10 Tips for Keeping Your Sanity While Raising Children
Oh how I’m going to love writing this post. I, like so many moms have been through (oh wait, STILL going through) those crazy times where I feel like my world is turned upside down, or I’m falling into a black hole, or the day is never gonna end. Can you relate to any of the following scenerios?:
-You feel like your nerves are fried and you can’t take anymore. You hide in the bathroom (possibly with chocolate) in the hopes of getting a chance to breathe (and inhale chocolate). Only instead what you get are the sounds of small fists pounding and little fingers crawling under the door like a Steven King horror movie.
-You FINALLY get all the mistermeaners asleep only to find its now your own bedtime. Too tired to clean up the mess lying everywhere, you crawl into bed and fall asleep, only to be awakened by the same critters that caused the nightmare the night before! Its like Ground Hog Day over and over and over again!
-Your Spouse kisses you goodbye before going to work and you whisper in their ear, “TAKE ME WITH YOU!” They smile and walk out the door while you secretly wonder if you have time to slip into the trunk and sneak with them to the land of BIG human beaings who are toilet trained, use indoor voices, wipe their own mouths, and give you real money for your hard work.
I’m tellin’ you, I’ve been there, done that and still have days like that. Everything I’m about to share is from what I learned from my own hair pulling, I feel like I’m drowning in kids, give me chocolate or die experiences. Hopefully these tips will help you as much as they have (and still are) helping me…
1. Study the stages. Sometimes children drive us nuts with behavior that we think is not normal. This behavior may just be part of a normal development stage. I can’t tell you how many times I was pulling my hair out wondering what was wrong with my child only to find after reading about their particular age, that how they were acting was completely normal. When I got married, my mom gave me an invaluable reference book that I have loved. There are so many good books and websites out there. This book was wonderful because it went into the most detail for each age which was is wonderful for those first 5 years when they are changing and developing so fast. For example, it’s normal for 2-4 yr olds to throw fits and yell and scream. They want so badly to be independent but haven’t learned quite how yet. It’s normal for 8-9 year olds to be crazy and silly all the time. Instead of reacting, educate yourself so you can know how to help your child in each stage they go through.
2. Take care of your health. You can’t draw water from an empty well. If you’re tired and unhealthy it’s gonna be hard to take car of (and have patience with!) another human being. I’m such a happier mom when I take time for me first. That may look different for each person. For me, it means getting enough exercise, eating healthy, getting 7-8 hrs of sleep, and making sure I have quiet time to myself each day.
3. Always be a step ahead. My mom always woke up several hours before her children. That was her time to prepare for the day. By the time we woke up, she was ready for the onslaught! (There are 8 children in my family!)
Being prepared for what you think might happen cuts a little bit of chaos out of your day. For example, if you know your 18 month old is going to dump everything in sight, put things up higher. My baby LOVES to get in the toilet so I am always putting lids down and closing bathroom doors….ALL DAY. If you know your kids will have a melt down if plans for the day change, don’t inform them of the plan till you are IN.THE.CAR. When my kids go to school, their teachers are ready for them and have ‘hopefully’ made lesson plans ahead of time. I like to take time on Sunday evenings and go over the upcoming week and make a ‘game plan’ for my week. Obviously, I can never be 100% prepared for the onslaught of things that will happen with my kids every week. No mother plans to be on her hands and knees cleaning food of the floor that has been flung by the baby, or cleaning poop off the carpet (oh how I love potty training), or cleaning permanent marker off the walls, etc. but with all the unexpected that happens, planning ahead for the ‘expected’ makes motherhood just a little bit easier.
