling like we’re “on” all the time. Serving others is great and when it’s done out of love it doesn’t feel like a chore or that it’s even draining your energy. Given enough time, you will eventually feel exhausted, lethargic and just tired over all. Take some time out just for yourself. Book a massage, get a facial or meditate. Take a nature walk, people watch in the park or soak in the tub with a good book and soft music. Whatever it is, it’s important to have some down time and just be alone with your thoughts.

Next time you see a parent who’s full of energy, happy and enjoying life take a look at what they’re doing. Odds are they’re doing things they love. It’s tough to fake enthusiasm for the long haul but if you align your activities with your priorities and stop trying to do it all, you’ll find you will soon have energy to spare.

What have I missed? What are some other things we can do to up our energy levels as parents?

45 Responses to “The Secret Life Of High-Energy Parents”

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  1. Oh thank you! It’s strange, but sometimes I feel my wife and I get a bad rap for being so active with our kids, especially in public (even on our way to church). We always get stared at, ALWAYS. Most of the time it’s stares of joy, wonder, or at least approval. It’s too bad some look at us like we should be settling down, like “real” adults. But who better to teach a kid how to be a kid than his or her parents?

  2. Lisa says:

    Loved this post! I especially resonate with “Do What You Love”. It is so easy as a parent to get “bogged down” in the requirements of the job :) but I have always found when I make space for things that keep me feeling alive and growing (and just plain happy) that my energy, productivity, and mood skyrocket. Thanks for this great reminder!

  3. Mummy Zen says:

    I’m sure all these parents who look high-energy don’t necessarily feel it :-). You’re absolutely right with these tips though. As parents, we need to recognise we’re not super-human and can’t do everything, so your suggestions of having an easy meal night and getting help are important. That way, we can fit in what we need to, or choose to prioritise things we’re excited about doing with our family.

  4. “Don’t overbook” Overbooking is the quickest way to get bogged down. By keeping the schedule free, we’re able to do all kinds of new stuff approching it with fresh energy.

  5. Ellie says:

    SLEEP! I love seeing this listed first. I know many people who try to get by on 6 or less hours of sleep a night, and it’s just a recipe for disaster. When the kids are babies you can’t help it, but once they are sleeping through the night, try to get the best rest you can. Our kids go to bed by 8 and we are usually asleep by 9 and up at 5 or 5:30 am during the week (the kids sleep til 6:30). But I always find I am much happier, and healthier, when I am well rested. Simple, but critically important. Proper sleep is my protection against the flu, and I’m hoping it comes through for me this year as well.

  6. Roblynn says:

    I know when I eat healthy I feel so much better! Cutting out sugar and junk foods can make a huge difference in my energy levels. And I am an “old” mom so I have to look for everything to help :)

  7. Chad says:

    Get a Life – That has to be the most important one for my wife and me. We were so adventurous before kids. Now we find ourselves doing less than ever and staying close to home. Not good. Those few times we have done something for ourselves it made a positive impact all around.
    It’s hard to remember sometimes that the kids get sick of YOU too!

  8. steadymom says:

    I agree that eating well helps my energy levels (along with a cup of hot tea here and there!)

    Also, it helps to realize that one challenging day doesn’t mean I’m a horrible mother – some days are about just making it through. It’s the climate of our lives at home, rather than the day-to-day weather, that determines the atmosphere there.

    Jamie

  9. The have an easy meal night (or two) is important for families or anyone with a busy schedule. You’re right on with making a meal plan for the week — it takes five to 10 minutes to do and yet saves tons of time in those little trips to the grocery or digging through the fridge to see if you have all the ingredients you need. Plus, it keeps everyone from straying and eating unhealthy. Here’s a sample of my meal plan: http://tenaciousme3.wordpress.com/2009/02/23/how-to-stick-to-your-diet-plan/

  10. Natalie says:

    What a great post – you have highlighted what I believe to be the 3 most important things a parent can do.

    1. Make time that is yours. You must draw a line in the sand for “you time”, to grow as an individual and maintain a curious mind. Find a passion you can identify with outside the role of “mum” or “dad”. This in no way negates the importance and value of your roles as parents, but rather expands and enriches it.
    2. Make time that is exclusively your childrens’. Make sure you are not the only one “getting a life” – INCLUDE your kids in your passions. (I have included my daughter in this year’s NaNoWriMo for example!)
    3. Make time for your partner – and don’t always refer to them as “mummy” or “daddy”!

  11. Down time is a HUGE one. My wife and I will actually block off weekends on the calendar that we call “Meekends.” They’re just for us. This gives us the ability to say “we already have plans” when other “less desireable” invitations come up. If you don’t make the down time a priority, it’s amazing how your weekends fill up faster than hungry teenager at Old Country Buffet.

  12. Sherri, this was a great article. I consider myself on the higher end of the energy spectrum and I was nodding my head at all your points. I found it harder when the kids were babies to do things I loved, just no time. For that period of life sleep was what I loved and I snatched it whenever I could!

