Being a mom is hard.
For example, on a typical mom morning: running around the home simultaneously trying to complete 25 tasks, making breakfasts, packing lunches, prompting children to get dressed and brush their teeth, yelling at siblings to stop fighting and to be quiet, cleaning up the spilled cereal, and rummaging through the clean laundry you haven’t yet been able to put away to find some clean socks. And then, the toddler has a tantrum and another dirty diaper. On a good day, the kids might get their hair in a scrunchie (they’re coming back!), have their homework in their backpacks and be in the car 15 minutes late. Meanwhile, you forgot to brush your own hair and feed yourself. You may only remember to grab your coffee (to go). Here are a few tips to keep your sanity:
Stay as calm as possible– We are not perfect. Our frustrations naturally escalate and stress builds quickly. Kids sense our stress and may internalize our feelings, which in turn, causes them to feel frustrated and often act out or misbehave further. You will need to take (several) deep breaths to keep your stress at a manageable level when things get intense (often during morning routines or in a time crunch). More importantly, practice using techniques to destress throughout the day so that this becomes habit (exercise, other ideas below). A couple of tips to prevent stress during the morning routine are to take care of anything you can to get the kids ready the night before (i.e. pack lunches, put homework in backpacks, set out clothes and socks) and to get up a little before the kids to have a moment of peace and quiet.
Support your sense of self– Moms get so caught up in taking care of the children and focusing on their activities and success that often our goals/interests are put aside. As part of a balanced lifestyle, moms should incorporate motherhood into our identity without losing our own unique sense of self. Remember when you used to read? Paint? Garden? Play music? Find an interest again, start with one and dedicate 10min per week to yourself (go up from there).
Pay attention to your physical health– sleep, exercise, diet. The National Sleep Foundation recommends at least 6 consecutive, uninterrupted hours of sleep nightly. Stop laying in bed with your child (even though you often love it, it is important for kids to be successful and feel capable of a healthy sleep cycle on their own) and take time for yourself, spend time with your significant other, or take care of some things you never have time for. Get in good nutrition when you can (start with one snack trade in the day- trade the chips for a granola or protein bar). Try to fit in 30min of exercise daily but at least three days a week, this will decrease stress and increase your health in so many ways, it’s worth it. Push the stroller, bring the older kids on a walk, use the daycare (you forgot they have that) at the gym, or just walk around/take the stairs on a work break to start.
Continue to invest in meaningful relationships (besides the kiddos)- whether you are a single mother or married, pay attention to your meaningful relationships. Get lunch with your close friend (who you haven’t seen in 6 months) or go on a date with your significant other (has it really been a year?). Ideally, moms would dedicate time to a social gathering/event at least once a week. Take time to express your love for those that matter in your life.
The small things matter too– use your senses to incorporate things into your daily life that make you happy. Maybe it is putting on that lavender hand lotion that has that scent you love, a hot coffee that is comforting, a Hershey’s kiss in the afternoon to enjoy, or putting on that pretty lip gloss that’s lost in your drawer once in awhile.
We, as moms, are doing the best we can and that’s enough. Try to slowly incorporate more love, peace and connections into your life. These tips will help you lessen the stress and continue to take on the unremitting daily challenges of parenting.
Erin Sutton, MD