Over the course of the last four years, I have acquired a lot of little tips and tricks that help me to keep my sanity as a momma. I have decided to start compiling a few of my favorites in a place where other mommies can benefit. Most of these are not original to me, so you may have heard a few of them before, but they are all worth repeating if they help a new mommy become a better and more confident mommy.
Tip #1 Scheduling
This one is highly debated, and widely talked about, but for me and my lifestyle it has been a lifesaver. My children thrive when their days are halfway predictable. Wake up time is almost always the same, breakfast is almost always at the same time, next is playtime/errands, then lunch, then book reading, then the nap. Naptime is my time, so I protect this time and make sure my kids are home and in bed on time almost every single day for the past four years. Any changes of when nap time starts, and my whole day is thrown off. It has to be a really important gig for me to change nap time. :-)
After nap is more playtime/outings, then I cook dinner/short movie (movies only on bad days which occur less often these days), then we eat dinner, we play some more, then we bathe, read books and do our bedtime routine. They are almost always in bed by 7:30pm, unless we are out to dinner at someone's house, which is pretty rare. Again, I really protect bedtime, because after they are in bed, it is my time to do what I want, like quilt, crochet, or watch BBC Victorian era romances.
So there you have it, a glimpse into our scheduled life, and with it we have a whole lot fewer fights because they know what to expect. They sleep well because they have so many cues that bedtime is on its way; another huge plus. I am totally a huge believer in routine, and it has helped me to have a lot more sanity.
Side note: I'm a only child, so I feel like I require a lot more personal alone time than probably most people, I recharge my battery (so to speak) by being alone or doing things on my own.
Tip #2 Eating Out
Eating out can be a chore sometimes with children, especially when you are trying to talk and socialize with other adults while your children run wild. Or while trying to get your kids to behave/eat their food in a reasonable way. So I go into every dinner meal away from home like it is going to be a battle, and I pack my diaper bag with a whole arsenal of tricks and toys. I also feed my children before we go, always. Then, if they decided they don't want to eat, or are too distracted to eat, I can say, "okay, get down and go play while mommy talks," and I never have to worry that they will go to bed without proper nutrition. When they come to me fussy, I make sure I have sippy cups and snacks within my reach, and/or toys to appease them.
Because seriously, what is the point of going out with friends if all I do is put out fires with my children all night.
However, even with all my planning, we have still had our share of nights where we have to throw in the towel and go home early because the girls won't behave or are too tired to go on. On those nights, I just say, "okay, sorry, please excuse us, we'll see you all again soon," and I tell myself on the way home not to feel embarrassed, because anyone else with kids knows what we are experiencing and probably have a lot of sympathy for us.
Those without children, well I tell myself that someday they probably will, and therefore the understanding will dawn on them. Then I go home, put the kids to bed and find some chocolate treat to devour in the silence.
Tip #3 Quiet time
My oldest has given up napping, and so we had to come up with a solution that still gives me some time during the day to get things done. Quiet time is the answer. She does really well with it though, because we've been doing quiet time for a long time. Even before she gave up napping.
Whenever mommy is having a bad day, quiet time is an option. It is as much for me as it is for my children. Like those nights where I'm trying to cook dinner, and my girls are just 'at' me because they are bored, or didn't nap well. When I feel my blood beginning to boil and my patience wears thin and my husband isn't due to be home for a couple more hours, we have quiet time. Mommy puts them in their beds with books and a few toys and they have to stay in their beds until Mommy's cool has returned.
It is not a punishment, so they never look at it like a time out (because toys are not involved in time outs) and so they sit and talk to each other and read and whatever, but they are out of the kitchen and happy and that makes me a whole lot happier.
This even works with one child. I used quiet time a lot when I was pregnant with my second, so I could rest quietly for a twenty minute break during the day. Like after a particularly long morning of errands or something and my feet were hurting and swollen (late pregnancy) and so I put my 1+ year old child in her bed with toys and took a 20 min break. Still within earshot, but out of sight.
The point of this tip is: protecting mommy's sanity so that she can be a better mommy when her children are in the room. I remove them from my immediate presence while I rediscover my patience, love, joy, peace, whatever I'm lacking. When I've recovered and snuck some chocolate from my hidden stash, I am ready to go back into the battle and keep a cool head. Yet I was able to avert a total melt down before it hit, and for that, I think this is a worthy option.
So those are the three I've been thinking about recently. As with any parenting advice, children are individuals and so are parents for that matter. Take what you like, throw out the rest, modify it, and make it your own. What worked with my first child only partially works with my second, so flexibility and being in regular communication with Holy Spirit is still a big part of my training as a parent.
Still, I gleaned these gems from other seasoned moms, and I felt they were worth passing along. Hope you enjoyed them, and feel free to comment and share some of your own favorite tips. I love to learn new ideas, especially as my children grow up, because what works when they are babies eventually becomes obsolete.
Bring on the advice!