  13. This is a great post and it really speaks to me right now. This is right where I am, trying to do the best I can, but realizing I’m not superwoman and I can’t do it all alone. I am trying hard to make Sunday a day of rest, and it is helping my week tremendously. It’s so important to get good sleep at night and at least one day of rest a week. Easy meals, exercising, limiting commitments….these are all great tips. Thank you!

  14. Derek says:

    Thanks for the wonderful post! These are great things to remember as we start a family in the next couple years.

  15. I love the suggestion to have a “good enough” mentality. That’s a hard one for women especially these days, especially if *their* mom was a supermom! These days I save the extra diligent house cleaning for when my mom visits – and leave the dust bunnies alone the rest of the time :)

  16. Thanks for all your comments. It’s good to see that many of you already know these secrets! :)

    @ Jamie – I love this: “It helps to realize that one challenging day doesn’t mean I’m a horrible mother – some days are about just making it through.” So nice to hear someone else say it. Thank you.

    @ Jason – Meekends … nice! I think I’ll have to schedule a few of those in especially with the crazy holiday season quickly approaching.

  17. Janryck says:

    I’m not a parent, not even married yet but I really love this post. I can get back to this article 5 to 6 years from now. :) Bookmarked it.

  18. Great post and great comments, too! Agree with everything said, especially living your own schedule. We got rid of our TV 12 years ago and BAM! tons of free time!!! With iTunes and Netflix everything’s “on-demand” now so we’re never trying to orient our schedule to a broadcast. Our kids don’t know any different and they “earn” their downloads. And we watch TED videos as a family at dinner for conversation starters.

    A general comment is to just live more simply. The larger the house the more you have to buy and you’re always fighting the inevitable entropy effect of kids and clutter. Small house = less crap = more time/money/incentive to do things out of the house…where life is actually lived. A friend lost his home and everything he owned and he said it was ultimately the best thing ever for his family.

    For parents with younglings…take your kids everywhere. Bars, restaurants, parties, games and to your work if you can get away with it. The earlier they become comfortable hanging out with kids of all ages…including adults…the more you can take them places. It really pays off once they hit 7-10. It’s the kids who’s only peer group is other kids their same age that seem to have the most behaviour issues in adult social settings. While school nights require sleep, on other nights let them vary their sleep. Trust me. When that plane is delayed 5 hours and you’re rolling with the family into a hotel at 3am and they’re still hangin’ tought you’ll appreciate it. Strict sleeping schedules bog you and your kids down.

    And don’t put the master bedroom above the kids bedroom in a two story. Huge mistake 8-)

  19. In the those early years of a childs life they are constantly feeding off your emotions, if your not happy and lovin life, it will reflect back on your kids.

  20. Stacey says:

    What a great read, I am one of those high energy parents and am so because I do all the things your outlined. It wasn’t always like that though and I have since started my blog Sunny Mummy to enourage mothers to look after themselves first (yes dads should too!) My mission at Sunny Mummy is to inspire, motivate and support mothers to look after themselves first in order to create happy lives and families… I love Zen Habits and to have a ZEN family habits is the icing on the cake WELL DONE and I would love you all to pop on over (and down under ;) and check out Sunny Mummy…a warm place to be!

  21. Drink lots of strong coffee. Without coffee, I am nothing.

  22. Anne says:

    “Next time you see a parent who’s full of energy, happy and enjoying life take a look at what they’re doing. Odds are they’re doing things they love.”

    OR – they are just having a good day! :)

    Seriously, you had some good stuff to say…but I’ll also add that life is about seasons (and I don’t mean spring, summer…) – sometimes we are going through stuff and it’s just hard but if we will stick with it we will get through and we will see fruit.

    And I am old enough and have enough kids to know what I’m talking about. Been through a lot of seasons, some joyful, some hell. I am 47 with four kids ages 25, 21, 15 and 7 and guess what? Life just keeps changing on me all the time. Part of the problem is that we get all surprised when those changes come, or life gets hard…

    And I am totally down with Melissa…lots of coffee!

    Anne @alivenkickin

  23. Damn, can’t think of anything to add to this. Is it the definitive list?

    Hmm, okay, how about a change in the title – The secrets of sane, happy parents perhaps. Everything you’ve listed is vital to being a good parent and a happy person too. Nice one:)

  24. @ Anne – Very good point about life having seasons. I think you’re right on with that! We can’t be expected to have a good day everyday. When we do have a bad day it comes back to Jamie’s point that it doesn’t make you a horrible parent.
    Thanks for sharing!

    And yes coffee is very helpful. :)

  25. Elika Mahony says:

    I so enjoyed reading this post. I think one thing that has helped and that I would recommend is living near relatives or moving to a part of the world where you can have the time to develop a passion and be a mother at the same time. I live in China where we’ve had help since my children were born here and this has allowed me to have the down time I need and the career that I’ve wanted. I am also able to spend more time with the children while she cooks and cleans! I am often in awe of mothers in North America who have to do all the work themselves. Feeling very blessed for the life we have here in Asia!

