A special thanks to Laura from The Beautiful Unknown for this great guest post on managing motherhood, home, and life in general. Check out her blog, The Beautiful Unknown, for more inspiring posts on motherhood and everything that goes with it.
“Mommy, you’re my hero,” my oldest son says when he is running around playing superhero and saving the world from imaginary bad guys because thank God he does not see the real ones at his age.
The first thing that comes to mind when he speaks this affectionate phrase is not a picture of me in a cape blowing in the wind, a mask hiding my identity, and me standing on top of a tall building with my chest puffed out. Instead I think about the term “Super mom” and if I was really super this house would have been cleaned two hours ago, a five course meal on the menu for dinner and me still working my full time job and going to school. We all know that term, “Super mom.” And we have all most likely cowered under the qualifications, thinking there is no way we could do it. And yet we try and we keep adding things to our list until we feel less like “Super mom” and more like “Super failure.”
But that is not the point of motherhood. It is not to deter us, to tear us down, or for us to compare. It is for us to love our children, raise them the best way we know how to make the best people they can be. We are always looking, comparing, thinking, I wish I was that mom, she has it all together.
The truth is, we don’t know what other people are going through. Most likely behind closed doors those mothers are just as exhausted and feeling just as inferior.
One of the beautiful things about motherhood is that instead of comparing and doing it alone there are so many women working together, sharing their stories and giving tips (whether solicited or not!) and just being supportive.
So I look at myself, a young mother at the age of 26 with 3 kids aged 4 and under and I think, What do I have to give to other mothers?
The beauty of motherhood is that age makes no difference, how far down the path you are doesn’t matter either, but what you can share that may help another mother out matters. My dear friend, that is my goal for this post, to share a bit of my life on this path of motherhood- what I call the beautiful unknown- and hopefully it will help someone else make a little sense of their own path and have a smoother morning or two.
Structure. I cannot say this enough. There are many people that are easy-going and laid back and that may work for them. For me, when something goes off-schedule I get stressed. I know you have heard that children need structure and that they like it too; I have found this to be incredibly true. I do not schedule every minute of every day-kids need room to be creative- but certain things are scheduled, such as nap time, snack times, breakfast, lunch, dinner, and bedtime. My children also know what to expect as far as what is and is not acceptable behavior/response.
Consistency. It takes 21 days to form a habit. Be consistent. Do not give up on yourselves or your children and how you want the house to run. Just like a child that is potty training needs to be reminded to go to the bathroom so does a child require reminders of other rules, such as bedtime, cleaning their room, etc.
Plan ahead. When I was working I would pack the diaper bag the night before, lay out the children’s clothes, clean all the bottles, and get my clothes picked out. Mornings were always quick paced and when I did not plan ahead I would inevitably run late and feel frazzled the rest of the day.
Do not do it all. Sometimes those dishes can just wait. If you set up specific days to do chores and space them out you will not feel so overwhelmed by everything that needs to be done. Enlist help from your husband and children if they are old enough. But sometimes you just need to sit back and relax. And that is okay.
Time manage. Set up blocks of time to answer e-mails or do homework or chores. I work on schoolwork when the children are asleep so that I can concentrate but also so that I am not missing any time with my children. Keep a planner or calendar for doctor appointments, practices, church, etc.
Write down everything. You may have a great memory. When I had one child I could remember a lot of things and never wrote anything down. Now that I have three children I am constantly making lists. Keep a localized area to write down notes or reminders. I use the dry erase board in our kitchen; I don’t have to find a random pen and piece of paper and I have easy access to it. I write down when we run out of something, like milk, as soon as we run out or are low or I will write down doctor appointments while I am on the phone and then transfer to my calendar.
Cook what your family loves. I have found that one thing that makes me incredibly happy is providing good food for my family, food that they enjoy and want to eat. This does not mean I have to slave over the stove all day. Cook what your family likes. See if there are things you can do to make it faster if need be, such as thawing chicken the night before or taking one day to prep for the week. Again, this is part of planning ahead. Pressure cookers are a good investment for nights when you forget to thaw out the meat. If your family loves lasagna, make it. Sometimes my boys just want cereal for dinner so we have cereal. Meals are about nutrition and health but they are also about being together, sharing a meal and sharing your day.
Slow cookers are your friend. This may seem silly but when you have worked a long day and are tired and are dragging grumpy and hungry kids through the door it is so easy to just grab fast food or order pizza. Plan ahead (see above) and utilize a slow cooker. When you get home the house smells great and dinner is ready. Many slow cooker meals are easy to prep too.
The following are not time-savers, but are still some things I have found that help me keep my sanity.
Give grace. Your children are….children. They are not going to be perfect and frustration can set in on the millionth and one time you remind them to put their shoes away or flush the toilet. Exhaustion occurs in the middle of the night for the eighth cup of water. Give grace. Give hugs. Give love.
Hug. This is so important. Hug your children and don’t worry about the time and what you need to do that day. Just hug your child and cherish that moment. It has a very calming quality to it.
Say sorry. Parents mess up too. Your child will learn the power of forgiveness and the importance of asking for it if you model it.
Don’t forget your husband. Mothers take care of little ones all day. But don’t forget where your marriage started, just you and your husband. Invest time in him, in your relationship with him. Turn off the television and talk. Hold hands. Kiss. Just be with each other. Communicate and let him take care of you sometimes too. Tell him what you need. Couples don’t talk enough these days. Don’t allow yourself to become strangers, your children will notice it too.
Allow for grace. This is the most important. Allow grace for you. I often find myself apologizing when people come over because of the mess or clutter. I have to remind myself that people do actually live here and things get used and yes this will be the millionth and one time I tell the kids to put the shoes away but that is okay. Grace is often hard to give to ourselves because we think we have to do it all and when we don’t we have failed. There are no rules in parenting about a perfect house or a perfect child. We all mess up. Allow that.
As this post comes to a close, my prayer is that I have helped or encouraged at least one other mother. A mother like me who is wondering what they are doing on a daily basis and if there is an easier way. A mother who is tired and wants a change of pace or may be reading this and shaking her head saying, “Yes, I do that too!” and feel encouraged that they are not alone.
You are beautiful. You are special and unique and blessed and given your own task of motherhood. We all vary in how we do things but we can share the journey, have a few good laughs, a good many more tears, and embrace this amazing gift we have been given.
So let’s share what helps us get through the day, practical or not. Let’s talk about motherhood in a loving and encouraging way, not in a judging way. We are all “Super moms” for the sake that we are all mothers who give and love and give love away to our little beings we created. Let’s share and lean on each other and maybe even laugh a little because it is so good to know we are not alone.
Here is part of my path. What is yours?
Laura Beiler is a new stay-at-home mom who is currently completing her second Master’s degree with Liberty University. She has two boys and one girl, ages 4, 2 ½, and 9 months. She writes her own blog at http://thebeautifulunknown.wordpress.com/ and graciously thanks Thriving On Thrifty for allowing her to be a guest writer.
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