Staying Sane While Being a Mom
As moms, we go through seasons where the days seem to be endless storms with no sunshine in sight. However, we are expected to always provide a sunny exterior and never show that we are frustrated, bewildered, confused, and at a loss a lot of the times. Even with a support system in place, being a mom is a busy, stressful, non-stop rollercoaster of emotions that cause even the most even-tempered to become a bit frayed at the edges. Through research and much trial and even more error, I have devised a series of ideas that really help me stay sane. Sometimes I have to take each day second by second, minute by minute, and hour by hour. With consistent use, the methods in this post are really helping.
Don’t Try To Do It All
One of the things we try to prove as a mom is that we can do it ALL. I’m the mom and I’m not allowed to fail. This has to be perfect. If I mess up even once, I’m going to ruin my child and they are going to turn into psychotic serial killers. Yes, those are very real thoughts I’ve had. Every time I have these thoughts, I yell at myself even more. I didn’t put a vegetable in their meal: their brain development is going to suffer and they are going to have issues in school…wasn’t there a study done on that?
I live in Ohio and the air quality causes a higher amount of asthma in children, I need to move! Then it just runs the gamut: I cooked the vegetable for dinner completely WRONG. That article I read said it could hurt them later in life because I didn’t steam the vegetables, or I steamed it too much. I didn’t give the vegetable to them raw. The kids got the vegetables raw and they should have been cooked!
The house is a mess and the kids deserve to have it clean, especially if they have friends over. The house is immaculate, but because of cleaning I didn’t spend time playing with my child and they are going to feel neglected. The list of recriminations goes on and on.
You CANNOT do it all so stop the madness! One person cannot make a mountain. Do the best you can. Know that the effort you put forth, at that moment, was the best you were able to do.
Ask For Help
This leads to the next tip: It takes a village. This African Proverb is bandied about all the time, and for a good reason! I found an article online after wondering where this proverb actually came from. It’s really fascinating if you’d like to look afriprov.org. This proverb is based all around the premise that the raising and wellbeing of a child is the responsibility of the entire village. I am extremely blessed in that my parents watch my children while I’m at work, and yet it is still so hard to ask for help. Really, because I feel guilty when I ask them to watch the kids even more to allow me a few hours to myself. I also feel guilty that I actually want to have free time to myself when I’ve been working all day or all week.
As parents, we are so hesitant to admit that there is something that we are unable to do. We are so hesitant to confess that we are strained so beyond our limits that if one more thing is piled on, we think we’ll break.
Again, please ask for help!
This does not make you weak; giving up is weak. Asking for help makes you STRONG. It means you know exactly where you are mentally and physically, and there is absolutely no weakness in that.
Not everyone has a village and that certainly makes it a bit more challenging, but not impossible to ask for help. Is there a trusted friend, relative, co-worker? A church that has kids programs to allow you even an hour of quiet time alone or with other adults?
Even if a village is used for venting purposes, that is still a huge burden relieved from a mom. Sometimes all we need to do is talk and vent. Know your triggers and know your limits. When you’ve hit a wall with either of them, hit that HELP button.
Take The Easy Way
Not everything has to be hard. If it’s in your budget, order pizza a couple of times a month instead of cooking dinner those nights. Get pre-packaged meal components to make meal prep a bit easier. If every single meal is not completely non-GMO, organic, anti-biotic, anti-anything you can think of, or it’s not completely balanced, this is ok! Take the short-cuts if you are able to or need to. Now, this does not mean take the chicken out of the fridge and give it to them raw, of course, It’s not even in the same ballpark. But don’t feel you have to make a gourmet meal every night.
It’s bedtime, the kids are cranky. Mom is cranky. Dinner has been eaten but everyone is beyond tired. Get everyone in bed; skip whatever ritual you may have just for tonight. Do they usually get a bath? If they have not rolled in poop today, odds are they can stand to go one night without that bubble bath.
Get their pj’s on, or not, lay them in bed, sing them the lullaby, or whatever it typically takes to get them to sleep.
Not every task has to be done every day. You don’t have to do everything in a certain way. Not feeling it? Improvise in a way that makes everyone happy, especially your own warm-fuzzy receptors.