    Secondly I would add that spending quality time with one’s children actually gives children a foundation where they’re not so needy all the time. If we spend time with them, they feel settled and don’t have to cry for attention all the time – it’s already there. This allows for a healthier dynamic in the family so that when we do want some down time, they will give it to us knowing that they will have some mommy/daddy time every day.

  26. This is a really helpful post, especially the part about not overbooking. Now that all three of our kids are old enough to be involved in different activities outside of school, we’re starting to discover just how essential it is to have good long bits of downtime together as a family. As we start to see how important this is (to both us parents and the kids) it becomes easier to say no to things that would take us off balance.

  27. Ray Carroll says:

    Great post…I REALLY need some of that energy. I’ve tried these steps inconsistently and do believe they work. I just have to work on my number one step….’be consistent.’

  28. This is a great posting. I think that parents encounter problems when they overschedule themselves and their kids. I just adopted a baby three months ago, and though I do a lot to meet her needs, I’m very aware of meeting my own needs. I’m not highly energetic, but those daily walks really help.

  29. Liz says:

    Have Fun!

    Have fun with your kids. (Current favourite fun activities here include building with Duplo blocks and reading books that I read as a kid.)
    Have fun with your spouse. Play games, read together, chat, go for walks, whatever you find fun.
    Have fun with friends. With kids. Without the kids. As whole families. With grandparents. etc
    Have fun on your own. Do fun, silly things you love like walking in the rain or trying on goofy sunglesses.

    Fun keeps you young!

  30. Carolina says:

    I feel like all the advice on this site is just a reminder of how great of a father I had. (Might just call him to say hi today). Point is, on top of working a tiring job, commuting hours home, I don’t remember ever him saying no to wrestling with us, attending our sports game, or having time to play with us on the weekends. He was always there, willing to do everything. I think that had to do with the fact that he was fulfilled in most aspects of his life as you mentioned in this post.

  31. Jeffrey says:

    I love this article – thank you. The one thing I would add is, “Do What Your Kids Want To Do” – and by that I mean, get down on the floor, or get dirty, or whatever…get truly involved. There was nothing that got my energy up (besides coffee) like seeing my daughter excited and involved in an activity. So I totally embraced “talking the Barbies” and acting out the pretend talent shows, and much more. There’s nothing more exhausting than dragging your kids around while you do your chores or busywork.

  32. Zengirl says:

    Sherri,

    I am not one of those high energy o reven organized parent, sometimes I forget diapers for my infant, other times my toddler’s shoes. I am hoping one of these days it changes to at least be good enough parent and I’d be happy. I am happy to be an average mom. :-)

  33. Karen says:

    Yes, yes, yes, such good information here. Some great stuff in the comments as well. I cannot begin to count the number of times I hear, “I wish I had your energy.” I tell them you can! I eat simple and healthy food, run, exercise, laugh, get lots of fresh air, and sleep (okay with a 2 year old and a 6 month old this is at a premium but there is a reason I go to bed at 9pm!) That is my “secret” formula. Do what you love is so important. I normally get blank looks followed by reasons they can’t do it. Alright, then it just isn’t your priority.

    I have a comment on the good enough. I was a fanatical housekeeper. It was to the point of stupid. Luckily, God sent me my second child 18 months after the first to cure that. Learning to let go was sooooo important. I was not making the best use of my very limited time with my littles. I have a secret. Most people still think my house is great. It is tidy but there is a bigger reason. I don’t make a big deal about it! You don’t walk into my house and I start apologizing for the state of the floors, couch, walls, whatever. Nope, come into my house and I will press a pumpkin muffin and some tea on you. I really think that unless your home is a filthy pig sty that smells, most people don’t even notice.

    For those who do, heck with them. You have plenty of other friends.

  34. Canaan says:

    Adopt a “good enough” mentality – This really helped me. I am a new parent of a 3 month little girl and while on maternity leave I was completely overwhelmed with trying to keep the house the same as it was pre-child. All laundry done and put away, everything in it’s place, etc. It was impossible so I constantly felt like I had so much to do and couldn’t be satisfied. This is going up on my fridge!

  35. hev says:

    love this article.

    just sitting down imbetween jobs for me is a must(it does usually invole a brew)but it breaks the jobs in the house down into managable bits so i dont even feel like im doing my chores.so i dont get as exhausted as quick.
    And multi task.eg. while im waiting for the kettle i do the dishwasher tricking my body into feeling like ive done less and i then get more time to do what i like (me time)like reading on the computer or having another brew lol.
    oh yea and agree with the sleep issue i cant even function without 8 hrs.

  36. These are great suggestions. I find that sleep and exercise are my two non-negotiables to keep the other 8 in check. I also find pursuing interests we love is a great gift to give to our children – sets a great example for them to follow.

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