I think most mamas who have had a child for any amount of time have had a conversation similar to one that follows:
A friend or family member asks, “How are you doing?”
You respond hesitantly, “Well… I’m surviving!”
Sound familiar? Maybe this was you today. Maybe this was you 15 years ago. I know I have said those exact words! Motherhood is hard! Some stages feel like they will go on forever when you are stuck in them. In some seasons of motherhood, focusing on survival is all you can do. Like bringing a newborn home, teething, sleep regressions, teething yet again, or potty training. And I am sure you can think of more to add to that list, but you get the idea.
For me I found myself stuck in “survival mode” after we brought home our 3rd daughter from the hospital. We had to deal with so much transition and change. My partner and I were now out numbered, and I couldn’t hold one kid under each arm (at least not without the use of a baby carrier!). We had an almost 4 year old, a 16 month old, and a newborn. All of these girls had different needs, schedules, and personalities. Then add on top of all the new adjustments also having to take care of household tasks. Things like washing the laundry and dishes don’t happen magically! Groceries don’t just automatically refill in your cupboards and refrigerator. Forget about having extra time for daily luxuries like having a social life, showering or sleeping. Survival mode means just getting by and taking things day by day, or sometimes hour by hour.
After about 4 months of feeling like I was merely surviving, I wanted a change. I wanted to leave survival mode and start really enjoying my role as a mom again. I didn’t have the excuse of having a fresh baby anymore. I got to thinking. What was my excuse? How could I start making some changes in my life to make this happen?
The first change I had to make was with me.
My attitude had to shift out of survival mode. My situation hadn’t changed, but having a different outlook can be powerful. Things are busy and sometimes more difficult with 3 kids, but not impossible. When I can start and end my day on a positive note, I notice that it goes a long way at helping maintain a level of peace in our home. If I can have a positive outlook on the situations that arise and just our day in general, I notice that it makes a difference.
Another way that I helped make a change in my attitude was trying to think ahead. I am what I consider a semi-organized person. I like planning and organization, but nothing too rigid. So a way that I could have a positive attitude going into a week was to have at least a basic idea of what the week would entail (including schedules, meals, and any big dates to note). At the end of the day I started trying to glance at my planner for the next day and took 5 minutes or less just refreshing my memory of what’s ahead. This also helped me get in the habit of trying to write down things in ONE place to help me stay (semi) on top of things.
Don’t be afraid to have fun.
Maybe that sounds silly, because who doesn’t like to have fun! But how often do we as moms try to have fun with out kids throughout the day? I know when I get sucked back into the survival vortex I lose sight of fun. I focus on the wrong things. I know I can’t just focus on having fun, but I do think it needs to be more of a priority.
It just takes a little bit of work to make even basic things fun. Time to clean up the million blocks all over the floor? Make a race, use a timer, or do it one color at a time. Or maybe when it’s time for lunch, try eating in a different location–like outside or on the living room floor. Small changes and adjustments can make normal things fun for your kids, and for you, too.
Embrace saying “yes.”
How many times in a day do you tell your kids no? I know I feel like I am constantly saying no, no, no all day long! Some of those are for good reason. But honestly some of my no’s are from a selfish place. I say no because I just don’t want to. I don’t want to pull out that toy, play that game, go to that place, etc. Once I started thinking about it, I realized some of those no’s could become yes’s.
I discovered something: it’s much more fun to say yes. When I have a better attitude and I am trying go have fun with my kids, the yes’s flow more freely. Instead of dragging my feet and feeling stuck, I feel like I want to pour my energy into my daughters. I want to give them fun experiences and the best of me that I can. So I have been saying yes more to things like getting outside, splashing in puddles, going to the lake, picnics on the deck, or extra stories or snuggles. And I can see the joy spreading in all of those experiences.
Honestly I still feel like I am somewhere between surviving and thriving. But I have made steps in the right direction. Some days are still long. Some weeks drag on and can be a struggle. I want to be a mom who can say that she was present with her kids and enjoyed life. Even though motherhood is a challenge and some days are a battle to merely survive. I want to look back and see these times as the years that I thrived and loved this crazy, messy, beautiful life.