Hey, there mama! Yes, you, the one with Cheerios smashed into your carpet, whose living room looks like a toy store slash laundry mat and who may or may not have taken a shower in the past 48 hours – how are you feeling these days? If you’re anything like I was many years ago, you’re not only stressed out and exhausted, you may also be doubting your own parenting abilities on the daily.
I get it, I’ve been there. And currently as the mother of a teenager, I still question my parenting skills (and sanity) regularly.
It’s difficult some days to wrap my head around the fact that my “baby” boy, who could once fit in my lap and fondly called me his “Pocahontas Mommy,” is nearly 6 foot tall and about to drive. The nostalgia I feel some days for sweeter, simpler moments can catch me by surprise. Time has flown by in bittersweet, exciting and downright frustrating ways.
Becoming a mom
My son came along unexpectedly and was born when I was just 19 years old. Although I always knew I wanted to be a mother, parenthood was not what I or my husband had on our agendas at such a young age. In many ways, I grew up right alongside my son, probably more quickly than I would have otherwise.
The Man-Child (his current nickname) has been a challenging kid since the toddler years, always pushing the limits (and my patience) of what he could get away with.
From rubbing himself down from head to toe with vaseline and rolling around on my brand new suede couches, to scaling a shed and climbing onto the roof of our house, to running away and hitchhiking 15 miles to his grandmother’s house, he’s certainly kept his dad and me on our toes.
There were moments I cried myself to sleep or screamed into a pillow or swore I wasn’t going to have another kid (I still did anyway). Through it all, I’ve learned a thing or two (or 200), as you will too if you’re a new mom.
For all the stressed-out moms of little ones out there, here are a few words of wisdom and comfort from another mom who’s been there. Take what feels right for you and leave the rest
11 TIPS FOR STRESSED OUT MOMS OF LITTLE ONES
It’s okay to feed them popcorn for dinner and let the TV babysit them every now and then
They won’t become unintelligent deadbeats destined to live in your basement (probably, lol).
Do I recommend this as a long-term parenting strategy? Of course not, mama. But when you’re stressed out, don’t have the time or crave a moment of peace, these types of evenings may be just what you need. Give yourself permission to not be the perfect Susie-homemaker parent 24/7 (do those exist?). Take a breather!
The more your children learn to do for themselves, the less pressure (and stress) on you
While it may be easier in the short run to pour every bowl of cereal, clean up every toy, wipe up every mess, or find every missing shoe, the sooner you teach them to do various (age appropriate) things for themselves the better. Even toddlers can begin learning basic independent skills like picking up their toys.
Yes, it takes more of your time initially to train them, but the dividends it reaps are beneficial not only for you but also your child.
In the long run, having kids who can help themselves with basic tasks takes the pressure off you to be everything for everyone all.the.time. And that equals a less stressed out mom!
It’s ok to ask for help
When my son was a toddler, my teenage sister would come over a few times a month and play with my son while I cleaned my house. This was something I asked her to do for me. Being a teenager who loved little kids (and a total sweetheart, of course), she happily agreed. (Plus I thanked her with goody bags of lotion and nail polish…that always helps, hehe.)
I realize I was one lucky mama to have that luxury. But even if you can’t find someone to do this for you as often, don’t shy away from asking for help now and then.
Can a family member or a friend watch your kids so you can catch up on things or have some much-needed downtime? Can your husband or significant other be 100% responsible for the kids for a couple hours so you can work on a project?
Sometimes all you have to do is ask!
Don’t be afraid to discipline
With as strong-willed as my son naturally is, I felt like all my husband and I did some days was disciplining, training and having talks about his behavior. However, we continue reaping the benefits of our hard work from years past. The fruitage of our labor can be seen in the wonderful young man he has become.
On those most stressful days, when your little one is pushing the limit and it feels so much easier to let things slide, remember the bigger picture of what you hope to accomplish in raising your child. The effort you put into this journey is worth it a hundred fold.
Not only that, but better-behaved children make for a less stressed out mom!
