11/10/11

Thriving Rather than Surviving


Being a Mom is hard. Real hard. Every day is a physical and emotional workout. Your patience is constantly tested--and everything else it seems. Yes, it is wonderful. And yes, I wouldn't give it up for anything else in the wold. But, like I said
, it is hard.

But I'm speaking to the choir aren't I? You know what I'm talking about. It's not really something you can explain. You have to go through it to understand it. I certainly did, despite my attempt to prepare in ever way I could think of.

Some of us live day by day barely getting by. Sometimes even minute to minute. Others are busy and working hard, no doubt, but are thriving rather than surviving. Sure they have their tough moments (how can you not with a toddler in tow?!) but overall things run smoothly from day to day.

Why the difference between these moms? Certainly some children are easier than others and some life situation are more manageable. Some moms also seem to have a knack for mothering and getting a hundred different things done in a day without breaking a sweat. But sometimes it is something else.

Maybe you've noticed these moms. Generally they seem more organized. Their kids are usually more behaved. They could be lucky, of course, but often I see a trend with some of the things they do. I've picked up many of these things myself over the years and it has made a huge difference for me. I rarely feel frazzled and I get quite a bit done each day. I can happily say that I am usually thriving rather than surviving. I have time to myself to do my own hobbies. I have time with just my husband. And I have loads of quality time with my kids. All of this equals a more patient and relaxed mom. Don't get me wrong, there are those tough moments and days and I am far from perfect, but things usually go along smoothly. And this is coming from someone with a very spirited child.

What's the trick? I'm sure there are loads of suggestions out there but these are some of the things I do. I hope something listed here will be of use to you and make motherhood or fatherhood a touch more manageable and enjoyable.

How can I thrive instead of survive?
  • Encourage good sleep habits. Much stress is lost when your child goes to sleep without a fight, stays asleep for long and predictable periods, and is well rested. This is also where your personal time comes in. You have nap time to get tasks done and some time for 'you time'. Obviously I find good sleep important, hence the blog ;)
  • This goes along with the last remark but it is so important I am mentioning it here--have an early bedtime. This is where more you time comes in. It is also where spouse time cones in. And it is also healthy for your child.
  • If you are married, work on making that one of your top priorities. Children know when mom and dad are getting along and their behavior will reflect accordingly. Don't believe me? Check the research. Look around. It really does matter. Make a date night and stick to it. Go to counseling if needed. The work you put into marriage will be worth it. Yes, your children are important and you do piles of stuff for them, but you and your relationship with your spouse is just as important. Plus, don't you want an enjoyable marriage?
  • Teach your child to play by himself where and when you ask. This is Huge. I cannot emphasize it enough. It makes for a happier child, it teaches good skills and it gives mom a free moment when needed. It doesn't just happen though. Most kids have to be taught to do this. Check out the post Independent Playtime Overview for more on this.
  • Discipline soon after a problem occurs and be consistent. Show love but let your child know you mean business. Encourage eye contact when you speak to your child and expect a response. I am not going to go into this anymore than I have because discipline is a complicated and complex issue that varies from person to person. Just realize that good, consistent discipline (not to be confused with punishment, consider it more like guidance) will make a world of difference in you and your child's life. Do not underestimate it.
  • Have some kind of routine. It has been proven time and time again that children do better on routines. They adjust better to changes, their behavior is better, and they know what to expect from life. It is nice for mom too. When your day is organized it is much easier to get more done. It really is. And I don't mean a rigid schedule, I mean some kind of usual routine. Eating times. Sleep times. Maybe some walk, play and cleanup times. Do what works for you.
  • Make mealtimes a priority. Healthy food will help you and your children feel better. And family time during mealtime has numerous benefits when your children are young and when they are older.
  • Make sure to fit in some one on one time with your child each day. No distractions. This will be good for you, your relationship and for your child's well being. It will give you satisfaction, make your day feel more worthwhile and it will mean the world to your child. It doesn't have to be much time and you don't have to do anything exciting. Quality, non distracted time is the key here.
  • Be a good example. Enough said there.
  • Find something that you enjoy and make time for it. If you can get a break from being a parent you will be rejuvenated and be able to parent better later on.
  • Organize your shopping and dinner in advance. This is a toughie for me. When I do it I have more fresh vegetables and fruits on hand, less things get wasted and I am less stressed at dinner time. If only I could get myself to keep this up long term! I am working on it.
  • Try to keep an outside perspective. Don't take the things your children do personally.  Remember you are here to teach them. This viewpoint will help you stay calm and realize that most things aren't that big of a deal. And don't let your reaction to what they have done be worse than the offense.
  • If you are the kind of person that prays, pray your heart out. God cares about families and wants us to succeed as parents. He can lighten our load, He can give us special insight and he can help us improve upon our weaknesses.

What helps you make the most of everyday? What do you do to thrive?

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