Are you spending each day simply surviving motherhood? Here are some shame-free tips to help you find that joy you once dreamed of.
This is not one of those posts that teach how to have a spotless home or Pinterest-worthy life. If that is what you were hoping for, might I suggest you keep looking for a mom who has it all together because I am not her. To be frank, this post is more like a survival-mode cheat sheet for the everyday mom. 🙂
Don’t get me wrong, motherhood is one of life’s greatest joys. However, being a mother can sometimes reveal a part of us we’d rather not admit to harboring. I’m talking about the harried, sleep-deprived, raving lunatic we all too often encounter throughout the day and pretend doesn’t exist.
If you’ve never seen this woman staring back at you in the mirror, then this post is not for you, either. In fact, you should probably take over the keyboard and impart the wisdom you have been obviously keeping to yourself.
However, if you know this Mrs. Hyde version of yourself all too well, you are in good company. Pull up a chair and let’s learn some ways of coping that will benefit both of us, because, as my family can attest, I need this post, too!
Recognize the Problem
You know what problem I am referring to. The one that leaves you feeling guilty after the kids are asleep in their beds, peacefully displaying angelic faces that only a moment ago were whiny, tired and pushing you to your max. The same problem that raises your blood pressure every time you try to get out the door with kids in tow. The one that makes you lose your mind.
This problem has many names and is different for each of us but it affects us all the same. But, if it’s such a common problem, then what have we done about it?
Admitting to ourselves that we have this problem is a great first step but might not be enough. Sometimes, it takes accountability. I’m talking about accountability to your own family.
There is nothing wrong with apologizing to your children when you have taken things too far or blown your patience or have simply lost your joy. In fact, expressing these thoughts to them can do amazing things for your relationship. Kids are incredible at forgiving. Too many times I have had to ask my children for forgiveness but EVERY time they have forgiven me and every time they demonstrate love and patience, it compels me to do the same.
Learn Your Triggers
The one thing that has helped me in my struggle to be a mom I can be proud of is recognizing what sets me off. Those triggers have changed from my younger, pre-children self. In fact, the triggers have changed with every pregnancy. (It really is amazing what making a human does to your own body both physically and emotionally.)
Before kids, chaos was welcomed; I thrived in it. It was nothing for me to have a house full of kids to babysit. The more the merrier. Now, I can barely survive my three. Ha!
My tolerance level for noise and activity have changed so drastically I hardly recognize myself at times. I finally had to realize I am not the same person I once was and need to stop putting myself in situations that are stressful. When I recognize my limits and stay within them, I am a much gentler person.
My kids have also recognized what mom can and can’t handle. Some may see this as a weakness, but for me, their attention to this detail can be the difference between a good day or a bad one. If I feel myself getting overwhelmed, I only need to tell them and they give me the space I need. I know this only works when kids are older but there are ways you can de-stress even with younger children:
- Retreat to a quiet room. When I tell our girls I need a minute, the house better be burning to the ground or someone bleeding before they knock on our bedroom door. It’s not harsh, our children can survive just fine without us for 20 mins or so. If you have little ones, there is nothing wrong with setting them down to a movie or in their crib with toys so you can take a moment to yourself. Sometimes, a few minutes to breath is vital.
- De-Stress There is an oil that I swear by. It’s accurately called Calm and it’s made by Annmarie Gianni. This stuff is like magic. I have a small roller ball I keep with me and when I feel myself begin to climb out of control, I apply it to my wrists and it’s like taking a really deep breath. My kids are still alive because of this stuff! (Totally kidding! Sort of.) Maybe you have another means of relaxation. Taking a bath, perhaps? Or drinking a cup of coffee alone? Maybe eating a Snickers in a closet? Whatever works for you, have it on standby because you know you are going to need it and will be much happier if you can defuse the situation before it gets out of hand.
