Friday, January 25, 2019

Practical Advice for Managing Motherhood

Being a mom to a baby/toddler is so, so hard. It feels like nonstop work with a few pockets of rest. Rest, for this mom (me) of 2 kids under 4, has to be carefully scheduled. And I need rest, so I have to make sure to schedule it or I will quite literally fall apart. On top of being a mother, I surmount other obstacles. Like my husband working late. And our food allergies—I have to do a lot of cooking. And, of course, on top of managing a household, I have to try and teach my 3.5 year old patience, kindness and the alphabet when I don't feel patient or kind myself. 

Through the years I have learned a lot about managing my time. Practical advice for managing motherhood—or you can call it tips for stressed out moms who need ideas. This blog post will be full of the tips and tricks parenting has taught me about, well, parenting. Motherhood is 24/7 baby, so roll up your sleeves and dig in. This season is full of joy if you just know where to look. And a little bit of discipline never hurt anyone.

That was the first thing motherhood taught me. Discipline. I have never been what you would call “disciplined” in my life. I used to quit things when they get too hard. In school, I gave minimal effort when I felt like it, or no effort when I didn't feel like it. I followed my whims and for the most part (before kids) was content with doing what I could, when I could. Or putting off what didn't appeal to me.

Motherhood, as I have said before on this blog—hit me like a freight train. It only took one day for me to become an anxious stressed out mess. When they placed that that precious 10 pound 6oz baby boy into my arms (that yes, I delivered vaginally, may we pray for my nether regions) it's like I went from a relaxed, happy wife to a irritable, cranky mother all at one moment. It didn't help that I had an emotionally high needs baby who didn't sleep and who had serious food allergies that I had to contend with, on top of managing motherhood. 

I've already talked about how that first year was the worst year of my life.

But the second year something changed. Well, someones. Me, and my husband and my son. We all adjusted. And it wasn't something (at least for me) that happened naturally. It took a lot of hard work as I gave up a lot of control, praying that I would trust in God's plan, and accept his grace. Somewhere along the way lazy me found discipline. And learning to be disciplined changed my life. Changed my motherhood. Changed me from a sourpuss into a planner, from a grouch into a willing servant, giving me the power and the strength to serve my family.

What happened is this. I saw that the dishes, laundry, floor, all needed to be cleaned. And if I put it off today, it only grew worse overnight. And the bigger the mess, the more I did not want to clean it and the more resentful my heart was. Not only did I have these chores—but I had a small demanding child to take care of too! But I also saw that my mood was lighter, happier when these chores were done. When the house is clean I feel less stressed. And thus, somewhere along the way I realized that 1) I needed to clean because no one else was going to clean and 2) if I did it when it needed to be done, it was less work and caused the least amount of stress.

Being a minimalist is somehow caught up in all my discipline. Because not only did I start to clean and schedule chores to manage my time the best, I started to declutter as much as I could so I had less to clean and organize. It's all one big circle.

Somewhere a long the way doing what I had to do became a romance, a machine of enjoyment, as I worshiped God as I worked. I don't know exactly how or when it happened, but it did. I think it might be a God thing. God working slowly on my heart to help me be disciplined and to love the motherhood role he placed me in.

So, discipline. And rest. I am disciplined enough to get the chores done that I know I need to every day, I am wise enough to minimize my tasks so that I don't feel overwhelmed or stressed. (Okay, I still get overwhelmed and stressed, but its a lot better than it used to be). And here is the thing: discipline begets rest. When I get my chores done, I can rest. I can take breaks between chores and I don't have to worry or feel stressed about “all the things I didn't do” because I know the plan and I've scheduled them out so they all get done.

It is a weight off my back for sure.

Now, when I say schedule—I don't mean like I have every hour of every day scheduled out or even written down. What I have is a loose handful of chores that I make sure get done every week so that our house runs smoothly. My goal isn't to micromanage myself. My goal is literally: can we can find what we want where it is supposed to be?

So every day I do 1-2 loads of laundry. We cloth diaper, and I wash diapers every other day, so the days I wash diapers I do 2 loads of laundry. Every other day I do 1. This way everything gets washed each week. Sometimes I do skip a day of laundry, and then I just do 3 the next get the idea. We grocery shop on Saturdays, together as a family. I do the dishes either after breakfast or after dinner if I don't get to them after breakfast. Sometimes if I desire a clean kitchen for my anxiety, I wash dishes in the morning and the evening. I love to wake up to a clean kitchen!

I sweep the floor after every meal because if I don't, Becky will crawl through the crumbs and make a bigger mess.

Other chores, I do weekly or bi-weekly. For example, I clean the bathrooms once a week. I wish I could do it twice a week, but I just have not been able too. I vacuum every three days, I change the sheets bi-weekly.

One of the biggest pet peeves of mine is trash that is not in the trash can. Recipes, drive-through coffee cups, disposable bags, wrappers for things we bought...I always make sure to put trash directly in the trash. I don't let it pile up into a mess, and I don't let the kids play with it. This drastically reduces the clutter in my home!

Another thing I do is I am always putting everything back where it goes all the time. Every time I walk to the bathroom I pick up things I see out of place and put them back. Like the VHS tapes under the TV. Becky loves to pull them out, and I let her because it distracts her and is harmless. But then I go back and fix them 2-3 times a day so it doesn't get totally out of control. This concept may seem like a lot, but cleaning with this method spreads the work throughout the day, and keeps me from becoming overwhelmed by a huge mess as evening looms.

I have a disciplined daily routine too. I wanted to make sure I took all my supplements, got to brush my teeth (before Becky fell asleep on me) and exercised twice a day for my blood sugar (I have borderline type two diabetes, usually called insulin resistance). I get all these things done. It was hard when Becky was really little, but once she hit six/seven months meeting my personal daily goals became easier. Now that she is one, I try to make sure I brush my hair every day, but that sometimes does not happen. Life with kids is what it is. I know when goals are fundamental and when they are superfluous.

If you want to check out my other posts in the practical advice for managing motherhood series, you can below. #1 is Discipline, #2 is Letting Go of Control, #3 is Build a Space of Calm and Peace, #4 Ask For Help and #5 is Love. All #1-5 are integral to managing my day and enable me to (mostly) live a life free from stress and anxiety. Motherhood is not an easy walk in the woods by any means, and I am learning to gird my loins. Onward and upwards, weary travelers.