Keep To a Schedule
Schedules. Ah, schedules. They can be a wonderful thing that allows you to get the important things completed that absolutely need to be completed. Schedules can enable a mom to know what will be done next in the day, and at the same time, it also helps the kids to know and expect certain things from a day as well. Deviations are a part of life, but for the most part, a set schedule will only help you keep your sanity.
My kids typically wake up around 6:45 am – 7:00 am. Unfortunately, the little one doesn’t like to sleep in and he certainly doesn’t appreciate if his brother doesn’t hear him and wake up as well. So, that time is pretty much a constant. We get up. I get coffee for me, water for the kids, and we cuddle on the chair for a little while to allow me to wake up and get my neurons firing.
My sample schedule:
- 7:30 am – 11:30 am: start breakfast, get dressed, and get ready for the day with some playtime. Run any errands that need to be done, even if the errand is just to get the kids and me out of the house and to a playground or mall to walk around. I love to do this before the youngest goes down for his nap as he’s in the best frame of mind to listen in the morning.
- 11:30ish am: Lunch
- 12:00 pm Naptime! This lasts until about 2:00 pm.
- 2:00 pm: Go outside, if it’s nice, for a few hours. This is wonderful to let them get their energy out of their system and allows me to get some fresh air, listen to our birds, and enjoy watching the kids run around the yard using their imaginations.
- 6:00 pm Dinner
- 6:30 pm: Bathtime, and run-amok time
- 7:30 pm: Head to bed
- 9:00 pm: They are finally asleep, I get quiet time to myself unless I pass out in bed with them.
Now to Sleep? Maybe?
I do not always keep to the exact specific times as stated in the sample above, but it’s pretty close and it’s almost always done in this order. There are exceptions, but for the most part, we all know what to expect from the day. It keeps the kids more relaxed, and me as well.
This is not to say that with a schedule you will get more sleep. I still have all the things to do after the kids go to bed However, things like writing on this site are things I really enjoy and, as such, is definitely “me-time”. There are pros and cons and sacrifices if there are things you’d like to do in the post-bedtime window.
Ahhhh. Quiet time, finally!
I have a real problem with this step. Self-care. It may also be the most important step to our sanity. As moms, we typically have no breaks. I listed above a normal schedule with the kids when I don’t have to work, but here is my schedule when I DO work.
- 5:30 am, get ready for work.
- 7:00 am – 5:00 pm: Work
- 6:00 pm get home and get dinner ready if my parents haven’t already fed them.
Then, the schedule is pretty much the same as listed above:
- 6:30 pm: Bathtime, and/or run-amok time
- 7:30 pm: Head to bed
- 9:00 pm: They are finally asleep, I get quiet time to myself unless I pass out in bed with them.
Exhaustion breeds necessity
Most of the time, by 9:00 pm I am so exhausted I have absolutely no desire to do anything that is remotely taxing. I don’t want to workout, I don’t want to clean, I don’t want to do anything but veg out in front of the TV with my phone and kindle in hand and just mindlessly do nothing. This is fine. In fact, I ENCOURAGE this. Mindlessness can be a version of self-care. Along with sleep, this is sometimes the best way to reboot your brain into a better frame of mind and get the positive juices flowing again.
With that said, self-care is also so much more.
Before you had kids, did you have something you loved to do right before bed or when you’d wake up?
Do you have a skin care regime you haven’t done in a while that is enjoyable, although there’s not been enough energy to either enjoy it or fully complete all steps? Is it yoga you enjoy? Painting your nails or toes? Something as simple as going out to get a coffee and people watch outside the window, or getting your hair done.
Some of these suggestions do employ the use of your village or even a babysitter, but in my experience self-care goes such a long way in reviving tired spirits. There’s something to be said for taking a few minutes or hours and just letting your mind wander, or concentrate on something that does not involve our beloved little ones for a short while.
Trying to Be Perfect Will Drive You Crazy
Perfectionism. Every mom’s worst enemy. Often, I look online and see the picture of a perfectly put together mom with the smiling, well-behaved kids. She has a house that has never seen dust, and kids that eat whatever she fixes. She knows how to make their clothes, run the PTA, work full-time, yet still has time to go online to blog, and is kind enough to teach us mere mortals how we too can be this perfect paragon of motherhood.