- Phone a Friend This one will have to be left to your capable judgment because we all know that picking up a phone can attract children to you like magnets. If you can go somewhere private, take full advantage of this lifeline. Asking for help is probably the best thing you can do for yourself and your family. I don’t know a mom who has it all together, so why do we always feel the need to pretend we do? Leaning on a friend until you are strong enough for her to lean on you is what is going to get us through the hard times.
Once you have taken the time to find what triggers your inner beast mode, the best means of averting any situation is prevention.
- If mornings are not your thing *hand raised* than prepare for your mornings the night before. Lay clothes out, pack lunches and prepare the coffee pot before heading to bed. I do not function properly the first hour I am awake so these tips keep things running smoothly for our family.
- If you find you are ALWAYS picking up after your children even when they are not home, don’t do it. That’s right. I found I was getting so frustrated with all the things three little girls could disperse in one day so instead of seething while I cleaned, I bought a decorative basket that I could keep on my stairs and anything I found that was theirs went into the basket. When the girls got home they had the basket to empty. Anything left by bedtime went in the trash. Simple. If you are firm with this, you’ll be amazed at the reduced amount of things left out and you won’t feel stressed while cleaning.
- Plan meals that are easy to make or can be made in advance and popped into the oven or crockpot before dinner. Prepare your meals while the kids are napping or in school. This will lessen the stress when you have a house full and everyone is vying for your attention. Besides, who doesn’t like to come home to hearty aromas of dinner?? Instant mood lifter!
- Keep a clean house. Picking up the night before or first thing in the morning will start your day off right. If my house is not clean, I am a perfect depiction of a frazzled mess. I NEED a clutter-free home in order to feel calm and relaxed.
- Plan a set time for homework, etc. If the days are nice, I usually let the kids play outside until dark. After dinner, they finish homework as well as practice their instruments. When the days are colder, they get those items out of the way immediately so we have the rest of the day to ourselves.
- Set the mood for bed. Turn off the TV; play soft music; light a candle; dim the lights; maybe give the kids a bath. (Unless you’re like me and bath time is stressful, then skip that last suggestion.) If you are setting the mood, the kids will know how to act accordingly. Having minimal noise in our home 30-60 minutes before bed makes a world of difference for everyone. I’m much calmer and the kids do not need to settle down for sleep because I already set that in motion earlier.
Find Your Focus
Sometimes, us parents can lose sight of what is important. Often, that is because we are too busy trying to survive from one day to the next. When we are just surviving, we are not living and we most certainly are not enjoying life.
To be transparent, I struggled deeply when my children were younger. I did not suffer from postpartum depression, that is another subject entirely and one I am not qualified to address, but I often felt overwhelmed. To my breaking point. Almost daily. It was enough just to survive. (I can thank Dixie for screwing up my physiology so badly.) 🙂
It took years after delivering our last baby to feel “normal” again. So, believe me when I say “I’ve been there, done that and bought way too many t-shirts.”
One thing I have done that has helped tremendously is focusing on each of our daughters, one on one. I often take one child with me on an errand instead of all three. This allows both of us to focus on our relationship and I’m not overwhelmed. You can plan dates with each child, tuck them into bed at night or have designated time at home with each one. Whatever you can do to focus on what matters is a win.
The very first point I mentioned was to gain forgiveness from your child. But, just as important, granting forgiveness for yourself is a must. Too many times I would lay in bed with tears in my eyes because I failed as a mother AGAIN. It was starting to feel like a never-ending cycle of which I would never be free. Forgiving myself was not easy but how could I ask my children to forgive me if I was not willing to do it myself?
Instead of laying in bed crying, I started asking God for strength for the new day and planned out what I could do differently to make it a better one. Almost without fail, that bit of hope bolstered me through another day and I was able to find victory in some of the things I failed at the day before.
Baby steps. None of us will ever arrive but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t strive to be someone we can be proud of at the end of each day. That is my goal and I hope that for you, too. <3
Comment below and share some of your tips that have helped you in this stage of life.