I’ve been pretty open about my struggles to become settled in my identity as a YOUNG mom of many children. I’ve had a LONG journey on my way to learning how to love it. It hasn’t come naturally to me, nor has it come easily. I’ve had to accept my shortcomings, seek council from others that seem to have it together, and humble myself as I apply the things I learn. I’ve been on my knees countless nights praying for strength to overcome my feelings of inadequacy.
I don’t enjoy not having a job, but I LOVE being here with my kids for every moment of their lives (well, almost every moment)! I know I need to take the bad with the good, but who really wants to do that?! Lessbe honest … This is an emotional tug of war I live on a daily basis.
I have to focus on what truly matters, and, for me, that is NOT focusing on being a stay at home mom, rather it is LOVING AND BEING THERE FOR MY CHILDREN. It might sound the same, but it is the difference between keeping your eyes on the goal versus on the course. You have to go on the journey either way.
I think maybe that is why children of working moms can also have a great relationship with their mothers. It might come down to the quality of the relationship more than the quantity of time a child spends with their mother. I’m not an expert there, that’s just an observation. That won’t convince me to go get a job somewhere, because in my heart of hearts I know I belong here.
This thinking, though, helps me focus on creating more quality time with my kids instead of signing them up for every out of the house activity there is just to get away from the nuances of motherhood that bring me NO joy (how many times must I remind my child to eat over their bowl?!).
Through all of this, I have found a few things that help me get through my struggles with staying at home (while my husband works at that job that makes this all possible). This probably applies to motherhood in general. This is what has helped me organize the chaos and allowed me to enjoy and love being a mom more and more each day… Well, if I do them anyway!
1. Hyperfocus on every detail of my children. What do his ears look like? What color are her eyes? How many eyelashes does she have? What do his toes look like? How does her smile light up her eyes? What do I see when I just look at my baby? What is he thinking right now? How many freckles do they have? And where? Can I paint a picture of my baby from memory?
I find that taking time to figure these things out helps me not only step away from my to do list, but it offers a moment of meditation throughout my day! And I love how connected I feel the more I recognize little things about my children!
2. Pay attention to the child that is driving you crazy! When a particular child (*cough* my oldest *cough*) and I aren’t getting along, I put more effort into connecting with that child away from all of his/her siblings. We go on a quick outing, or we sneak away and grab a treat when no one is looking. Or I just plain show that child my silly side! Laughing can help. But if there has been a reason to send that child to their room or ground them, I’ll go into their room, when the emotions have died down, and lay on their bed and just talk with them. Not to take their punishment away, but to relate with them and let them know about when I might have made a similar choice and what it taught me. This helps them see that I do care about them. But there have still been times we are so at odds that I just need to step away and give them time and space. It depends on the child. As long as I’m not ignoring them, we can come back together eventually.
3. Give them CHORES!!! I point out to my children that I am not the one making all of these messes, but that I clean them anyway, so they can help as well. Even my three year old can unload the dishwasher and rinse her dish. This is my least favorite thing to teach, mainly because of the whining, but it is beyond worth it. And yet another reason my husband is vital to my sanity, he sits through the whining better than I do in this regard. But my five year old can switch clothes to the dryer and my eight year old can start the washer and dishwasher. My six year old can make her own oatmeal and her little brother and sisters’! Expect them to want to be called servants or slaves in the beginning, but retort with an, “and you wonder why I’m mad all the time?!” And then maybe you’ll get through to them. But I think it is best to move on and help them feel accomplished when they are done with a chore. (And no, we don’t make our kids do chores all day!! We let them play and be kids a TON – hence the reason for the chores to clean our messy house!)
We have a Bean jar for each child, and when they do a good deed, finish a chore with a good attitude, finish a test in school, or something along those lines, they get a scoop or handful of beans. When their jar is full they get to pick a treat or they can save up their jars to go to a fun place (1 dollar per jar towards their goal). This works great with siblings because if they are competitive they will try and just do a bunch of really helpful things to fill up their jar first! My kids make my bed on days I can’t get to it, that’s a winner in my book! Crooked lines and all!
