I’ve been practicing of messy art of motherhood for a long time now. Like, decades. And just as God’s humor would have it, right when I was about to retire my trampoline bouncing, hide-and-go seeking skills, I re-married and became a “bonus” mom to a 5 and 8 -year-old, transforming me into a war-torn mom of five. So, instead of dwelling on the frightening number of years freezing on flag football fields and playing Barbies wishing I had more espresso, I love “giving back” to newer moms less equipped for this circu-I mean, blessed journey. When I was an idealistic, fledgling mom, still concerned about red dye 40 and reading homework charts before signing, I would have killed for these parenting hacks and admittedly moderate doses of wisdom. So. Here’s my very best, genuine attempt to help fellow Un-Moms navigate the next decade or so of maternal magic…
#1 Know Your Enemy.
A mother’s number one enemy (besides math homework and crows feet) is guilt. It’s the subtle, perpetual lie that we’re not trying hard enough, not making the right decisions, letting our kids down, failing to protect them … and the condemnation can feel endless. But here’s the thing. Every one of us are “guilty” of parenting fails at more than one point in life. I’m talking borderline horrific mistakes. Missing the senior yearbook deadline. Allowing your teen to date way too early. Forgetting it was your night to carpool…again…in the middle of January. Forgetting to check the school allergy list and nearly sending your son’s classmate into anaphylactic shock via coconut cake. Forcing or not forcing your kids to attend therapy, and regretting it every day since. The enemy wants us to feel less than, unworthy, defeated and regretful, in order to steal our joy and transmute us into sad, useless moms. Don’t let him. Raising kids is hard (and don’t get me started on single motherhood). If we’re praying daily for strength and wisdom, God will see our kids through. You’re enough for you kids, despite any unideal circumstance or situation.
#2 Laugh. At Everything.
I mean really. It’s either laugh at the insanity, or cry silent tears of defeat for the next decade while surrounded by piles of unmatched socks. I used to take myself so seriously as a young new mom. Every toddler meltdown or public outburst felt like an Earth-shattering defeat. But by kid number two or three, you learn to relax. Sure, your four-year-old might still be in diapers, but it will all work out. I’ve yet to see a college freshman enter his dorm room with a fresh set of Huggies. It might sound trite or patronizing, but seriously…try and embrace the disastrous mess. Try to enjoy your kids instead of focusing on the mounting pile of dishes or mind-numbing boredom when stuck home alone. The “little” years are hard, no doubt. But they’re also so precious and fleeting as the wind (sniff!). Don’t let the stress, boredom, or tiredness steal your moments. Here are some of the best laugh out loud social channels to make you feel less alone in the chaos.
#3 Don’t Neglect Your Friends.
Husbands might be our covering, but friends are the treasure of life. I truly do not know how I would have survived the toddler years (insert audible shutter) without bi-monthly get togethers with kindred spirts. Anything from sipping wine on the couch, hitting the gym/nail salon together, kid-free latte time, Bible study or book clubs, etc. The kids will all live to see the light of dawn when you leave house for two hours on a Tuesday night. With no disrespect to our veterans, getting together with mom friends always felt like what I imagined VFW meetings to be. We’ve seen things. We’re in the trenches together. Six days ’til Tuesday…
#4 Don’t Forget Your Quiet Time.
We all know we should spend time in prayer and the Word daily for a more peaceful, productive day, but when the baby wakes up at 5 am stillllll teething, this can feel quite impossible. It can be difficult to designate daily quiet time when you barely have time to shower or eat, but we’ve all lived the alternative. We’re more frustrated, quick to snap at the kids/hubs, less grateful and much less energetic because our spirits haven’t been refreshed. When we center our hearts on what matters, feeling the tangible love of God we’re much more prepared for the day, even when it entails an ill-timed Zoom call right after applying root touch-up, and another failed attempt at lemon salmon. HOW, do people cook this stinkin’ fish.
#5 Treat Yourself.
This one’s specifically for the stay-at-home moms of babies, who barely recognize themselves when passing the mirrors in Target, and feel like their IQ’s are plummeting down a nursery rhyme-infused rabbit hole. And I don’t mean a nightly bath, or bi-monthly nail appointment. I mean really treat yourself. Book a trip with the hubs or friends. Say yes to the annual women’s retreat for once. Spend the money for babysitters for regular date nights (and these Gen Z’ers ain’t cheap…I’m sorry $20 an hour…are you teaching my kids Latin while we’re out?) If you want to work out, join the nice gym with yoga class instead of reassuring yourself you’ll get your game back when the kids start school. Those are long years, my friends.
