It is so rare for anyone to learn to be a parent! But it is so admirable for anyone to invest in kids! We hear all the hype and the analysis that says ‘Children are our Future’ and get all teary-eyed about the importance of what we are doing.
Parents get teary-eyed because we are exhausted and burning out! Ah!
We could perhaps all agree that the first job of parents is to keep their children physically safe until they are old enough to take charge of this aspect of their life and living themselves.
Additional to that, and many parents forget this, your job is to prepare them to go out into the world and be on their own – do for themselves, decide for themselves, make their own way in their own life and living. You’ll see some ways to do that in this very post.
We imagine ourselves a role, whether we feel it is imposed upon us or we have willingly taken up its mantle. We either dive into it or spend all our time resisting it.
We push ourselves too far. We want to control far too much. We discipline too much. We say ‘No’ too often … or not often enough, if we look at results!
Keeping an eye on what the kids are doing is a non-stop and exhausting job, especially when they are toddlers, just starting to walk and ‘get into trouble’. Oh, and it’s a hair-raising job as well when they are teenagers giving their independence behaviors a test run.
Getting the kids to eat well, all at once, without demanding restaurant-style menu choices out of you at each meal, without ‘making a production’ of each meal? It is tiring.
On top of child-rearing, there’s your home. If it looks like a tornado went through it, you get frustrated and try to be the one to keep it organized. So much – too much – to do!
Ah, to be a mom!
Who Wrote that Rule?
Your privilege is to be able to carve out some different ways of doing things in your own family than your parents did with you, or that your friends are doing with them.
The whole idea is to remember that you are unique and that your kids are unique. No cookie-cutter kids; no cookie-cutter responses to their needs.
Be adaptable. If a friend or family member questions your sanity when you do something “differently”, ask them – point-blank – “Who wrote that rule?” You will stun them, perhaps, at first!
- Don’t blindly do anything in or for your family just because that is a pattern you see elsewhere.
- Stay sane by doing things that work for you and yours.
- Stay sane by not trying to bend your kids to some outside rule or pattern that just doesn’t work for you or them.
- Staying sane and organized and in harmony in the home means that you row with the flow of the water – not against it.
- Find your family’s flow, and go with it. You’ll all resist less and flow harmoniously with each other far more often.
How to Keep Yourself and Family Organized
We all know Albert Einstein’s relativity story:
“A minute with our hand on a hot burner is much longer than a minute with our dream date!“
Time is not real. That sounds totally metaphysical, I know.
The trick to that is to simply let go of the clock’s control over you. Don’t let it be a source of stress for you – don’t let it drive you crazy.
I don’t mean that you’re going to ignore the clock, not by any means. You’re just going to loosen up a little bit, so that give or take five or seven minutes, you are a little less stressed by what the time is.
Sure, we measure it with clocks and watches. Some of us make our money by the hour worked.
As parents, we are all glued to the clock to make sure that our children get off to school on time – and also to make sure that our older children are getting home from school on time.
We watch the clock to make sure that the kids get to their scheduled activities in good time – and also to make sure that we’re back to pick them up from their event right on time.
Does the clock rule us to a certain degree? Yes.
Does it need to rule us in all things? No.
Remember Einstein: your hand on the hot burner or are you with your dream date?
What this really means is that you can make time shrink or expand at your will! Really!
Prioritizing by “Urgent, Important and Fluff” categories
If you already work a job at a bigger business or corporation, you have heard about goal setting and time management. If you are not doing so well on the home front with time management, here is a way that many of my mom friends and I decide which tasks to do in the course of any week.
First of all, it is about letting go of trying to be all things to all people (also known as your children). You simply cannot be in three places at the same time, given the current skill of most humans.
Even Super Moms are just human… So stop negotiating, stop juggling and have a look at this way that you might better prioritize the activities that fill your family’s time.
It’s all about deciding which tasks are actually urgent, which are “simply” important, and which are outright fluff.
Let’s deal with the fluff tasks first. The fluff task is something that no one dies from you NOT doing. The world will not stop if you do not do this task.
The fluff task is something that someone else is much better and more efficient at than you are.
Any fluff task that you can name?
It can always be more efficiently done by someone else (that is, not you). Truth be told, most fluff tasks – if never done at all – go away all by themselves.
If by chance they don’t go away all by themselves, someone else will end up noticing that it has not gotten done and will do it for you, because “it is no big deal”. It feels really fluffy when that happens…
As a mom, your real job is deciding what’s urgent as opposed to what’s only important. It’s pretty easy to assign a trip to the hospital as urgent when your child is throwing up uncontrollably, or has some painful and bleeding wound.
