Okay here’s the deal, I’m a twenty-eight year old momma with three great kids, my son is five, my middle daughter is 2, and my baby girl is 9 months old. We live a normal life in a normal house in the middle of nowhere – no really, the nearest grocery store or gas station is over 30 miles away. My husband is a firefighter for the US Forest Service, so he’s away on various fire jobs most of the spring, summer, and fall. Which means – you’ve got it – I stay at home all day long trying to function with more kids than hands.
Before I go any farther, let me say that I love to spend time with my kids. In small doses. With the opportunity for a break once in a while. When faced with 4 months alone with screaming babies, fighting toddlers, 5am wake-up calls, dirty diapers, and bedtime “accidents”, the idea of spending time with those children can send me running for the hills. It doesn’t help that I routinely wake up in the morning wondering whose idea was it to give ME of all people three children and then to throw away their instruction manuals before I had a chance to look them over.
But it’s too late to give any of them back (just try suggesting it to the nurse in labor and delivery and they look at you like you’re crazy), so instead I’ve learned how to cope. Let’s face it, our children are often the greatest source of joy in our lives, but sometimes we really have to dig through a lot of craziness to find that joy. Here are some strategies I’ve learned to help me get through each day, and actually enjoy myself as I do it – most of the time!
Take it one day at a time: When we find ourselves faced with a difficult job (like raising children with little or no help), it can be easy to feel overwhelmed by the shear intensity of the work ahead of us. With my husband’s job, I often only get an hour or so advanced noticed before he is deployed to some random fire across the country, without any way of contacting him or any real idea when he’ll be home. When this happens I have to really work hard at not focusing on the long string of days, weeks, and months ahead trying to care for my children while missing my husband. When we start to think “Okay, it’ll just be 21 days and then I can finally take a shower again without coming out and finding a new mural painted on the kitchen floor” then it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and start seriously considering secretly changing our names and moving to Hawaii. But, if we can keep focused on the current task at hand, be that feeding the kids breakfast or mopping the new mural up off the kitchen floor, then the days will go by much faster, with much less stress and angst.
Focus on the good stuff: Sometimes it’s hard for me to remember that my kids are people, just like you and me. Everybody has a bad day once in a while, but when a two year old has a bad day the whole world knows about it. On the days that I could gladly throw a kid or two out the window for a few moments of quiet, it always helps to remind myself that the bad parts of my day won’t last forever. Then I hear my baby laugh, or my daughter tells me she loves me, or my son brings me his brand new drawing of a extra-super-alien-robot, and I remember why I applied for this mommy job. Take a few minutes every day to reflect on the positive things that have happened and the bad stuff really will just kind of float away.
Schedule, schedule, schedule: Now I know that there are parents out there that get along just fine without set dinner times, bath times, and bed times, but I’ve got to say that I am NOT one of those mommies. There are days when the thought of bed-time is the only reason I can get out of bed in the morning. In my experience, most children thrive when living with a schedule. They like knowing what to expect and when to expect it. If you’re new to this whole scheduling thing, expect your kids to resist at first – “What do you mean we have to go to bed before 11! Don’t you know Leno’s coming on?!” – but once you settle into a routine I guarantee you’ll be surprised at how happy and pliable some children can become. One of the happiest moments of my life came around when my two year old reminded me that it was almost nap time!
So there you have it – the three top secret, magical ways to enjoy your life with your kids, keep your house clean, and never feel a moment of stress. Well, okay, I’ll admit, these few tidbits of advice aren’t magic, and my house isn’t really very clean at all right now, and I’ve been known to get so stressed out that I shake like high-strung Chihuahua. But I will tell you that these few strategies have helped me enormously during my darkest days, and when I actually follow my own advice those dark days don’t come nearly as often. They may have thrown out the kids’ instruction manuals in the delivery room, but slowly and surely we can all figure it out anyway.
Amanda is mommy, freelance writer, and blogger in her spare time. Check out Giveaway Blogdom at giveawayblogdom.blogspot.com and read her most recent article on Childhood Vaccinations at http://www.suite101.com/content/to-vaccinate-or-not-to-vaccinate---that-is-one-tough-question-a354344