With the exception of the last year, I’ve always had two, or three, at home with me during the day. I know some women homeschool and, therefore, have many more children than that at home. I salute you.
However many children surround your feet and tug on your shirt all day, just know that we all find our groove and we all have our callings. Nobody is “doing it right” and nobody has all the answers. Hopefully some of what works for us, might work for you, too. Leanne, this one’s for you!
1. Do something outside of the house at least once a week. For us, it was library Fridays. The local library had an awesome story time and fortunately, it took place right after morning naps. Not only did it require me to take a shower and put on real clothes, but it gave my kids some great interactive reading time. While it’s incredibly unfortunate children’s libraries don’t have margarita machines, I did find some shared camaraderie with other moms with children the same age. I even forged some beautiful, still to this day, friendships with some of those moms. To be honest, I miss the carefree nature of those days!
2. Nap time is the Holy Grail. No really. With super rare exceptions, I kept to the nap schedule. Not only does it make for happy kids, but happy moms, too.
3. If your kids no longer nap, consider an hour of quiet time. I found that even though my kids gave up those precious few hours of snooze time, they still needed down time. For me, it worked well to provide them with a few books and puzzles and told them to sit on their beds and enjoy the hour. I shut the door and walked out. Did it always work? Not hardly. But after a few weeks of this system, they came to look forward to the time alone (don’t YOU wish you had that hour every day?!). It also encouraged them to entertain themselves. That’s a skill you’ll be glad you taught them.
4. Run it off, baby. Whether you visit the park, they play in the backyard or they go on a scavenger hunt for rocks around the block with you, get them moving. I found myself doing this just before lunch (busy bodies make for hungry and tired kids) and during the witching hour before dinner. When they’re super little, they have to be supervised, but the older they get, I would let them loose in the backyard while I kept a watchful eye from the house. I usually spent that time finishing up dinner, washing dishes or picking up the living area.
5. Speaking of picking up, don’t you dare do it all. Haven’t you heard of the pickup parade? Oh it’s super fun. When the kids were little, we cranked the music and picked up as much stuff as we could in a song or two. It was a fun way to get them to be part of the household. As the saying goes around here, “I’m your mom, not the maid.”
6. In the early days, I was part of a weekly mom’s playgroup. I’m telling you, those ladies saved my sanity. It’s playtime for the kids and grownup time for the moms. So many illnesses, rashes and discipline problems were solved at those kitchen counters. Clearly, this was before the invention of Facebook! But as awesome as social media can be, nothing beats face time with moms who are in the trenches with you.
7. I’m a planner, so for me setting a loose schedule every week really helped. Monday (laundry day), Tuesday (grocery store), Wednesday (playgroup), Thursday (errands/down day) and Friday (library). But, by then I was usually like “praise Jesus I made it through the week.” Some moms I know are super awesome and take their kids to Daily Mass. I tried that. Once. It didn’t work for us, but it might for you.
8. Communicate with your husband. What does he expect of you? What do you expect of yourself? What’s necessary and what’s nice to do? Be honest with yourself. You can go the supermom route, but you usually end up yelling at your kids and then paying for their therapy. Scott and I set up reasonable expectations for one another and he was always willing to pitch in when he arrived home from work. He knows “the look” and “the sigh” all too well.
9. Don’t feel bad about screen time. Sometimes you just need Dora for 30 minutes, am I right? There is no evil in the boob tube, or the iPad or the coveted Netflix. You do what you have to do. I can recall some days that I was so overwhelmed, so done, that the TV kept me from crawling into the dark corner of my closet and rocking myself to sleep from stress. Motherhood is hard. Super awesome, but hard.
10. When the kids turned two, I enrolled them in a two-morning a week Mother’s Day Out program at our local parish. It’s not for everyone, but it has been a Godsend for us and each of our children. Here’s a few tips in finding the right one for you and your family.
11. Finally, give yourself something to look forward to every week. There were some weeks I scheduled a pedicure, or a girls’ night out. Maybe it was haircut week (love those!) or going to the grocery store without kids. Whatever keeps your tank filled, pow-wow with your husband, share calendars and make it happen.
Without a single bit of hesitation, I can tell you that the hardest and loneliest days of motherhood were the first few years. Physically, your children need you so much. Emotionally, your husband desires you and psychologically you are all tapped out. And, for those of us who had a boatload of kids in a few short years, it often feels like the movie Groundhog Day.
Girl, I have been there.
Actually, I’m still there, but instead of going stir-crazy bonkers at home, I’m doing it in the van running kids from one activity to the next. The movie hasn’t changed, just my location. But, with certainty I can tell you that my kids seem to be growing up faster and I’m even more self-aware of the kind of mom I am. Mostly, I think that’s a good thing. The single best thing I’ve found to endure the really, really, really hard days is to go to confession. God always meets me there and for a tiny moment I actually listen.
May this season of life be your best yet. I promise, it just gets better. Louder, but better.