There is no doubt that you do not delegate this task. There is no doubt that everything else gets put on the back burner until this is taken care of.
It is an Urgent Mom Task.
The rub is deciding what’s only important as opposed to urgent.
As an example, if you have paid a fair amount of money for your children to go to swimming classes, getting them there on time with the correct gear is important.
But if an urgent situation arises, even that important task is put on the back burner… Canceled… Erased from the day’s calendar.
As an example, when you have promised your child to help them with a specific homework assignment that has a specific deadline, keeping that promise is very important.
You’re communicating to your child that you are a person of your word, first of all. You’re additionally communicating to your child that you put great stock in meeting your own obligations and that it is important to you for the child to meet his own obligations, too – in this case, the homework deadline.
As a parent, the rule of thumb must pay keeping your promises, right?
If your child perceives that your promises are not important to you, what does your child understand?
That promises aren’t that important in real life.
Deciding what tasks are important to complete, therefore, help you train your child for real life and its obligations – for his own real life to come, and the important (and urgent) obligations that will eventually press on him.
Another important benefit of classifying your tasks as fluff, important or urgent is obviously that you give some thinking time to your day’s activities. You fall back on your collaborative team – your children and spouse – to engage them in fulfilling some of the more important tasks.
You also fall back on your collaborative team to fulfill some of the tasks that you regard as fluff, but which will be very easy for one of your younger children or one of your older children with a skill you need for the job.
In other words? No need to do all of those things on your household’s To Do list all by yourself!
Assigning Fluff, Important or Urgent to tasks on your daily or weekly To Do lists allows you to enroll the help of your collaborative team members.
Useful Tips for Not Burning Out
Train your family that you are not their Beck-and-Call Girl. It creates an insane situation of stress, demands on your energy and time, and doesn’t allow your family to learn to fend for themselves.
I called one of my mom friends a Beck-and-Call Girl not long ago. She looked at me in shock. I said, “Yes, darling. You race off every time you hear one of your children raise his voice a tiny bit.
You race off every time your husband calls out for you. You race off to do whatever, when you notice what time it is. You’re everybody’s Beck-and-Call Girl!”
This is all about boundaries. If your kids can climb all over you and get your attention for any little thing, you have no time to yourself.
If your kids can tromp all over you and get your attention at any time of day no matter what you are trying to do for yourself, this is going to create a lot of stress.
Set your boundaries now with your kids and spouse. State your needs; follow through without guilt or apologies. Remember what we said about getting your team to collaborate.
Get them to set a time where they are fine with you not being available for them, even if you are still in the house with them.
Close the door and make it mean something. Take that bubble bath. Do your meditation or your floor exercises.
Make it clear you are doing this without a kid barging in, disturbing you, hanging on to you or crying out for you from the other side of the door.
Train your family, in other words, that when mom’s door is closed, you don’t bug her. But also reassure the younger children that your door will not remain closed for long; reassure the younger children that everything is just fine in the house (you are not punishing them by disappearing, in other words).
Set up the kids so they are safe and have whatever they need for the duration, and close your door.
Train them to do most household and school-related things for themselves early in life. You are not their Cinderella.
They can learn and do whatever it is around the house that they need! And they can learn quite young.
Be consistent with your training and your expectations. That doesn’t mean you don’t cut them a break once in a great while, but you don’t predictably cave in when they start to wheedle you and push your buttons, either.
6 Guilt-Free Me-Times
You are no good to yourself or your family if you are physically tired, poorly nourished, surrounded by clutter in your house, or emotionally stressed out about things.
The idea here is to prevent any of those states before they grab hold of you and start running and ruining your life!.
Perhaps in addition to getting your collaborative team to agree on a time where and when you can escape with their permission, you can try some of the following things.
This is part of setting your boundaries and stating your needs.
1 - Take A Nap
Take a nap at any odd time of the afternoon that you need it, or just crawl into bed early one night and get 8 hours of sleep (and see what happens). Put the earplugs in and the eye-mask on. Close the door.
Another mom we know calls bedtime at 8: 30 every night even for her now-teenaged kids. It’s a quiet, restful time that everyone benefits from, not just you.
The children need restfully quiet time when they are not expected to ‘do’ anything, too! They, like you, are doing things, running here and there, racing against the clock all day.
Stop. Breathe. Rest.
Yet another mom has trained her kids that if she’s stretched out on sofa or bed with her eyes closed:
Do. Not. Disturb. She is an expert at the 10-minute cat nap, and has frequent ones!
2 - Ask for help before you are desperate for it
When you’ve looked at your family’s weekly schedule, how many times have there been conflicts like double-bookings (a child with a fixed appointment at the same time as another family fixed-time obligation, etc.)?
