It's taken me a few years of some buckets full of tears, not knowing why I struggled to feel like I had any sense of purpose in my life, and why this patient person became this other stressed-out woman . . . but I finally have made some choices that have totally saved me and my little ones. Our days are filled with a lot more giggles, less moments of my crazy mama self coming through, and more of all of us learning how to love and love well.
- Make Time For Yourself. This is HUGE. It's okay to be selfish. I'll say it again: it's okay to be selfish. You need to take care of yourself. No, that doesn't mean sit on Facebook all day and ignore your kids. But it does mean do something that helps you to be a better mama. For me, it's waking up before my kids get up (I sacrifice the sleep because it helps me more overall). I have a cup of coffee, read, get all my emails taken care of, and exercise a little. Then I'm more prepared for when my kids wake up and feel like I can give them a mama who is filled-up and ready to go for the day. I also stopped feeling guilty asking my husband if I can go out with a friend or have some alone time on a Saturday afternoon. He sees that I'm a better mom and wife when I've had it (just as he is a better dad when he's had some guy time) so we make this work for our family.
- Know Yourself. This has been life-changing for me. I did this e-course through the Art of Simple called The Upstream Field Guide and it rocked my world. I got to know what makes me tick, what fulfills me, what energizes me. And now I know what choices in my life are going to bring me joy and be life-giving and which ones may be good but not good for me personally. As a result, I have been able to feel less overextended by not taking on too much and I am more sane and fulfilled, thus making me a much better mama and wife.
- The No-Interrupt Hand. This is a tip I found online somewhere (I forget where--but don't give me credit!). If a child has a question and the adult is talking, they are to put their hand on the adult's arm and wait until acknowledged. The adult places his/her hand on the child's so the child feels "heard" but the child waits for the adult to speak. It has been SO good for our kids. They actually do it even at 3 and 4 years old. Much less of saying our names a THOUSAND times and more quiet.
- Desserts on Weekends Rule. Many kids are picky and just want the sweets (um, don't we too?). But our one child was a little over the top. She was obsessed with dessert. So we created a rule where we only have desserts on the weekends (Saturdays and Sundays) and on special occasions. Now our kids know that if it isn't a weekend, we likely aren't having dessert. So they eat better at their meals and they don't incessantly ask about dessert. The formerly-dessert-obsessed child has actually been less picky than ever too. It's also been great for us as parents to monitor our own dessert-intake. :)
- Family Bedtime. I can often want to just rush the kids into bed so I can have some peace and quiet. But the times that I start early with the bedtime routine and take my time, the more peaceful it is and the more memories we make. I want to make that time one that, as they grow, they know they can use to talk to me (as many older kids want to talk then about deeper stuff). So I try to start that at this age so hopefully later they'll want to come to me with the big stuff and know that they can. So we try to start early, read books in bed together, tell a silly story, and pray. It isn't always smooth but I feel better as a mama when I close their doors knowing that they went to sleep filled up with good, sweet family time.