5 Reliable Ways to Manage Yourself So You Can Manage Motherhood
| SAHM SUCCESS SERIES |
We will never be perfect mothers, wives or homemakers.
We’ve heard it a hundred times and yet it doesn’t stop us from pouring our precious energy into the dream.
And when we fail, as we all do, then what?
You see, I always had this fantasy housewife version of myself. You know, the one where the wife is always smiling and gorgeous, gourmet meals served promptly at six and the house is spotless. My husband would feel like the luckiest man on the planet and my children would be so precocious and well-mannered, people couldn’t help but comment.
Yeah… Last week my child hit me on the head with a plastic golf club. Full swing and for no reason.
This is what motherhood looks like and it never stops taking swings at you. The Detergent Commercial moments are still there, but they’re fleeting and usually end with someone crying or screaming or covered in some type of bodily substance.
I think mothers everywhere need to throw out their fantasies and accept this truth as the foundation of a more realistic approach.
It’s still possible to be a confident and remarkable mother–failures included. It starts with you taking steps to change your mindset to better manage yourself.
I was sick of the the ruts, the frustration, and the feelings of inadequacy. I let motherhood and all its wildness completely eclipse my identity.
So I sat down one late night with a reheated cup of tea and devised a plan.
I knew it had to start with me. I have to keep myself happy so I wouldn’t posion the entire household with my attitide. I want my family to feel that I’m not burdened, but honored to care for them.
Because I am.
So here are my tips on the 5 areas I found to have massive impact on my quality of life.
Develop self-discipline, young grasshopper.
Self-disciple is the most difficult, but most powerful area to conquer. It serves as the basis for any behavioral changes and when you have it, you can do almost anything you decide.
Harnessing it will not only have a great impact on your life, but you’ll be seen as a powerhouse and inspiration to others. With this new mindset, there will be no more excuses and no self-sabotage through distractions and procrastination. You’ll have a clear vision of what needs to be done and you’ll be able to remove the emotions that cloud the path and follow through.
The reason this is so difficult because it has to do with your changing your neural pathways.
Habits are performed using a part of the brain that automates behavior. However, when you’re doing something out of the ordinary, and requires new thoughts, you use a different area of your brain. So when you are going against your usual habits, it feels wrong to you.
Luckily, habit change is still possible by using the right tools and holding yourself accountable.
Which behavioral changes would you like to make? Start by putting these goals down on paper. I know this may seem like an annoying extra step, and I know it has been said over and over, but the simple act of writing these down has been shown to increase success rate by 42%.
So take the time to list which habits you want to break and which you would like to implement. To avoid overwhelming and burning yourself out, choose only a couple to focus on. You can start small or you can tackle whichever one will make the biggest impact on your life. You can also assign yourself one habit each month. It’s up to you.
I suggest using timers and alarms to keep you accountable in the beginning. They serve as great random reminders of your goals, or you can give yourself an allotted amount of time to complete your work. Just knowing you’re being timed can help you avoid distractions and be hyper-focused on the task at hand.
I’ve read that when you want to devote time to mastering a new skill, you should schedule practices at the same time every day, so it becomes natural to you. Set an alarm it for each day, for one week, and work on building your habit for five minutes. Increase the work time gradually over the next weeks and soon it will become an automation.
Personally, I don’t worry about scheduling things for a certain time of day, and would rather fit things into a routine. So I haven’t tried this method, but I have friends who swear by it and the logic seems to be there.
These friends also have older children, so take that as you will.
For my routines, I start by completing chores in the morning, which is when people tend to be most productive. Think of it as a splash of cool water on your face. Not only will it wake you up, it’ll set the tone for the day by giving you an early sense of accomplishment. The more you procrastinate, the more things pile up and the less likely you are to tackle your tasks.
Before I figured this out, I used to put off everything so I could lounge around in the mornings. I would bargain with myself using lies about upcoming intense periods of productivity, where I would get everything done at once.