If you need a neighbor to drive your child with hers on Wednesday, organize it on Sunday evening or Monday. Don’t wait till the last minute.
Why? 2 reasons:
- It creates stress and pressure for both you and the other mom;
- It creates unnecessary stress and anxiety for your child (‘ Will mom actually get me there on time?’).
Likewise, if you need to serve cookies on Wednesday, and you’re jammed up with back-to-back appointments on that day, can you buy/ bake the cookies on Sunday?
But if you haven’t done that, call a friend for help – before Wednesday! Call your own mom, or a neighbor mom going to the same event.
Make sure you refund the cookie money to your helper; make sure you gush with thanks and gratitude; make sure you clearly offer to return the favor and actually do it.
Organize yourself and your family can breathe easy, too.
3 - Learn when to say ‘No’ and when to say ‘Yes’
Do you remember that film ‘Kramer vs Kramer’? After their divorce, the dad took a much lower paid job that allowed him to be with his son rather than continue to work his 6-figure, time-intensive prior career.
He said ‘No’ to the job that paid a small fortune. He did it to say ‘Yes’ to his child and to raising his child.
The best way for you to get clear on this process of saying ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ is to watch your own habits for awhile. You may notice some knee-jerk responses that surprise you.
Are you one of those parents whose knee-jerk response to any type of question is always a resounding ‘NO!”? Just watch your own habits in this regard.
Maybe you never respond verbally, but you cave in by doing this thing your child is begging you to do. That’s its own kind of response, isn’t it?
Decide how you want to change these behaviors, assuming that you might want to.
4 - Schedule fun for yourself like you schedule the ‘Big Stuff’
Make sure you have a girls-night-out or a solo trip to your favorite cinema or a day at the beach without the kids. You’ll have to schedule it, plan for it, and stick like glue to the booking.
Put it in the calendar for the whole family to see. If you have a Smartphone, set an alarm to ring a couple of hours before the event, so you have plenty of time to wrap up whatever you are doing and to get ready for your outing.
5 - Take care of your body
Reality TV and Infomercials are far too full of moms who let themselves go because they were too busy with kids, schedules, work and home.
Don’t get into a rut of taking better care of others than you do of yourself.
Exercise both on your own and with friends and family. Exercise can be a shared family sport or fun outdoor activity. It needn’t cost money. Just get out there and run around!
Set an example for your kids. You may need that daily run or hard 2-hour tennis game every week. Go for it! It sends a positive message to your child to see you taking care of the body.
I know plenty of mothers and daughters who go out for a run together from time to time (dads and sons, too). Other times, you just need to get out there on your own or with friends your age.
Schedule it. Stick to your schedule.
Love your body – Encourage both your sons and daughters to love their own body, the shape it has, and its own special beauty. It’s part of the job of a parent, I believe – train your children that they are lovable, beautiful, talented and special.
You do this by example, certainly. You also do it by your words of encouragement and affection to all your children.
Eat healthy foods – Serve your kids the healthiest food you can afford. They should never expect fast food (call it by its real name: junk food) at home at their own table.
Certainly not because you didn’t plan ahead. Certainly not as a treat (giving your kids toxic non-foods – as a treat? No way!).
Teach by example – and planning – how to eat in a healthy way.
Take a break for personal Quiet Time – to meditate or listen to your own favorite music. Quiet time includes health-creating activities like Yoga or Pilates.
Encourage your children to do the same.
One of my mom friends taught her only child, a son, how to do transcendental meditation with her when he was only eight years old.
He does it willingly; tells his friends about it openly; has obviously been benefiting from doing it in all sorts of positive ways.
Another of my mom friends discovered a mental process for letting go of negative feelings. She learned it for herself first.
She noticed its benefits for her – she was less reactive toward her children. So she taught it to her children by sending them to a class with her own teacher.
The children adopted the process with ease, and still use the tools to let go of fears of tests, fear of judgment by their peers, frustrations, etc.
Never underestimate the ability of your children to learn “the good stuff” you might expose them to with ease and speed.
6 - Let them do it
Have the kids make dinner and clean up; no rescuing them or getting involved with a menu selection or clean-up or “doing it right”.
Let dad take the kids out with the dog for a 30-minute foot race (and a 30-minute breather for you); no being persuaded to go with them!
Let the kids do a yard- or garage-focused task for half an hour without your supervision.
The idea here is that you give up wanting to control every little thing.
You give up – at least for a 30-minute break – needing to do things for anyone else.
Be sneaky: Plan one of these breaks for yourself (and encourage your spouse to do the same) every 2 days at least – and know how you will relax and have Me-Time when they occur.
A 30-minute soak in a tub of perfumed hot water? Priceless!