4. Practice more than you punish. I learned this lesson in my pre-mother years when I was a pre-school teacher. As human beings, we just learn better through experience. We can listen all we want, but the learning actually comes through experience. For example, I can tell my four year old till I’m blue in the face to pick up her clothes. Until she actually PRACTICES doing it it over and over and over again, she will probably continue to leave her clothes on the floor. When teaching my children something new, I have found the following 3 P’s to work wonderfully:
Prepare, Practice, Praise. Prepare them first by teaching them how to do a new skill or how to behave in a different environment (store, church, restaurant). Have them practice it themselves. Praise them for their effort. Repeat. If they do it wrong, talk about how they can do better and repeat the process over. When I had 3 children under the age of 5 I used to wonder why in the world I bothered to take them to church every week. It was just torture for everyone. They couldn’t sit still, they were loud, and My husband and I never hear a word of the talks given that hour. Why bother, right? But we continued, week, after week, and we kept teaching them, we gave them each separate bags with items for their different ages to help keep them quiet, and VERY SLOWLY they finally learned how to sit still in church. The same goes for us adults. One of my favorite quotes explains this perfectly:
“That which we persist in doing becomes easier to do, not that the nature of the thing has changed, but our power to do so is increased.”― Heber J. Grant
5. Learn to laugh. If you can’t beat em, join em! Children love nothing more than an adult who will dance, sing, laugh, and play with them. You are the eye of their storm. If you are happy, most likely they will be too! After playing with my 4 yr old one day, she said to me, “Mom, I like you.” My heart was full.
6. Remember life is short. Children grow oh so quickly. I love this quotes from one of my favorite talks entitled, Joy in the Journey by Thomas S. Monson:
“If you are still in the process of raising children, be aware that the tiny fingerprints that show up on almost every newly cleaned surface, the toys scattered about the house, the piles and piles of laundry to be tackled will disappear all too soon and that you will–to your surprise–miss them profoundly.”
7. Tidy up before retiring. I am a happier mom in the morning when I wake up to a clean house. No one wants to wake up to the leftovers of yesterday. It’s so tempting to go to bed and say you’ll tackle it in the morning, but trust me, when those munchkins batteries are fully charged and you try and start your day with an overflowing sink of dishes and clutter all over the floor, it can get depressing and frustrating fast. Clean slate, happy day is what I always say. Sometimes I have to set a timer for 30 min to motivate me. Then I just make a mad dash and do as much as I can. I tell myself when the timer goes off, the rest of the night is mine!
What my kitchen usually looks like at night…
What my kitchen looks like when I actually follow the tips Im sharing…
Which one would YOU rather wake up to in the morning?
8. Take lots of pictures and or write about your crazy days. Stresses of today are usually comedy relief in the near future. I see pictures of my kids even a year ago and laugh at all we went through together. When they are older and have kids of their own, it will help to see their parents went through the same thing with them. When you walk into a room and see a disaster has happened while you were away, take a breath, and a picture while you’re at it. You’ll be grateful later. Here’s some of the “choice” moments at my home.
Someone didn’t want to participate in the mud fight..
When brothers dump flour…
When the 4 year old learns how to drive…
And then there’s the dumps and spills…
9. Get out of the house with or without your children. A change of scenery can do wonders when life gets hectic. Strap the kids in the car, and of for a drive, to the park, to grandma’s house, whatever it takes. Then, if you still need a breather, ask your husband or another relative or friend to watch your kids while you go out for some alone time. It works wonders every time!
10. Live in the now. It’s so easy to fall into the escape mechanisms. Parenting is hard and it’s so much easier to pull out an ipad or phone to escape dealing with a screaming child, or sit in the bathroom with a container of ice cream, or just let netflix babysit our kids. I have been there done that SO many times! When I realized my first child could sit through a movie and I could actually get something done it was like Heaven! I’m not saying these things aren’t good in there own ways and in moderation, but sometimes I have found myself wanting to ‘fast forward’ through difficult times instead of facing them head on. When I ‘disappear’ emotionally or mentally from my life and my kids, the problems don’t disappear, they only escalate. I am constantly reminding myself to live in the now. The ancient Roman philosopher Horace admonished,
“Whatever hour God has blessed you with, take it with grateful hand, nor postpone your joys from year to year, so that in whatever place you have been, you may say that you have lived happily.” (Finding Joy in the Journey)
Give your electronics a time out and your kids some quality time.
Oops, I know I said 10 tips but I absolutely must add 1 more. It is the most important in my life.
Pray for help! I believe in my heart that God gave me my children to take care of. They are his children too, though, and I believe he helps me take care of them. Sometimes, we just need to plead for help. We don’t receive an owners manual at their birth, but I consider Him my owners manual. He knows them better than I do so why wouldn’t I turn to him? And if you feel that you can’t go another step, that you aren’t cracked up to be the parent you always hoped you would be, watch the following clip. It always gives me hope to keep moving on. Keep your head up and don’t give up! Your kids are counting on you!