#6 Make Friends With Instacart.
Moms of small children: I don’t understand all the needless suffering. Why are we packing up infants/toddlers in the middle of winter, risking public tantrums, meltdowns and unnecessary frustration, when background-checked humans are willing to hand deliver your detergent and green onions? This wasn’t a thing when mine were babies, but I’d like to think I’d have slightly less grays if I could’ve avoided the blood, sweat and tears shed at Stop & Shop with a one and two-year old in tote. It’s worth the $3.99 ladies. Our souls matter.
#7 Don’t Compare Yourself With The Over-Medicated Mom Down the Street.
1 Corinthians 4:7 says “comparison is the thief of joy,” and man is that right. I suffer the mixed blessing of being sister to one of the best humans and mothers ever to walk the green Earth. She homeschools her seven kids, has adopted four children, is a Foster Care parent, and when I say she’s had a smile on her face every day since I’ve known her, it’s through truthful, gritted teeth. I’ve of course benefitted from my sister’s guidance and help through the decades, but it’s been humbling playing the role of unhinged mom (click here to find out if you’re an “Un-Mom”) and never thriving in the area of domesticity compared to her. My biggest mistake as a younger mom was trying to emulate my motherhood style with those around me. It was just so depressing. It took years to realize the parts of me that weren’t a good mom, and we all have our strengths that aren’t always front and center on Facebook.
#8 Get Rid of Distractions.
This could be anything from a bad relationship, if you’re a single mommy, to an outside commitment (even if it’s good, like a ministry) to a friendship that sucks too much of your time and energy on a consistent basis. Most moms are simply stretched too thin. Life seems to get more complicated and complex by the second and sometimes it’s all we can do to survive the day. When we’re in this mindset it can feel nearly impossible to enjoy the daily tasks of motherhood. To have the energy to sit and read together before bedtime, or help with Math homework, or remain present with our chattering daughter on the drive home from dance. This could mean deleting a social media account or two, or taking on less work from home hours. If you’re feeling like you aren’t able to relax and connect with your kids, ask yourself why. What are you consumed thinking about? What worries or chores commitments keep you from enjoying your kids on a daily basis? There might lie the problem.
#9 Protect Your Family Time.
My single greatest regret in life is not spending more time, or at least being truly present with my kids when they were younger. Lots of this stemmed from being a divorced mom, distracted by the men folk and my unhealthy fear of being alone, but even as a married mom, I’ve definitely spent too much time on selfish endeavors. Checking my phone during family movie night, obsessively clicking away my laptop right after dinner, etc. I’ve learned now, how much kids notice when we’re not engaged, and how much they really crave, and deserve our full attention. Even our seemingly ambivalent teens want our time attention. Ignore the eye rolls.
#10 Accept Help. Even From Your Mother-In-Law.
One of my biggest mistakes as younger mom was refusing help. I subconsciously felt the need to do everything myself as a first-time mom. To prove I could hang with big dogs…i.e. those homeschooling friends popping out kids by the dozen with no pain meds. I wanted to be the best, most incredible multitasking mother goddess ever to grace the lands of central Connecticut. I thought it would show signs of weakness or failure (especially to my mother-in-law) to admit I needed an afternoon off.
I felt guilty for quitting my job to stay home with the baby, so I felt selfish asking for my husband’s help. (ugh, such rubbish!) If you’re blessed with offers to watch baby/the kids so you can run to the store, or work out, the answer is always yes my friend! Say yes to meal/coffee drop offs (left on the step, of course…no visitors!) Let that colleague cover for you for a while. And take every ounce of help your husband has to offer. If he isn’t offering to help enough, don’t be shy about voicing exactly what you need.
Sigh. I really could go on and on. There are so many challenges and questions through the seasons of child-raising and sometimes there aren’t easy, clear-cut answers. At the end of the day, try to “big picture” it. When feeling stressed and defeated, remember this too, shall pass, and I can say firsthand, it does get easier. Enjoy the good, and never stop praying. Drop a line with any of your best hacks/pieces of advice! Love to hear ’em. xo.
For more parenting hacks, check out “6 Ways to Be a Happier Mom.”