Yeah, this was a slight exaggeration, but you get the idea.
What you don’t see is that there were 30 other pictures taken at the same time where the kids were clawing at each other or wriggling to get down. The dinner that was made and eaten with no qualms was macaroni and cheese with a side of jello. The PTA she runs is actually running around after her kids shouting, “Put That Away!” And the immaculate house? Move that camera a little to the right or left and you’ll see the same chaos that exists in most houses.
I do realize that there are some amazingly blessed women out there that really do have it together and everything just falls into place, however, I have yet to meet that mom.
We will never be perfect
There is no such thing for a human let alone a mom. You’ll clean the dining room, and move on to clean the living room. By the time you are done, the dining room needs to be cleaned again. The kids need to be fed, or one just took off their diaper and peed on the floor. Yes, this exact scenario I’ve actually lived through. Sometime I will literally just stand there with my mouth agape and take in the disaster of the room that was spotless just mere moments before.
What I’m trying to say, is that the more we strive for perfection, the further it seems to slide away. The more it slides away the harder we run towards it and we’ll fail 9 times out of 10. Those 9 times you’ll have done something spectacularly, but it didn’t quite meet your expectations. Therefore, it wasn’t perfect. Instead of knowing that you did something great, the thought that crosses your mind is that you couldn’t do it right and failed.
NO, take that thought and banish it! Celebrate your wins.
Perfectionism Is In The Eyes of The Beholder
You got your kids in the kitchen to help you bake. Eggs are now all over the floor. Flour is on the ceiling, chocolate chips are littering the floor. You don’t own an apron, and your new sweater is now ruined with batter. Then you look down at the kids. They each have a beater in their soft, grubby, oh so helpful adorable little hands, with their faces and every other inch of them covered in something, but their eyes are shining. In their eyes, this was perfection. They got to help you make something.
They do not see that the cookies may be a little crisp or plain burnt on some parts since you didn’t hear the timer go off; you had to clean the ceiling after all. What they see is their mom letting them help regardless of the mess it will make, the possible eggshells in the batter, and the less than opportune sneeze onto the cookie sheet.
This is what perfection looks like. Not what society and our own imaginings are saying it is.
Tomorrow Will Be Better
This is something I try to tell myself when I get to the end of my rope or I start to doubt I’m a good mom; tomorrow will be better. I might not have been the mom I wanted to be today, but tomorrow is a new day. Tomorrow I can practice what I learned today.
It sounds so easy when I say it, but it’s not. It’s one of the hardest things we do as moms. Put behind us the moment of the day that we regret. Such as saying something in too sharp a tone to your child, or any of the 100 things that, if you allow yourself, your mind can conjure up in the midst of trying to fall asleep.
Things are not going to go according to plan.
Well, I take that back. There’s bound to be at least 1 or 2 days a year when things just WORK! That is obviously not typical though. Tomorrow you can be better than you were today. You learn from yesterday, and you learn from today.
Your job is to remember that we are learning every day to be moms just as the kids are learning every day how to be the little humans we are trying to so hard to shape them into. We don’t expect them to come out of the womb knowing how to do everything, so you can’t expect yourself to know it all either just because you gave birth. We remember from repetition right? So, I’ll be a little annoying and repeat:
Learn from today, and know that with this new knowledge, tomorrow will be better.
Give Yourself Grace
Annoying isn’t it; when people say to just give yourself grace? What the heck does that even mean anyway, and why does everyone always say this stupid stuff when all you want to do is vent?
In the simplest of all terms? Take it easy and most of all be kind to yourself. We say all types of things to ourselves that if we EVER heard someone saying to our kids or a friend we would go ballistic. “I’m a horrible mother. I can’t believe God trusted someone so senseless to be blessed with these kids.” “I’m such an idiot”, etc.
Take a step back.
You hear a teacher, friend, relative, or even a stranger, saying these words or something similar to your kids. Would you, for one second, allow this to go without saying something about it?
Didn’t think so.
Mama bear rises and starts growling so much the chickens in the next county are starting to get unruly.
