If anyone has needed tips for finding balance in motherhood, it’s me! I gave up along time ago trying to be a perfect mom. I think every mother has their dreams of being a perfect mom and running a perfectly balanced household. My dream involves a spotless, beautiful home with shiny sinks, clean dishes, folded clothes, clean happy children, a happy satisfied husband and, oh yes, who could forget…Alice. I want an Alice just like the one in the Brady Bunch. Best friend, cook and housekeeper. I laughed one day when my own mother told me that was one of her secret dreams. Wouldn’t that be great if we could all have that? To have a perfectly balanced picture perfect life. unfortunately, that is not reality. When you look at my most recent family photo, you see what looks like an ordinary, perfect, happy family….
What you fail to see is what really goes on behind closed doors…..
Finding alance in motherhood is something I have been seeking for 11 years now. Which is more important, a clean house or time with my family, or time for myself? I could spend all day playing with my children which would create lasting memories but if I fail to clean my house, dirt and clutter will pile up and then I feel like I can’t function and turn into a very mean mommy which also creates lasting, but not so happy memories. Both are important. Raise your hand if you’ve stopped to play with your kids only to hear the laundry or dishes calling, or in reverse cleaned like a mad woman only to feel guilty that you have not been spending time with your kids? I have heard so many people say, “Don’t worry about having a clean house, your kids are more important.” I have also heard the phrase, “Establish a house of order…”
Well, I WANT BOTH! Is that possible?
I asked lots of other moms, like myself, for advice on how they keep balance in their lives and the advice they gave together with my own experience, created the inspiration for this post. Here it goes:
This was the number one piece of advice from SEVERAL moms…
1. Fill your cup. An empty cup cannot fill others. One mom said, “Set time aside to take care of yourself and to still be an individual.” (thanks Elizabeth!) I know a lot of mothers who feel like it is their lot in life to serve, serve, serve and feel bad spending time on themselves. A good friend and neighbor of mine gives wonderful advice on this. She said, “If you don’t have a dollar, you cannot give one. Moms that do not take care if themselves will eventually have nothing else to give. Investing in yourself is an investment in your family.” (thanks Lisa!) It’s true! Usually when I’m feeling run down and ragged, it’s because I haven’t been taking care of me. That’s also the time when I start feeling taken advantage of by my family and bitter at my husband because he gets to go to work with adults while I ‘have’ to stay home with the rug rats. The truth is, I am the one who chose to bring my children into the world, therefore, don’t they deserve the best from me? How can I give them my best if I’m tired and run down? Actually, it doesn’t matter whether you’re a mother, father, aunt, uncle, or none of the above. Everyone deserves to take care of themselves so they can put their best foot forward in the world.
2. Lower your expectations….for EVERYTHING! Keep expectations low and then you will be pleasantly surprised if things work out better. (thanks Joanne and Danielle) Kids like to be kids. They are all unique and don’t live their lives according to your dreams (hopefully not, anyway). Same goes for husbands. It drives my husband nuts when I have expectations. Our marriage runs much more smoothly when we just take things as they come and adjust accordingly. I’m definitely not saying that weI shouldn’t have standards to live by and rules, and consequences. I just notice everyone is a lot happier when I’m not so rigid and by the book al the time. My daughter’s hair is the perfect example. She hates getting her hair done. I hate seeing her running around peeking under messy hair that’s always in her eyes. I could make her life miserable by demanding she let me do her hair every morning so it looks like I want it to. Instead we’ve compromised. As long as she at least tries to comb it every day and lets me fix it when we go to church or other nice places, I let it go.
I also wish my 10 yr old would keep her room clean and organized. Unfortunately, that is not a priority to her. She LOVES to collect stuff and everything she owns is a prized possession. I’m more of an organized clutter free person, she is more creative. It is HER room but MY house. So we compromised. I let her keep as much stuff as she can fit in her hope chest and display on her table. If it collects on the floor, I get to decide what to do with it!
3. Breathe. When life gets overwhelming, and all the plates you’ve been juggling start crashing down, take a moment and breathe. There is a reason why moms lock themselves in the bathroom or closet (usually with chocolate as a companion). It’s because our children would probably not live to the ripe old age of 3 if we didn’t. I got really frustrated with something the other day and my sister said, “Katie, just take a break and go do something else. You can come back to this problem later.” She was right. Sometimes we just need to take a step back, breathe and then try again. One night I was trying to make spectacular looking brownies for a cub scout pack meeting. They ended up turning out like this…
I was so frustrated and stressed and I was snapping at my kids. Luckily, I took a moment, sat on the floor and just chilled for a sec. I then went to the bakery, and bought something to take. 🙂
I have a funny trick I like to try sometimes to calm down and change the mood when I get upset with my kids. You can read about it here.
