The other day I received a message from an Instagram follower asking me for advice on how I maintain my patience and positive parenting. The timing was ironic because just that morning, I had sent Travis and email venting about how, as a mother, you lose yourself feeling like a servant for everyone else and that sometimes I feel like my sole purpose in life is to load and unload the dishwasher and do laundry - over and over and over...I was definitely having a less-than-positive moment where I felt lonely, isolated, and overwhelmed. Suffice to say, I think all mothers have those days. And often, that is not the side we show on social media because 1. When my house is a wreck and my child is being defiant and we're running late and I'm on the verge of tears, I generally don't stop to take a photo and post it to Instagram. 2. The blog/Instagram are the tools I use to document the moments I want to remember. No sense in preserving the moments I'd rather forget. 3. Because my children will someday be able to access anything I publish online, I try to be mindful not to write anything that will make them feel like they were a burden. It's a fine line between keeping it real and keeping the big picture in mind.
But that particular day, I was truly proud of myself because I turned my day around. How? I uploaded the photos off of my camera - something I hadn't done in 3 weeks. Seriously, I used to rush straight to the computer after taking photos so I could see what I came up with because it would bring me such joy. Somehow, in the chaos of life, I'd just stuck my camera back in the cabinet and forgotten about it. It was just a little thing but taking the time to do it really reset my perspective in a positive direction. The question from the Instagram follower challenged me to think about "mom tips" that help me on hard days.
1. Do Something For You - Motherhood is frequently a sacrificial state. That's just the reality of it. But it's amazing how recharging our own batteries in small ways can lead to a better day. I love writing and taking pictures but I don't always have the time or energy to delve into those pursuits. One thing I do when I'm starting to feel myself getting stressed is to listen to my own music. It's kind of funny but as soon as we get in the car, the girls start yelling out song requests. Generally, I'm happy to oblige. But some days when I'm in a foul mood, I don't want to listen to Taylor Swift for the 8 millionth time and I tell the girls "Today, we are going to listen to Mommy's music on the way to school." They may grumble but they accept it. And it makes me feel a little better.
2. Wake Up An Hour Before Everyone - My day always goes better when I've had a chance to drink my coffee in peace, shower, and slap on a little makeup before having to face the demands of motherhood. Sometimes the idea of getting up early is outrageously unappealing but I always feel better when I do it.
3. Focus on What You do Well - I'm not very good at cooking. It's incredibly stressful for me to try and focus on a reading a recipe, measuring, keeping track of timing, managing multiple burners, and setting the table while my children are executing every single attention seeking ploy they can fathom to try and derail my Martha Stewart ambitions. So, many nights, I choose to give my children a sandwich and some sliced cucumbers with ranch dip rather than ending up in tears, slumped against the cabinet, drinking wine straight from the bottle while the smoke alarm goes off. So I stink at cooking, but I'm pretty good at cleaning and keeping the place relatively tidy. That's the domestic talent I chose to focus on (most days). Likewise, I'm not creative. I don't throw Pinterest-worthy parties. I don't make Pinterest-worthy crafts. But I sit at the table and color with my kids. We do puzzles and worksheets and we play educational games. I focus on what I can do.
4. Go Easy on Yourself - Generally, having an hour to myself before the kids wake up makes me happy. Having a tidy house makes me happy. But some days, these things just don't happen. That's okay. There's always tomorrow.
5. Seek Support and Wisdom From Other Mothers You Respect - My friend, Aleksandra, has two daughters in college and they are the most lovely, poised, intelligent, kind, and well-mannered girls. Aleksandra is someone I have on speed dial when I need parenting advice. She always offers exemplary wisdom or she just talks me down from the ledge. Either way, it's invaluable. You can't Google that kind of support. In addition to Aleksandra, I have many other mom friends who are currently in the trenches with small kids and the solidarity we have is often what gets me through the day.
6. Find Someone Whose Disposition You Admire and Try to Channel Those Qualities - As us neurotic, type A, frustrated perfectionists tend to do, I get tangled up in the details of the gap between my image of the ideal, and the reality. I frequently take things to extremes. One minute, I'm being sassed by a small child and the next thing I know, I'm desperately trying to formulate a plan to keep her out of the juvenile detention center because if she acts this way now, imagine what sort of trouble she'll be at 15! That's when I think about Travis. I assure you, for every one thing he worries about, I worry about a thousand. He's just super laid back. He doesn't worry. He doesn't stress. He's incredibly composed. Always. When I get caught up in stressing about Josie's delays, he reminds me of how far she's come and he helps me snap out of it. He doesn't lose sleep over anything. I always tell him, in my next life, I want to come back as him.
7, Try to Maintain Perspective - This is where it helps to have a mom, mother-in-law, friend, or neighbor with grown kids. When it's 8am and you're already counting down the minutes to bedtime, they are the people who can remind you that while the days are long, the years are short. You can read more about this on an old post titled, "Getting Through the Hard Days" . I also find Pinterest quotes on Motherhood really inspiring - sometimes I even slap them on photos of my own kids. I especially love Brian Andreas quotes. And another writer whose motherly wisdom I enjoy is Jen Hatmaker. Check her out on her blog or read my personal favorite article of hers HERE.
The bottom line is that I don't know what I'm doing anymore than anyone else does. We all have our good days and our bad days with this parenting thing. But I try to keep things positive because I love these funny little people who interrupt every conversation I attempt to have, keep me with an endless supply of laundry and dishes to do, and heck, they even watch me pee. And when I think about the day that I can run to the grocery store, purchase ingredients, bring them home, and cook in peaceful solitude, that makes me kind of sad. So most of the time, I try to enjoy the chaos and laugh at the ridiculousness of it all.