As a parent, one thing that I’ve learned from reading a pile of “helpful” blogs written by other mothers is that every parent and every child is different. What works for me may not work you – and vice versa. So I’ve written down the things that have helped me, but had never read in any of those mom blogs. This isn’t exactly advice; it’s just a list of what has kept me personally sane.
1. Remember God’s provision.
This one is by far the most important one for my sanity. When it’s 3am and you’ve been awake for two hours because one of the kids has been screaming since 1, the mere thought of facing tomorrow can be enough to make you weep. In those moments, it’s easy to forget that the Lord is a wizard and shows up with what you need exactly when you need it and not a moment before. It’s easy to forget that He always shows up with what you need. It’s easy to forget my inexplicable ability to care for my kids on a daily basis, regardless of how little sleep I’ve gotten in the last three years. Sometimes what the Lord provides is the energy directly. Sometimes, He grants opportunities for a nap. But one way or another, He always provides. When I can remember that and rely on His faithfulness, I do just fine. This is also applicable to finances, social situations, or any other given circumstance. No need to worry about tomorrow; it isn’t even here yet.
2. Remember that it’s temporary.
Same 3am tearfest scenario. It’s easy to laugh in mad hysterics at the realization that “temporary” could mean “for the next 5-10 years.” But that’s a particularly nasty trap to fall into because it isn’t based on reality. I mean, it is in the sense that it really could be that tough for that long, but you don’t have to worry about that. In the last bullet point, the idea is to not even worry about tomorrow, so forget about five years! Just take one day at a time (or one hour at a time if you need. Or even just moment by moment. Whatever you need right then.) and that time really does fly. Regardless of how you feel right now, it really IS temporary.
3. Say “yes” to friends more often than I think I need.
OK, I know that this one is on EVERY SINGLE mom list, but not only is it THAT important, I also need it to set up my next bullet point. Friends want to help. Friends know how to help. One of my greatest “helps” is having adult social time. Let them help. Let them spend time with you. I don’t do this nearly enough. Oh, and make sure you maintain those connections, too. You may feel exhausted, but it’ll be worth the extra effort.
4. Say “no” to friends.
Balance! This one’s a bit contrary to what I often read. But seriously, if your friend is offering you help, but all you really need is a good nap and the kids are already down, give them a rain check. Basically, if their help isn’t going to be helpful, just say no. If you’re not up for it, you’re not up for it.
5. Take a shower every stinkin’ day.
This one is also contrary to your common mom blog. Most mom blogs tell you to not worry about these little things and just let them go. But I’ve found that taking a shower gives me some peace and quiet, helps me feel refreshed and ready, and gives me a sense of normalcy. The same is true of:
6. Do the dishes. Clean the house.
While it is true that it can be easy to get caught up in (and stressed out by) the “little” things like dishes and vacuuming, I found it far less stressful to actually just do them. It’s true for the same reasons taking a shower is good. It’s also true because if I’ve been bombarded all day by whinings and pawings (basically, if I’m already stressed and about ready to crack) for me, the straw that’ll break the camel’s back is going to be the fact that “there’s crap everywhere!” That’s a direct quote, by the way. Having things set up for success just brings me a little bit more peace of mind; I don’t care that it doesn’t matter in the long run. Which is another reason doing the housework is crucial to my mental health: it sets me up for success! It’s significantly easier to cook dinner when I have dishes to cook it in and open space to prep it upon. And then, of course, there’s the fact that if I don’t do the dishes, we have no dishes to eat upon; if I don’t do the laundry, then we have no clothes to wear.
I guess really, it’s about knowing when to hold em and when to fold em; striking a balance between not caring and just letting things go, and maintaining peaceful order in the home.
7. Stop listening to music.
Prior to parenthood, I was one who required a significant amount of silence in my life. I even had an entire room dedicated to it. It was mostly empty and I called it my “zen room.” Parenthood is NOT zen. Noise is constant. So I relish every shred of silence that I can come by – even if it’s between screams of rage and joy. I love music. But right now, any added noise (even pleasant noise) is added stress.
I’m not really talking about chanting and focusing on opening each of your seven chakrahs; I’m talking about calming your mind, stilling your soul, and looking inward. It’s easy to think that I don’t have time for that until I realize that a) it isn’t about time, it’s about internal posture and b) I could cut out an awful lot of time spent online. This one is really about turning off the TV, getting off the phone, and spending those moments quietly reconnecting with yourself and the Holy Spirit.
9. Stop making excuses.
I used to try to explain my parenting to everyone else. You don’t have to explain anything. It’s your child; YOU are the parent. Instead, just look at that nosy neighbor with a smile and say with absolute confidence, “Yup! I’m doing x, y, or z!” Of course, you do have to be a little careful with some folks being so quick to call CPS on you (hasn’t happened to me yet!), but again, if you’re taking care of your child, then most everything else is none of their (uh…the neighbor’s, not cps’. It quite literally IS cps’ business.) business.
10. Remember to have fun.
I can be a bit stuffy sometimes. But on the other hand, kids are often having fun. When I was kid, I had lots of fun! So what happened? I find that I often have two options when my kids are having fun: get irritated, or join them. Sometimes, I need to just remember to let loose, join them, and have fun like I used to.