4. Say I LOVE YOU! Telling my kids what I love about them and what they are good at not only makes for a happier home, but it is recognizing their strengths and increasing their confidence.
I have one child that was the most difficult child to potty train. After our first attempt failed and after a year of regression, I finally concluded that I couldn’t punish NOR REWARD their potty training efforts. I had to get practical. When said child would have an accident WE had to clean up the mess, wash the pants and undies by hand and wait for them to dry in the dryer. All the while, I would allow this half-naked child to wait by the dryer or sit on the potty and I would repeatedly come back and let my child know that when we make messes we clean them. It is as simple as that. “If mommy or daddy has an accident we clean it up.” I would remind my child that this was not a punishment, that I loved them and that I knew they were capable of staying dry and making it to the potty. And it took a few days of these accidents, but it totally worked. Being matter-of-fact and practical, showing love and staying on their level works!
The same happens when I have a child struggling to get along with their siblings. If I just express love or praise a quality they have, they turn around and share that same love and respect for their siblings. It is a huge struggle for me to do this! My first response is to react and punish misbehavior, not recognize that my child may be struggling with something and just need some emotional help.
5. GET A MOTHERS HELPER! If you have under school aged children, I cannot even begin to describe how much this helps everyone involved! I don’t pay mother’s helpers like I do babysitters since I am home taking care of the kids also. Sometimes young girls just want training and will do it for free! But to have someone I can take on errands with me, or someone here taking the kids to play with their toys so I can do some grown-up things (pay bills, clean up, etc), or TAKE A SHOWER or a NAP… it’s amazing! Do I really need to sell this one any more than that?! Once or twice a week for a few hours… that’s it.
These things, among other minor things, have seriously helped me organize the chaos that is being a mother to small children. Having a group of moms to connect with has helped me identify the few things that can make the biggest difference in staying sane through these years of raising tiny humans into the people they will one day become. This is a BIG job, and it should be taken just as seriously, if not more, than any other job you train hard for. Each raise is when a child becomes more independent, and to reach the top of this ladder is to be closely connected with your children and to have children that are confident, strong, good-natured, and make society a better place.
My goal as a mother is to raise children who know how to work, know how to learn, and know how to be good, compassionate, kind, God-fearing people. To accomplish this, I first have to reel it in, survive these first few years, grow MYSELF, and become all of these things I want to instill in my children.
BONUS: I CANNOT forget ONE of the most important things that helps me manage the chaos:
GO ON DATES WITH MY HUSBAND! There are many other things that help me be a better mom and pull myself together, and I should have put this first. Like honestly, this is one of the most important things for my children to see, and the most important thing for our relationship.
My children need to see that we still date and love ❤️ each other. The question always comes up, “why do you and dad go on dates?” And they love the response, “because I love him and I want to spend time with him!” Then they get a little jealous and want their own dates with mom and/or dad too! As our kids have grown we do take them on dates, and
they WE grow so much as a result of it. I cannot articulate enough how important this one habit is in the growth and function of our family and my ability to appreciate my role as a wife and mother.
Ok ok, I know I said five ways, but these bonuses don’t apply to everyone. So here is another that I would put first above all firsts….
DAILY SCRIPTURE STUDY/DEVOTIONAL! Not everyone is religious, so you could just pick a good book on personal development. But spend a few minutes each morning learning and growing as a better individual and somehow the mundane things of motherhood and life in general start to put themselves in the right order! It helps declutter the mind of unnecessary fussing and helps prioritize the things of most importance. I find when I take fifteen minutes to read my scriptures followed by fifteen minutes in a personal development book, I am at optimal sanity! Haha! But I do fine when I can only get in a few verses. I feel like God magnifies my efforts as long as I give the effort! It also really helps if you journal some of the things you are learning! A couple sentences go a LONG way!!! I’ll write more in another post about how journaling has helped me grow as a mom instead of just REACT all the time!!
There you have it!
You’ve got this!
You can do hard things!!