I swear my two-year-old son has an internal alarm clock that tells him to wake up right before my alarm every day. I try to set an alarm to get up before my kids wake, so I can have some quiet time to myself in the morning. If I set it for 6:30, guess who’s crawling into my bed at 6:20? If I try 6:00, guess who’s little feet I hear pitter pattering across the hall toward my door at 5:40? Yep, my little guy, eager to start the day with his trusty cup of milk, banana and cartoons.
Oh, the frustration our little people can bring us. And oh how truly hard these days can be. The lack of sleep, the meltdowns, the potty training, the three and four-nager attitudes. Momming little people is HARD!
These days we’re living, though, they are the good times we’ll love to look back on one day. And not because they’re easy, or perfect, or Pinterest-worthy. Like they all tell us, we will miss these days, mamas. One day we will look back and wish we hadn’t tried to rush our way through them and will them away so much. We’ll beg for just one more extended bedtime snuggle, one more little voice asking to be carried—just one more time of them needing us. Because despite what it may feel like at times, this monotonous and messy work?—it’s holy.
God has given us the holy work of raising these little people. I’ve heard a couple bloggers share a similar message. I’ve heard songs and watched videos that have brought me to ugly tears just imagining these days being gone forever. What I haven’t read much of though, is HOW to enjoy them. How to step out of my own way and my own frustrations, so that I can soak up every last drop of this time with joy instead of dread.
This is by no means a magical list that will snap you into joy mode and allow you to forget all the painful, exhausting, stressful parts of parenting. I’m not an expert by any means. I’m just a mama who wants to do better. A mama who wants to link arms with other moms to remember that we do actually love being a mom no matter how many hard days are mixed in with the good ones.
And so I’ve made a list of some practices I think will help us to find joy in the “right now” and to continue practicing it even when we don’t feel like it.
Praise. Praise requires a heart of gratitude. When we are thinking on the things we are thankful for, right in the midst of whatever it is we’re walking in and sometimes for the thing we’re walking in, our hearts are positioned to have perspective. Thank God for the small everyday things that are hard to remember you’re grateful for. Turn your whines into why’s. Here’s what I mean:
“I have to clean the house again. This never ends!” —> “Thank you God for a safe place to live and grow memories.”
“What do ya know? The laundry has to be done again!—> “Thank you God that you give us the resources we need to clothe and provide for our family.”
“I’m so tired! Will my baby ever sleep?” —> “God, thank you for developing in me perseverance. Thank you for this little life you’ve entrusted me with. Thank you for giving me maternal instincts and the ability to soothe my baby.”
2. Stop Comparing. When we compare to what other moms are doing or how other kids are behaving, we rob our family of joy. We speak to ourselves, and sometimes unintentionally to our kids, the all too familiar “not good enough” lie. We have to become “ok” with not being perfect. We have to understand that NO ONE is. We have to remember that we were not created to simply throw extravagant birthday parties to impress people or to raise the most intellectual kid in the class. Those things don’t matter in the grand scheme of things, and we aren’t helping anyone by believing that they do. When we release the self-imposed pressure from ourselves and our families, there is so much more freedom to experience the life God gave us—the one uniquely created for us.
3. Love Your Whole Child. That one probably seems super simplistic and unnecessary to say, but it’s not. Our children are people—body, mind and soul. The things we say to them, the attitudes we display, the reactions we show—it all effects them and molds them. This one is hard for me to remember, especially when we’re running late for church and my kids won’t put their shoes on after being told for the 437th time. Or when they back talk. Or when they drop pink yogurt on your white rug after being told they couldn’t eat it in the living room—like ever. I never realized how reactive I was until I had toddlers.
I hate to admit it, but I struggle in this area. About two months ago, I was talking to one of my best friends and she told me about a new book she was reading that was changing her whole heart about parenting. I knew right away I had to check it out. For those interested, it’s called: “Loving Our Kids On Purpose” by Danny Silk. Oh my word—life changer. I read it in three days (which is super unlike me). The premise of the book is that we were created to enjoy the freedom God gives us and to know how to use it in a healthy way. We are to raise our children in light of how God loves and parents us. We are to prepare them for the world they will live in by teaching them how to handle freedom, how to love, how to react, how to maintain trust, how to communicate and how to protect each other’s hearts.
