I got a call yesterday from M. the very first mama to have her baby over four years ago. Anyway she has since had another baby who is almost two years old. She called yesterday because she is feeling so stressed with the work involved in caring for the two kids. She says to me, "How do you do it? How do you seem like you have it together?" [Enter big hearty laughter here.]
This is funny because of course no mother has it together all of the time. Families aren't mathematical equations, we're more like oceans that ebb and flow. When it's flowing, it feels great. And when it's in the ebb stage it can be stressful. However, here are some ways to make life easier.
#1. Cut yourself some slack
I am full-time in the home taking care of the kids and household and I have gone through stages where I've gotten really burnt out. The constant drain of repetitive tasks that pile up so quickly coupled with constant interruptions, a temper tantrum, the box of a thousand crayons upended all over the dining room floor... If I've learned to be more patient with the children and not take everything so seriously, I've also learned to do the same for myself. When I became a mother no one handed me a form to sign that said I had to be perfect or have great days everyday. Somehow, just knowing that and believing that puts me in a better mood.
#2. Look for ways to make tasks easier.
I have to get my oldest to school by 8am each morning and I like to walk her to school. This means that the other kiddos have to be ready to go too. Well, how do I do this? I put the younger two to sleep in the clothes they'll wear the next day. I'm not putting them to bed in jeans or anything, but they can wear sweatpants and a long sleeve shirt or something no problem. For breakfast the kids get cereal. So all I really have to do (other than change the baby's diaper) is keep track of getting Francesca ready, do her hair, make her lunch and we can go. I don't even put socks on Adam. I just shove his feet straight into tennis shoes. I do this all the time! Often times I even put myself to bed in workout clothes so that I don't have to do much in the morning other than brush my teeth and put my contacts in. When we get home then I'll change (maybe!) and fix the kids some eggs for breakfast. It works.
For days when it's 5pm and I have no idea what to make for dinner the kids get oatmeal or eggs. It's fast, nutritious, and doesn't dirty the whole kitchen.
You see, there is no need to be a perfectionist about things.
#3. Try not to be rushed
There is nothing that will make you snappy with your kids quite like being rushed to get somewhere. It is like trying to juggle puppies. If you find you are constantly putting yourself in a position of being in a time-crunch then it is a set-up to creating a relationship where you are always barking orders and feeling really irritated. So do #2 and make tasks easier and give yourself time for the unpredictabilities that will come up. And if you have a bad moment, don't hang onto it! Mommies have temper tantrums once in awhile too. Just move on and adjust.
#4. Hug, cuddle, tickle, wrestle with your kids a lot. A whole lot.
Remember how in childbirth class we learned about the hormone oxytocin and how it is released anytime a man, woman, or child feels loved and supported? I often make the joke that oxytocin is why people put their little dogs in sweaters and carry them in purses because all that petting and eye gazing that we do with our animals just creates an oxytocin wonderland of love. When you spend a lot of time having physical contact with your babies and children you are creating a lot of oxytocin for the both of you. You will feel yourself relax when you are in the middle of a tickle-cuddle session and your children will get all those good vibes as they get their energy out. This can help any parent who finds themselves trapped by a hectic schedule. If there isn't time in the day for lots of hugs and snuggles and tickles...then everyone is missing out. And that's no fun.