Thursday, January 22, 2015

3 Ways to Enjoy Being a Mom of Littles

Motherhood is not something I'm naturally good at. I've prayed, studied my Bible, and read a lot of material about mothering well. I've watched older moms and asked a lot of questions. Still most days I find myself asking, "God, what on earth do You want me to do with this child?"

Over the past several months I've been surprised to receive multiple comments on how comfortable motherhood looks on me and how well I handle multiple children. I'm never quite sure what to say in response and people stare like they are expecting me to spout off some magic formula. I am not superwoman. My children are not just naturally good. It takes a lot of hard work. As our pastor would say, "There is no magic spouffle dust to sprinkle over your life. You have to do the work."

The questions did make me think about how much I'm enjoying this stage of life. It has times when things get hectic or chaotic. There are times when I would love to transport myself to a beach for a day or two. I think that's true for everyone. But I love our life and think three children are much easier than one.

My best mothering advice is this- Go find an older mom with grown or mostly grown children who is living the kind of life you want to live and raising the kind of kids you want to raise. Watch her. Ask her questions. Ask her kids questions. Read good books about motherhood.

Some of you don't have have an older woman like that in your life and you're desperate to find a way to enjoy your children and your life now. Here are my top three tips on life with small children.

1. Train your children.
Your children should not be in charge at your house. You will be happier if they aren't and so will they. I hate those shirts that say things like "I'm the boss" and refer to children as brats or monsters. You can teach your kids to sit at the table and be quiet when you're talking and walk beside you at the grocery store.
The rod and reproof give wisdom: but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame. Proverbs 29:15
- This will take time. You will want to quit. There are always things that I'm working on with my kids and some days I'm sure it will never stick. But it will. Don't give up.

-Practice, practice, practice. Do it over and over at home. Train at home and see the results in public. You can't wait until you're out at a restaurant to try to teach your two-year-olds to sit on their bottoms and not yell at the top of their lungs. Do it at home.

-Teach them to pick up their toys. Don't leave yourself a big mess to deal with after you put them in bed. They will get better at this as they get older and the younger ones will learn from the older ones. 

-Your tone of voice and your attitude about training your kids matters.  It is not better to train your kids in how to behave if you are sinning in your behavior while you do it.

-"Don't Make Me Count to Three" by Ginger Plowman is my favorite resource for training small children.

-A busy child is a happy child. Don't let your kids wander around the house for hours on their own and then wonder why they are constantly fighting and tearing things apart. Learn to structure their day (and yours- more on that next).

I can cook dinner and my kids don't tear the house apart, although I do frequently referee sibling fights. I shower every day contrary to what people told me would happen when I was pregnant with Micah. We have a reasonably clean house and they even help me clean it! You can enjoy your kids more if you teach them not to smack you or unfold the laundry you're folding or run crazy in the doctor's office waiting room. But you'll have to teach them how. It's not fair to let them do whatever they want at home and then get mad at them for doing the same in public.

2. Manage your time.
First priority is always time with God. Please don't tell me that you don't have time to read your Bible, at least a little bit, unless you NEVER check social media, watch tv, read books, or hide in your closet and eat chocolate. You can read your Bible and eat chocolate at the same time. The daily time in the Bible will transform your life and how you mother your children.

-Know your priorities. What is important for your family? This will be different for each family.

-Have a rhythm. You need to know what you should do next. We don't operate on a schedule unless we have an appointment, but we do have a rhythm to our days. Breakfast with Bible time, the baby's bath after we brush our teeth, reading while I feed the baby, audio books during quiet time. Tie the activities together and make it a habit. 

-Add one thing at a time. Put mealtimes, snacktimes, naptimes, and bedtime in your rhythm and build from there. Read for a few minutes after naptime. Clean for thirty minutes after you eat breakfast. Kids love to help. Sure it will take longer but they aren't watching tv and they are learning valuable skills.

-Change what doesn't work. If something makes you crazy, change it! This is something you do not have to get right the first time. Your rhythm will have to change as life changes- as your kids get older and stop napping, if you have another baby, when work situations change. Your rhythm may even change daily with appointments and disruptions. A rhythm is about flexibility.

-Don't waste time. You will be amazed at what you can accomplish if you don't scroll through facebook or Instagram every hour. Stop watching tv and talking on the phone. Suddenly there's time to wipe down the bathroom counters, read books with your babies, and fold the clothes. (Bonus points for wrapping the kiddos in warm towels and snuggling on the couch.)

-Ask what can be done later. Stress points come when three things need to be done at once. Decide which one has to be first and which can wait. Diapers need changed and babies need fed before about anything else. Then change out the laundry. It can be washing and drying while you play with the kids, vacuum the rug, or get ready to leave for the store.

-Adapt a cleaning scheduling. We do one area or task a day. Bathrooms one day, kitchen another (of course the kitchen gets cleaned every time we eat) vacuuming and dusting on another. Maybe you want to do most of your cleaning on one day or one evening. Find a plan and then do it. Best point for a good start to the morning? Always clean your kitchen before going to bed. Nothing makes me feel more behind than waking up to a dirty kitchen.

3. Be just yourself sometimes.
I'm a better mom when mothering is not the only thing I do. Time to just be you- and not a mom- can be captured in small moments; you don't have to have hours to devote to yourself.  Don't wait until you can do something big to do something.  You'll be amazed at the difference small chunks of time here and there can make.

- Find what energizes you and do that instead of wasting time on something you do out of habit (like facebook or tv). Draw in a sketchbook while your kids color for fifteen minutes. Read a book while you feed the baby after you put the big kids in bed. Listen to a podcast while your kids play with legos and you cook dinner.

-Date your husband. Nurturing your marriage will make all parts of your life better. Be the woman he fell in love with; you probably liked her too.

-Utilize naptime or quiet time. I don't typically clean during quiet time. I use that time for things that make me feel alive, things that I love. You do the same. Take a nap if you need to.

-Mind your friendships. Mind them as in pay attention to them. Meet a friend for coffee for an hour or two one night after the kids are in bed. But also mind them as in pay attention to their influence on you. If you hang out with friends who complain about their husbands, the kids, and the work you will not be encouraged in what you need to do.

Managing life as a mom is all about managing yourself. You have to do the work to train your kids. You have to manage your time. All of these areas are intertwined. As you manage your time better you find the time to do some things for yourself. When you train your kids they cooperate and your rhythm flows smoother. Effort in one area jumpstarts the others. These are not easy things but they are worthwhile and will benefit your family greatly.

I'm not suggesting your life should look like mine. Your priorities, your home, your rhythm will be completely different. I am interested in your being able to fulfill God's purposes for your life and that's hard to do when you are struggling to simply survive. In certain seasons of life that is unavoidable but I'm not talking about the first weeks after having a baby or when you have a child or a parent in the hospital. I mean your normal, everyday life.

This is not a comprehensive look at motherhood. Your attitude about motherhood and your children makes the biggest difference. Your attitude about the work involved in a family matters. All the logistics in the world won't overcome your bad attitude. There will always be hard days. Having a family will sometimes require more than you want to give. And that's ok as long as you do it anyway.

You can enjoy your life and your babies while they are little. But you'll have to do the work.  Forget trying to look like a good mom and do the work that benefits your family.

How do you manage life with children? Was there any one idea that changed the way you view motherhood?

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