I have started implementing some of the ideas and have already noticed huge differences in my kids and myself. I realized I feel more in control when I’m not grasping for control of the situation all the time. I can actually enjoy my little people with their unique quirks and personalities. We still have our moments, but things are so much better for all of us! One of my favorite parts is that my kids want to snuggle up in my lap after dealing with consequences of their decisions, instead of feeling a separation between us when they’ve been in trouble for something.
4. Lay with them at night. Let me be super honest here. I sometimes dread bedtime. It takes so much effort at the end of the day to bathe, clothe and get these little people to sleep. Us mamas are tired and often craving some of that minimal alone time (or hubby time) we get before our tired heads hit our pillows. Extended bedtime snuggles and multiple attempts to stall really cut into that time. BUT, I asked God to change my heart about this. I realized it looked really ugly on me to be so begrudging about putting my little people to sleep.
I decided to lay some boundaries about the time they go down, going potty before bed, and the number of books we read ( because I definitely still need my time before bed). I also decided to try and look for the good things about putting them to bed. And boy did I find it. There’s something about laying next to your little babes all cozy in bed. It invites conversation, and silly jokes and snuggles that heal the day’s hurts.
I’d be lying if I said I never dread bedtime anymore, but it’s easier to see the value now. It’s easier to snap myself out of the funk and tired mess of the day and allow those tiny snuggles (that surely won’t be so available forever) to soften my heart.
5. Keep truth on your tongue. We can’t keep truth present in our minds and hearts if we’re not reading it. Like a foreign language gone unpracticed, we start to forget how to speak it and it becomes harder to remember. We have to be putting truth in our cups daily in order to be on guard and ready to pour out grace and grit instead of fear and frustration. God wants us to love our kids and to enjoy them. He created the family model to teach us and grow us and bring us close to Him. We cannot do a good job of this if we aren’t getting filled up with the things that make it all work.
We see time and time what happens when we rely on our own strength to parent and be all the things we need to be as moms. It’s not enough. And that makes sense. We were not created to do it on our own. God wanted us to lean on Him for all of it. I love to have scripture cards around my home to remind me of the truths that I need to hear often. I’m actually working on some to sell in my shop, so you can be on the look out for those in the next month!
“Let us then approach God's throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”- Hebrews 4:16 (NIV)
6. Lighten Up. I think all the responsibilities of being a mom can often suck the fun out of life if we let it. We have to remember how to play and be silly. Find more ways to laugh with your kids! Turn the music up and start dancing (this makes doing dishes 10x better), make a silly face, play a game, go outside and squirt each other with squirt guns. There is something so beautiful and bonding about laughing together. My kids LOVE it when I am silly with them. I enjoy it too. It lightens everyone’s mood and makes us feel close.
7. Find a friend you can be REAL with. I mean like really real. You need some accountability in this process. You have to have a safe place to admit the hard things that need to be uprooted before growth happens. You need someone to sing back to you the truth of who you are as a woman, and a mom, and a wife on the days you feel like you’re failing. You need someone to (lovingly) set you straight when you’re being unreasonable and selfish. Someone you can text, or call, or Marco Polo and say, “I messed up today. Pray for me to able to forgive myself and do better tomorrow.” or “I had major victory today. Listen to my story!” Find your person and hang on to them tight! If you’re not sure you have a person like that, I want to encourage you to assess some of your closest friends. Sometimes we don’t realize we have that safe relationship until we crack ourselves wide open in all our vulnerability and invite the other person to do the same.
Friend, I hope you are encouraged by this. Maybe you’ve got some work to do or maybe you’re right on track. This journey is all about progress. The more we learn, the more we grow. We will make mistakes, we will waste special moments, we will react, and we will surely have moments of regret. But most importantly, we will KEEP GOING. I’m right here with you, sister. In the thick of it. Just trying to do my best. Thank the Lord we don’t have to do it alone. Drop a comment below if you can relate.