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Challenge: Raising kids is stressful. Let’s share ways to make it less so.

I've learned to put myself first, and I'm a happier mom because of it.

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When my son was 2, and my daughter just 2 weeks old, we moved from our home in the city to a house in the suburbs. My entire way of life was turned upside down -- a newborn, a new neighborhood, boxes to unpack, and a toddler who was doing not-so-well adjusting to a new life with a new baby sister. I can still remember leaving Target one afternoon, loading everyone into their car seats, and sitting in my car sobbing for no specific reason. 

I was overwhelmed, most days simply putting one foot in front of the other over and over until bedtime. I was faking it until I felt like I was making it. Years passed this way, until I realized that I had remained so busy being a mom that I had forgotten who I was. I was happier than when we had first moved, yes, but I was still sad, too. I knew I needed to find my pre-motherhood self and channel her -- but how? 

I set out on a journey filled with writing projects, half marathons, girls nights out, stacks of books read -- and slowly, I realized that under all that "Mommy," was me. I love my babies. But I've learned to love myself again, too. I've learned the value of connecting deeply with myself, because when I do, I come back to my kids energized and ready to be the best version of Mommy that I can be.

In a world filled with bath times and snow days and ballet practices, it isn't always easy to make time for myself. Thankfully, I have an amazing husband who realizes the benefits of my quest for "me time," too. Together, he and I have put some good strategies into place that seem to help create time for me to escape into my own world and hit the reset button on parenting.

Learn when to pass on social commitments.

In our house, Daddy does most of the birthday-party-attending with the kids. When he sneaks away to the moon bounce party or the swim center with all of the screaming 4-year-olds, I stay home and read a book or take advantage of the quiet time to get things done that I've been putting off all week.

Create "me time" rituals.

On Saturday mornings, I head to the gym (kid-free) to take a yoga class, followed by a stop at Starbucks. Once a week, my husband and I go on a date night where I get out of my yoga pants (Eva Mendes would be proud) and dress up and act like a fancy grown up. Setting aside recurring times where I know a reprieve is on its way helps me to take stressful parenting moments in stride.

Don't be afraid to call for backup.

After a long day with the kids, I'm so grateful that I can tell my husband I need to spend some time in our bedroom, alone with the door shut. Having him handle the kids while I read a book for 20 minutes or take a shower can really reset the day and give me the mental clarity to be an attentive mom during our kids' bedtime routine.

Enforce the One Minute Rule.

On Gretchen Rubin's ​Happier podcast, she recently talked about the One Minute Rule -- an agreement you make with yourself to complete any task that will take you less than one minute to complete. I have so much more time (for me!) in my day when I work at this rule. I wipe off the kitchen counter if it's messy. I run to the basement to switch out a load of laundry. I keep things moving throughout the day and watch the extra time I save add up. I've recently started pushing this rule on my husband and kids, too!

I truly believe that I enjoy every moment with my family more when I take a small amount of time each day for me. It's much easier to be present for the joys and happinesses of parenting when we take time to recharge our spirits. While it may seem selfish at first, the benefits are great when you keep at it.

This post comes from the TODAY Parenting Team community, where all members are welcome to post and discuss parenting solutions. Learn more and join us! Because we're all in this together.