As a full time working mom, I was asked to list my five best tips to get through each day, sane, happy and helpful. Whether you are balancing a paying 40+ hour work week with active parenting....or just balancing multiple obligations as a caregiver I hope these words of experience bring you a positive perspective.
#1 Smile - and ask your children to smile in return.
The act of smiling - is scientifically proven to improve one's mood. Think about that....by simply lifting the two corners of your mouth upward, you can feel more upbeat. A mom's responsibilities are vast and varied. Flexibility is key to success. But, when we are running around trying to sign permission slips, write checks, pack a healthy lunch, make the beds, start the laundry, and insure everything and everyone is in the car and ready to go to on time....we don't often spend a lot of time looking at ourselves in the mirror.
Choosing to smile, even when it doesn't come naturally, is powerful. We often take for granted the power of a smile, not only for ourselves but on those around us. And in the morning, a smile from your children will light up your day and start you off on the right foot. A smile and a genuine compliment from you sets the stage for your child to enjoy a great day regardless of what they will encounter before the sun goes down.
Confidence is built most effectively by repeated, incremental encounters; you can begin building your child's confidence today with just a few small actions and words.
#2 Appreciate Everything and Everyone.
When kids are complaining because they're late, don't like their shoes, or can't find anything they "like" to wear, it may be a stretch for a harried, crazy busy mom to stop and feel grateful for the gift of what it means to be a parent.
As your day kicks off, whether your children grace you with a smile, or stubbornly.. talk about appreciation. There are so much you can say: " I really appreciate your smile!', "Thank you for my hug!", "Wow, you are awesome, I am so lucky to have you for a daughter!", "You are the best son ever, thank you for not being upset with me even though we are running late!"
You might even learn to appreciate that you have children who sometimes upset and frustrate you. It sounds crazy, but it's the key to getting through the toughest parenting moments. When you recognize your children as the gifts they are you can turn each stressful, demanding, almost impossible parenting moment into an opportunity. Children will have a very tough time growing up to be mindful, caring, thankful adults if they do not understand what that sounds looks like.
And guess what, studies prove that appreciative people are happier people. As a parent you have the opportunity to model appreciation every day - and as you practice "thankfulness" you will raise children who appreciate you, what you do for them, and the incredible opportunities you provide them. In return, by practicing active thankfulness....on your hardest days you will find solace in the fact that you have your children along for the ride to enjoy a beautiful sunset, a colorful flower, or a funny story.
Whether your child is 8 months, 8 years, or 18 years old..... the key to a positive relationship is shared experience, and you and your child will forever benefit from the ability to appreciate each other and those around you.
#3 Spend Time With Your Children.
Not "quality" time, just time. Dragging your children to the grocery store is a challenge whether they are toddlers or teenagers.
It seems they never outgrow wanting to throw something in the cart that you might not need or want. Going for a walk alone while your kid stays home playing video games, might seem like the best the option...and sometimes if may be. But trust me on this, work hard to get your kids to spend time with you whether it's dropping off a sibling, folding the laundry or stopping at the grocery store to pick up dinner. Even though my kids often complain about my requests to "keep me company" - I can't count how many times we have returned home - and they have said "Thank you for making me come with you."
#4 Practice "Just in Time" Planning and Allow Your Children to Take Responsibility for Their Own Schedule.
With over 15 years of parenting, on some days with 10+ drop-offs and pick-ups, I have found this is the ONLY system that works. Ready?
If your children really want to get somewhere on time, they need to be responsible for their timely arrival. That means they get their stuff together and more importantly get you on board with where they need to be and when.
Every day I remind my children, that they must retrieve me, remind me, come into my office and visibly see that I get off my conference call exit my e-mail or end whatever task I am doing to get them where they need to be. And yes, they have been doing this since they were toddlers. My most frustrated times occur when one of my older kids forgets to come get me and we end up rushing to get to practice on time.
On days when I have multiple kids to get to multiple different locations at the same time, I let them negotiate between each other who should be dropped off first/last, etc..., I apologize profusely when I am late to pickup a child. I also have a rule, that if my kids are waiting for more than five minutes, they must call and find out if I am on my way...because YES - I have forgotten to pick up various kids at various times. Every parent is guilty of this once in a while. And guess what, it's okay!!! Most importantly, my children appreciate that I drive them all over and they see the effort it takes to do so while balancing a full time job, it is a real time example of time management, and it helps them learn how to manage their own time more effectively.
#5 Your health and happiness need to be a priority.
Everyday, make sure you spend some time doing something that allows you the mental break needed to cope successfully with the everyday stresses of a parent. When that down time is also exercise you double the benefit. Whether you jog, run, paint, bake, swim, shop, or just take a long shower, make sure you are doing something to re-charge, stay mentally stable, and feel good about yourself. Everyone around you will benefit. And most importantly, you will lead by example. You will teach your children firsthand the importance of good mental and physical health and the right way to build in de-stress activities into an active, often too hectic life.
All work an no play is no fun for anyone, including those who rely on you the most. Everyone, especially kids, wants to be around others who are not screaming, crying, miserable, hungry, tired or mean. When we don't take "me time", we short change our ability to not only be successful parents, but just successful in life. Kids need to learn how to take a break from technology, and stress, but sadly, in today's day and age, so do most of their parents. Put your device away, and go do something that will help you be your best self. Let your mind wander, break a sweat, say hi to a stranger on a quick walk around the block, do whatever it takes to give yourself a short re-charge, today and every day.
Go do something that gives you the opportunity to be good to yourself then watch how quickly you will become the best parent ever!