Find the funny
Humor will go a long way to reducing your stress levels.
Of course, as I said above, parental guidance and discipline are important. But sometimes, in hindsight, we may find that these trying moments with our kids are actually pretty funny. (Take the vaseline incident above!)
Have fun with your kids, get silly, discipline with a little humor when appropriate and try not to take everything so seriously
Let your kids be bored sometimes and learn how to entertain themselves
This is especially true as your children get older. As important as it is to spend time with them, don’t fall into the trap of becoming their sole source of non-stop entertainment. Not only is this exhausting for you but it deprives kids of the ability to expand their imaginations, use ingenuity, delay gratification and become more self-sufficient in the long run.
I’ll be honest, I had trouble balancing this one when my son when little. Eventually, I was stressed out enough by it that I wised up and created a boundary. Simply put, there were times mommy would play with him, and times she would not.
My son learned not to complain to me about being “bored” or I just might find something for him to do (usually something he didn’t like!).
Remind yourself that you’re a better mama than you think
As moms, we can often be our own worst critics. Mom-shaming is certainly a thing (and needs to stop), but most of the time it’s just us shaming ourselves.
You’re going to make mistakes, you’re going to doubt yourself, and you’re going to worry. You’re going to have moments when you wonder if you’re cut out for this mothering thing; moments when you don’t have all the warm fuzzies you think you should have about being a mother.
However, the very fact that you’re worried is proof positive you’re a better mother than you think because it shows you care. Give yourself grace, forgiveness, and patience along this journey called motherhood. You got this mama!
It’s ok not to love every moment
When I reflect back on these past 15 years of my life, and if I’m being truly honest, my enjoyment of this thing called motherhood hasn’t always been what I thought it would be.
My children are not angels and I’m not a perfect mom. There were days I fought to stay mentally present and not check out much less love every second of it.
Does that mean I’m a bad mom or don’t love my kids? I don’t think so.
Motherhood is going to challenge, test and stretch every fiber of your being. You will be on an emotional high one moment and be questioning how you’re going to survive this the next.
Expect the ups and downs, embrace them, learn from them, and just keep swimming.
Make time for self-care, you’ll be a better mama because of it
Making time for ourselves isn’t selfish, it’s necessary in order to show up as our best selves for our children and others. I’m sure you’ve heard the saying that you cannot pour from an empty cup. How true this is!
As moms, we are giving, giving, giving nearly 24/7. Motherhood is one of the most fulfilling, frustrating and exhausting jobs on the planet. When your internal batteries are depleted, give yourself permission to recharge them.
Take a bath, read a book, call a friend (go out with friends), meditate, do yoga, journal . . . the list goes on! Self-care practices are essential to reducing stressed out mom syndrome.
Make your health a priority
Self-care is one way we attend to our health, however, there are other equally important areas that should not be neglected. These pillars of health include a balanced diet, adequate rest, hydration, and regular movement.
We, mamas, pay careful attention to the health of our little ones. This same care should be extended to ourselves. Making our personal health a priority means we will have the energy, vitality, clear thinking and emotional balance it takes to be the mamas we want to be.
Remember, mama, these days don’t last forever
This time in your life of sleepless nights, vaseline coated couches, cereal covered carpets, tantrums and lost toys are but a blip in our children’s lives. Before we know it they will move on to the next step in their growth and it will feel as if we’re starting from scratch once again!
As you navigate these uncharted waters, forgive yourself and your child for the less than perfect days, the stressed out of your mind days; let them go. Enjoy the good moments as much as you can, tuck them safely away in your memory, and dust them off when you need reminding of your strengths as a mom.
Motherhood has forever changed me. The person I am today has been shaped by it, tested by it, and strengthened by it. To be a mother is to be generous, unselfish, giving, strong and tireless – even if we think we’re none of those things. Motherhood in and of itself will push us there whether we realize it or not. I truly believe I am a better person because of it.
How about you? What lessons have you learned as a mom? What strategies do you use to de-stress?