I must say… I have such a new level of respect for the “solo” mama. I’m not going to go as far as to say “single”, because I know you can be married and still spend the majority of your time parenting alone. And by “alone”, you know what I mean, right? Like, physically the only adult in the picture, hands-on.
My husband has been traveling more this year than I ever thought he would. The weeks are long, and the nights are longer. With three little ones under the age of five and being almost six months pregnant, I am well out of steam by 10am Monday morning. That makes for a looong week when the hubs is off daddy-duty, friends.
I thank God for my mom popping in a couple of times here and there on those weeks to drop something off for our business (Eden Gray Clothing) or to bring lunch or dinner on a whim. She babysits full-time for my brother, so I can’t steal her away for long, but if it weren’t for her little visits, I would surely unravel by Friday.
This last trip of his, I found myself thinking a lot about single moms and military mamas or wives of other men that spend more than the tolerable time (for a wife) at the workplace – doctors, fellow travelers, etc. some of us women spend a lot of time parenting alone, and it’s hard!
My hat goes off to you, mamas! God bless you with a visitor, a nap, a phone call from a friend, a surprise meal…
God bless you with sanity!
And on that note…here are some things that I have gotten into the habit of doing to keep my sanity with these little, needy, beautiful, dear souls entrusted to me when the days are extra long and tiring…
1 – Say “I love you.” A lot. Especially when you want to throw them outside but can’t (because it’s raining or freezing or dark… haha).
My husband has called me in total frustration in the past, “Where are you?! How much longer?! Are you almost home?! I can’t take any more of this! You were made for this! God gave you more patience than me!”, and the list goes on. Ever get those same calls or texts while you were simply making a grocery run? haha Yep. Made for this. Well, maybe that’s it, because I’d like to believe that I am “made for” this mothering thing, but I admit that I lose my cool with the kids just like Dad does. I get tired and frustrated too. The whining…the tattling…the constant requests…it can be like nails on a chalkboard at times, but… I still adore them, and telling them out loud does something to my soul. It resets my nerves and gets my focus back on track.
I first noticed it when my second was a newborn. I remember she was up, miserable, crying incessantly one night. I had a bad cold, and she was nearly brand-new. It was late, like 3am, and I wanted so badly to just lay her down in her crib, shut the door and go to bed. I didn’t. Instead, I remember standing in our living room, holding her unhappy self in my arms and just saying over and over, “I love you. I love you. I love you.” I’d kiss her forehead and say it, and you know what, it’s when I feel the least “together” that the “I love you” wants to flow out of me the most. It has become my grounding mechanism. Whispering “I love you” to your child when aggravated is like a soothing force over a weary mind.
2 – Touch them.
Now, not in the spanking sense that you may want to gravitate towards when they are acting up, but rather, get down on one knee if you can, and touch their arm, their hands, their face… make a connection with your eyes and your hands.
I just used this method today. My child was acting up badly. She shoved her little sister right in front of me and was sent immediately to “time out”. “Time out” was going poorly too. She was standing on the chair, jumping out of the chair, touching things on the table beside her that she wasn’t allowed to be touching, sticking her tongue out. She was acting rotten to put it plainly. All of that bought her extra time of course, which was explained to her over her 11 minute stay in isolation (normally 5, because she’s just seven weeks shy of her 5th birthday).
My frustrated self wanted to scream, wanted to demand that she go and take a nap… but, I also could realize that she was acting this way for a few possible reasons: she’s tired after school and refuses to fall asleep for naptime after lunch, she was up several times throughout the night and went to bed later than usual, she was feeling unhappy/grumpy about something that happened at school, and she was arguing with her sister (who was still trying to mock her from the other room)… So, after her ‘time out’, I called her sister over, dropped to my knees and took them both by the hand.
My physical touch helped to hold their undivided attention. I didn’t have to squeeze or hold them in place, I just held their hands and told them to listen to my words and look at my eyes. I kept my expectations brief and simple:
“Mommy has to finish some work, and I have to clean up the house. I need you to play quietly (because the baby was sleeping) and nicely together, or you will have to go to your bedroom. No fighting. No yelling. No walking or jumping on the couch. Do you understand?”
That was over an hour ago, and I haven’t had to yell at them or break up one argument since. A soft but firm tone and a gentle touch that says, “I love you, but I mean business” seems to go far most of the time.
3 – Keep the house straightened up.
I know – you want to smack me, right? Yeah. I get it. I can’t stand cleaning up this house every day. I think of how much simpler it was when we were selling our last home and 85% of our belongings were boxed up and out-of-sight. Life was so less cluttered and so was my mind! Now, these little tornadoes are just that…tornadoes. All.day.long.
I am tempted to just let it go…let it be. After all, you can only do so much, right? Especially when you are the only parent at home for an extended time, but I have learned the hard way that when I “let it go”, I pay with my sanity. The mountain on the kitchen island…the random piles of laundry…the dishes calling my name…the sea of crumbs on the floor… they take my anxiety level from bad to oh-my-gosh-help-me-get-out-of-this-nightmare-worse. Seriously. When you are tired and stressed, the last thing you need is to also feel like you are living in an episode of “Hoarders”.
So, I adopted the motto: A clean home is a calm home.
I fail at keeping the place looking top-notch, and I never accomplish as much as I wish that I could, but I force myself to clean something before carting myself off to the couch or the bed. I may not tackle every area, but generally tidying up the house each evening does wonders for my soul come morning.
4 – Read to them
Nothing calms my nerves more than sitting down on the couch with my favorite blondies snuggled beside me and a book in my lap. When they are super tired (and I am super tired), they will happily sit at my side for an hour at times. Just sit there. No fussing, no whining, no fighting. A few times, I have gotten lucky and our story time has led to a late afternoon movie and a couch nap! Seriously though, if your babes are tired, but fight sleep like mine, have a story time with them and enjoy the chance to sit quietly together while they calm down and you recharge.
5 – Play with them / get silly
My kids just want my attention (don’t all kids want that from their parents 24/7?).
When I am flying solo or having a lousy day, sometimes, I just stop whatever it is that I am doing and play with them. A lot of their play time is with one another. I try to play, but they leave me in their dust! (I am pregnant, remember? lol) But even if my body could keep up, often my imagination can’t! I have noticed that on the rough days, just being there – on the floor, in the same room – they will calm down, and everyone (especially me) starts to smile a little more. It resets the mood of the day.
Another thing I’ve noticed is that when I am about to lose my mind, if I actually let my grumpy guard down and succumb to the madness – SING a song that they love in a goofy voice, act out the scene of a favorite movie, talk to them with an English accent, anything remotely goofy… my mood improves immediately. Life gets better immediately! Yes, the mess is still surrounding me. Yes, dinner is still needing to be prepared. Yes, the garbage still needs taken out. But, I am soooo much calmer and ready to tackle my tasks and mother appropriately when the “reset” button is hit. Bringing out my inner “fun mom” helps tremendously.
So those are a few of the ways that I maintain my sanity as an overworked, overtired, pregnant mama of little people. How about you? What are your go-to methods / sanity-saving practices? I would love to hear about them!
Update: Since writing this article, we have added to our crew! Our fourth daughter was born in 2015, and, while my husband has a new job that requires less travel, I feel the need to reread this post and follow my advice daily! Four kiddos, six and under, is exhausting!
Remember, keep your love on, keep your perspective in check, drop the perfection, and just breathe.
You’ve got this, Mama. I know you do. xoxo