If you would go all mama bear on someone saying this to your kids, then why in the world is it ok to talk to yourself like that? One thing I stress to my kids is that accidents happen. People make mistakes, and it’s ok. But it is so hard to take that same advise and pass it on to myself.
Saying this silently to ourselves does not make it any less damaging.
Take another step back.
What would you tell someone else in this situation? Someone who came to you and started saying, “I can’t believe I did this”, or “I was so stupid to do something like this”? Most likely you would say something like, “it wasn’t stupidity. You did what you thought was right at the time” or “you made a mistake. You’ll get through this and I’ll be here with you whenever you need me.”
Be your own friend. Grant yourself the grace and forgiveness that you would grant to your child, friends, or a stranger. Don’t be so hard on yourself that you begin to doubt your very foundations. When you start yelling at yourself or using demeaning phrases, think about what you would say to a friend in this same instance. Think of what you would say to your child. Use these helpful and loving phrases for yourself as well.
You deserve not to be shamed. Especially by yourself.
Let The Little Moments Count
Take advantage of the little moments out of every day that you get. The hour or so that your child(ren) are napping, or if they are at school, playing really well on their own, etc. Instead of cleaning the kitchen or checking off any one of the many things on your to-do list, take a moment to do something completely frivolous.
- Sit down on the couch and just read something for entertainment.
- Put your earbuds in and listen to music or an audiobook.
- Take a nap! When is the last time you just took a nap?
- Start a craft. Crocheting, knitting, sewing, scrapbooking, or anything that is relaxing to you.
Even a few minutes a day can really add up in your journey to being a happier, more positive, and well-balanced mom.
No Possibility For Alone Time?
I co-sleep with my 2-year-old and occasionally still with my 4-year-old, and it seems like the personal bubble that I used to so enjoy is no longer in existence. Not to say I mind this. Not in the least. There is something so relaxing about hearing my babies breathing.
Something that’s not so relaxing, however, is the kicks or smacks I will sometimes get to the face. Feeling very scrunched and no room to move around in my king size bed. But I love having them with me. It helps me sleep more peacefully as a single-mom to open my eyes and see them safe and sound. (I have an additional post on how I chose to become a single mom, here)
Due to the constant interaction with the children, even when they are asleep, I am a huge believer in taking the few minute blocks I can to ruffle my feathers and floof them back out. Even as mothers we are still allowed to make sure our feathers are in order and avoid molting.
As an example:
My 2-year-old will come and find me if I’m not in bed any longer. He will look at me, wait until I get up, and then go back in the bedroom and wait for me to lay down. Sometimes it is not worth the effort to remain up and continue my “me-time” if it means that he will not sleep. In order to combat this and still get some time to myself, I will plug my ear-buds into my phone, turn on my TV app or a YouTube video with my screen light as low as it’ll go, or open a book I’ve been wanting to read. It’s definitely not ideal, but not every night will be.
Making alterations to the plan and compromising on what we are able to do at any given time, while still trying to enjoy free time is all part of the mind game we play as moms working for sanity.
In A Nut Shell
The advice above are the things that I’m currently using to try and remain the kind of mom I’m continually striving to be. I don’t always win. I tell myself that it’s not how we fight one battle or two or three battles. It’s how we pull ourselves together to consistently fight the war. Don’t ever give up on yourself, or the love you have for the little souls that we’ve been blessed with.
Always Validate Your Feelings
I am not trying to say that we will have full days go by where we don’t raise our voices, or that the witching hour will just immediately become easier. I’m not even trying to convince you that frustrations won’t still bog you down, or that you’ll never lose your temper if you integrate these into your lives. What I am saying though, is that the use of these methods will help in tempering the frustrations, anxiety, and lack of sleep that we all enjoy as mothers. Mental health is so very important for everyone; never downplay how much you are hurting. Accept the feelings and know that you are not alone. There is an entire network of other moms who completely understand, relate and can help you through those seasons that are stealing your joy in the every day.
Please leave a comment below or send me an email.
If you have any advice or any further tips and tricks that you currently use to try to remain sane and with a positive outlook, I would love to hear it!
Thank you, as always, for reading!