4. Accept help. I’ve always been a little bit of a control freak. I like to do things myself and I don’t like to wait for help. I have learned to accept help the hard way. One day, when we were still newly married, someone gave us a 12 foot roll of carpet for our living room. It was sitting on our carport. I wanted it moved in the house but my husband was at work. So, of course, inch by inch, I dragged that beast into the house all by myself. A week later I was bed ridden with a herniated disc. To this day, I have horrible back issues that remind me to ASK FOR HELP! If you want to do it all yourself, go ahead. I promise you, though, there WILL be consequences.
5. First things first. If you know you are distracted easily (like me) then try and do what’s most important first thing in the day, before you give way to the other distractions and stresses of the day. I like to exercise first thing in the morning and get it out of the way.Then I get the kids dressed and fed and tidy up. By the time nap time rolls around (or quiet time for older kids) I feel like I can do something fun for myself. My sister says she has to do at least one load of laundry from start to finish before she checks her email for the day. Otherwise, she gets distracted and finds herself at the end of the day, with a messy house, unhappy children, and a grumpy husband. Oh wait! That’s me too!
6. Cherish what matters most. If everything seems unbalanced and it’s hard to know where to start, choose what matters most first! I love this quote from my cousin,
“Babies don’t keep. Dishes will always need cleaning, clothes will always need washing but babies won’t always be babies. I’d rather my kids remember me playing with them than remember they always had a clean house.” (thanks Brittany!)
7. Honor your role. If I was hired to be a full time mother for someone else’s kids, how would I treat my job? How would I treat their kids? At the same time, obviously, I would expect time off and benefits. Do I feel the same about my role at home? Being a parent is a FULL TIME JOB. It is draining, emotional, physically, and mentally. It is also not a highly valued position in the world we live in, yet I personally believe it is the most important. I once had a sign on my fridge that said, “The hand that rocks the cradle, rocks the world!” I purposely taped it up there to remind me every day when times got tough how important my job is. Sometimes it’s hard to feel that way when I’m scraping cheerios off the floor, cleaning up vomit, changing diapers, or trying to listen to 4 children who all want to be heard AT THE SAME TIME. My children will probably never be truly grateful for the service I render every day until they are out of the house, on their own and having children of their own. I know this because I didn’t fully appreciate my own mom until then. It’s funny how that works, huh? My mother was a wonderful role model for me to follow. She took her role very seriously and, even with all her weaknesses, I always knew my well being was her number one priority. I am who I am today because of her dedication and sacrifice. That is what keeps me going at the end of the day. Every sacrifice I make, every chore I do, every diaper changed and tear dried, adds up to SOMETHING. It is an investment into a human being! I once heard a wise woman with 8 children say that even though her time spent on her kids felt mundane and meaningless most of the time, she knew that the more time she put into her role raising them, the more she joy she would experience in the many years to come with them. Talk to most older moms with kids who have grown. I doubt you will ever hear the phrase, “I wished I had invested more time in other interests than in my children.” It is always the opposite.
8. Have fun! Find something that YOU enjoy doing and set aside time for it every day so that you have something to look forward to. After all, the kids get to do fun stuff, you should too! I found that I really like to blog with my sisters. We have fun together and I get to write about fun stuff I enjoy. Sometimes I have to set a timer and say, “I’m gonna clean as fast as I can for 60 minutes, then I can sit down and work on the blog.” Having something fun to look forward to, motivates me to tackle the more mundane tasks that need to be done.
9. Find your Focus. This is my last tip, but should have been my absolute first. For me, because I am a christian, it means to make sure my focus is on Christ. He knows me, he knows my family, and I believe that by following his teachings we find balance. The end result might not be what we expected or wanted but for the best. Find your focus, the eye of your storm, and then rely on that to lead and guide you.
I wish I could keep going, because this topic could literally go on…forever, but my children are restless, and motherhood is calling. To top it all off, I would like to share a recent quote from my mother that I love! She said,
“We become parents not because we have arrived at perfection. We become parents because we have a desire to love and sacrifice for another human, and we continue to grow ourselves in ways we could not in anything else we do.”