331: Parenting Young Kids When You Feel Terrible // Amy Larry


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The old saying goes that “moms shouldn’t be allowed to get sick”…because it’s nearly impossible to take care of our families when we aren’t feeling well ourselves. But unfortunately, moms do get sick. Sometimes very sick, for long periods of time. When that happens, what’s a mom supposed to do, so she can care for herself and her children?

Today’s guest, Amy Larry, has some hard-won and very wise advice for us on this topic, as she was diagnosed with cancer when she had four children under eight years old. She says she had to learn how to “parent from the couch” for a year or two, and many moms might find themselves in a similar position–whether they are battling physical illness or even mental illness that leaves them operating with less energy and capacity for a time. You can still be an incredibly good mother even you are a “couch mother,” as Amy calls it, and today’s takeaways will give you some ideas for how to make this time a bit more manageable for you.


3 Takeaways to help you parent when you feel like crap:

  1. Set short intentional time with your kids. Every hour or two, ask your children to come to you on the couch or in bed and give them a few minutes of focused attention. Play a finger game or I Spy, listen to an audiobook together, ask them to show you a trick, or even watch a show together that you both enjoy. Just letting them know that you care about them and are focused on them for a few minutes will help you to get through a survival mode season without losing your relationship. 
  2. Rotate activities. Young kids don’t need access to the entire house or all of the toys all at the same time, or they will lose interest quickly. By rotating where they are and what they’re allowed to do, you can set their days on a path of entertaining themselves for the majority of the time. Consider setting up stations or bins that are only pulled out at certain times and try to vary the energy levels of activities each time they switch. So they might do 20 minutes with the PlayDoh bin, then spend 20 minutes jumping on the tramp, then come inside and snuggle with you and watch a 20-minute show. If it feels overwhelming to come up with a system like this, maybe ask a friend to do it for you and even come help the first day to get the kids into a good rhythm.
  3. Recruit community support.  Your friends and family want to help you. Most of them would be honored to be asked! But it takes bravery to admit that you’re struggling and to risk inconveniencing someone. Amy says that the first step is to make a list of “all the people.” Go through your friend list on social media and the contacts in your phone. Write down everyone in your family, neighborhood, church, book club, friends from college, kids’ baseball team, PTA, whatever who might be willing to help you if you’re not well. Then, second step, make a list of “all the things.” What are ten things you do daily or weekly that need to be done like making lunches, watching your kids for an hour, folding a load of laundry, buying groceries, or driving carpool? Which tasks would be easiest to delegate, and then, looking back at your first list, who might be willing to help?


>>>Have you ever been a “couch parent”?  How did you manage?  Tell us in the comments below.


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Mentioned in the Episode:


  • BetterHelp: This episode is sponsored by BetterHelp. Go to betterhelp.com/3in30 to get 10% off your first month of online therapy!
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