I don’t know about you, but somedays I want to pull my hair out and hide in my closet with a box of chocolates and good book. This parenting gig is tough. It was tough when I was a working parent and it’s tough as a stay at home parent. Either way you slice it, sometimes it feels like there aren’t enough hours in the day, and there isn’t enough patience in the world to get me through. At some point, we’re bound to feel overwhelmed, tired, and rundown; it’s written in the stars and pretty unavoidable. However, I refuse to be tackled and beaten down on a daily basis by the trials and tribulations of motherhood and daily life. I had to find ways to keep my sanity the majority of the time. I was reminded of this at the beginning of the month when I took on watching my mother-in-law’s malamute for over two weeks and took in my 7-year-old nephew for three weeks. For those of you who don’t know the details of my family, that makes 3 big dogs and three kids between the ages of 2-7. I know there are people who take on more than that, but for my type A, anxious self, it’s a lot. Anyway, since I was recently reminded that I need to stay on top of the things that help me stay sane, I thought I’d share a few tactics.
- Focusing on myself on a daily basis – It sounds like a no-brainer, but it’s one of the first things I neglect. When you are focused on taking care of everyone and everything else, it’s easy to forget to take care of yourself. For me, I usually get my “me” time in at the gym. It’s a natural mood booster, a way to stay in shape, and a way for me to put on my favorite jams and spend an uninterrupted hour to myself. My gym, Eagle Fitness, is key to this plan. It’s totally affordable, and they offer free childcare with your membership. I can’t say enough about how much this helps me. I love them and so do my kids.
- Focusing on my relationship with my husband – My marriage is important to me, but there are times I felt disconnected. This wasn’t okay, so my husband and I took action. We hired a sitter who comes every other week and watches the kids while we go on a date. It doesn’t have to be fancy, we just need alone time out of the house. Last date night we grabbed a burger and beer at Verdi Grill then went down to fish the river. Ah, serenity! Another commitment we have to stay connected is to have an unplugged night every week. Once we put the kids down, we sit down together (usually with a drink) and talk. The phones are away, the TV is off, and we get to connect and communicate like in the old days before technology took over.
- Staying organized, but also knowing when to quit – This is key for me. I love organization, but it’s easy for me to beat myself up when I don’t get things done. I have to strike a balance. I stay organized by meal planning, having dedicated laundry days (Mondays – Kids, Tuesdays – Husband, Wednesday – myself, Thursday – sheets and towels), and making basic maintenance a daily thing ie: wiping down countertops, vacuuming, loading/unloading dishes, picking up toys etc. But, if I have a particularly busy day and don’t get to something, it’s fine. I just make the commitment to do whatever I missed the next day and try not to beat myself up.
- Encouraging and fostering autonomy with the kids – It’s impossible to get things done when you’re tied at the hip to your kid. Now, before all the sanctimommys come after me with pitch forks, of course I spend time with my kids and help them as needed, but I don’t need to be with them every single step. I don’t need to hover over them when they are playing in the backyard, coloring, etc. I love fostering autonomy for a few reasons. My kids learn to navigate the world and problem solve on their own (which I assure you is a good thing), and it gives me time to get things done around the house. My kids are building towers from Mega Blocks as I write this blog – and they’re doing it alone. Gasp – quick, someone call CPS. I’m negligent. Oh the sarcasm.
- Get out of the house and do something fun – This is a no-brainer, and a total sanity saver for a few reasons. Getting out of the house is good for the soul, it helps with “cabin fever”, it helps get the energy out of the kids, and it helps my type A, anxious self, because kids out of the house = less messes to clean up. Win-win. In the summer we like to go to the beach once a week and spend the day playing in the water and soaking up the sun (we love Donner and Sand Harbor). We also love to go to the Discovery Museum, the Library, the park, down to the river to fish, basically anything to get us out of the house and keep us entertained.
- Early and relatively strict bedtimes for the kids – Some friends of ours had their first child a few years before we had ours, and I learned the 7pm-7am sleeping schedule from them. A special thanks to Shannon of Lady’s Little Loves for this piece of advice, you’re a saint in my book. It might sound crazy to some, but on the flipside, it sounds crazy to me to have kids running around at 9 or 10pm. Mostly because I am ready to go to sleep then or at least numb out in bed with a book or some TV. We’ve had this schedule since the kids were babies and old enough to start a sleep schedule. To each their own, but this “rule” plays a huge part in keeping me sane. I’m with my kids all day long, I NEED a few hours at night without them. But hey, what works for me, might not work for someone else.
- Occasional outsourcing – I’m not super mom. I try to be sometimes, but I fall short. To help keep me sane I outsource a little bit. We have two big dogs (this month 3) and they take giant poops. For the longest time, we went out and picked up their poop like normal pet owners, until I heard of a service called Poop 911 from my brother-in-law. I wipe butts all day long and I changed diapers for a long time, so I was pretty sold when I was told I could have someone come scoop the dog poop for me. We pay around $14 a week for someone to come every Wednesday and scoop the dog poop. For me, it’s money well spent. I also have someone come once a month and clean my home. I clean all day long, so it’s a well-deserved break. Last year, I also bought a BOB Sweep. Bob is my little robot vacuum that I found on Groupon for $200. He’s not a solve all for vacuuming, but when you have pets who shed like their coat is going out of style, it helps manage some of the mess. I don’t get my nails done, we rarely eat out, and I get my hair colored once a year. The outsourcing takes things off my plate and keeps me sane. We’re a single income family now, so I don’t have a huge monthly budget, but I found a way to work these things in, because for me, my sanity is more important than luxuries like getting my nails done.
There is a season for everything, one day my kids will be grown and life will be calm, but I will have less time with them then (I can’t even think about that time without getting teary-eyed). So for now, I want to make the most of life and enjoy my time with the kids. It’s not rainbows and unicorns every day, but I’ll take whatever I can to navigate these times with grace and sanity.
What helps you stay sane through the hectic times of parenthood?