Thus the house would get worse, Motherhood would gobble up my time, and the result was me rushing in full panic to cook dinner and clean my mess of a home, all within an hour before my husband was due from work.
Some days he would show up early… Not my proudest moments.
Cool as a cucumber.
Have you ever had to deal with the infamous grocery store meltdown? Has your meatloaf ever started a kitchen fire? What about losing an entire week to cleaning up potty accidents every 40 minutes?
How do you react to those blood-curdling situations?
My son cried constantly during his first year and it really affected me when I had to get anything done in the house. I used to lock myself in a room and fall apart. What’s worse is after I got the frustration out, I’d become emotionally numb for the remainder or the day.
I certainly wasn’t the loving mother I wanted to be, even when the incident passed over and things were going well. This was self-pity and it was ridiculous. Here I was supposed to be the strong adult and focus on the larger picture, yet I couldn’t stop myself from wallowing in despair over my first-world problems.
It was obvious that when I remained collected and logical, rather than joining the chaos, the issue would quickly fizzle and die. But when I felt all chores and errands piling up and I couldn’t set my son down without him screaming, it pushed me over the edge. Being in that situation was my trigger and it tore into me every time.
We all have these triggers and when you learn what yours are, you can prepare to diffuse the situation. For example: if you start the day off angry because you’re rushing around the house, trying to get everyone off to school, make a plan to insure this situation doesn’t happen. Plan ahead by laying out clothing, packing lunches, and placing backpacks by the door.
What I started doing was I would close my eyes, breath in, place the chores and the crying in the background, and then look at my sweet little baby with this giant outpour of emotions. I would see him as who he is and not as an annoyance.
I would remind myself: This is my son, I am his mother, and he needs me.
Then I’d scoop him up and hug him for as long as he needed, which brought us both back to a good place. I couldn’t believe how much easier my life became once I started changing my reaction.
I also prevented the situation by being more leniant with myself. A lot of my stress was self-inflicted because I was setting such high expectations for myself. So I let chores slide, I cooked faster and easier meals and I used time more wisely. I also became aware of the correlation between my social commitments and stress level.
BEWARE: The idea of having a million moving parts may seem exciting, but for most of us it just leads to unnecessary anxiety. There is no shame in saying “no” to simplify your life.
Now, changing our attitudes may not be the easiest task; it requires you to become aware of your behavior by studying yourself and reflecting on how you cope. But after some time, your chosen reaction will become habit.
And think of the example you would set for your children: being able to evaluate situations, control emotions and focus on the larger picture; these problem-solving skills are extremely valuable in life.
But they first have to see it as a possibility, through your behavior.
Remember to nurture yourself.
You may have heard that marriage is the foundation of your family. Well, YOU are the foundation of your marriage; so make yourself happy.
As mothers, we often overlook our own needs, but making yourself a priority will have a positive impact on your family. It’s not fun for anyone when you stomp around the house all day like an angry buffalo, and we don’t want to resent our loved ones. I had to constantly remind myself that my unhappiness was not my infant’s fault. I needed to care for myself so I could be at my best.
So do something for YOU. Think of this as a top priority and schedule time as you would any other appointment. Write down reminders in your planner and follow through.
Of course, by “YOU” I don’t mean you as a wife, mother, church member or homemaker. I don’t want to find out that anyone wrote down “organize my closet”. This should be something to let you break away, free your mind and recharge so that you can be your most pleasant and productive self.
Now, this is guilt-free time. Even if your kids like to swing from light fixtures and fight like feral beasts, you NEED to get out. Chances are your husband will be understanding and can tough it out for a couple hours.
If you do have a reluctant spouse, because life isn’t a Disney movie, stay the course and claim what is rightfully yours. Remind him that while he gets commute time, lunch breaks and days off, we are doing our jobs 24/7 and our minds never stop.
Remember the hidden bonus: time away might make him appreciate you more. Who doesn’t want that?
Keep the tank full.
Energy can make or break you.
We all fall into ruts, where we feel like failures, and yet we aren’t motivated enough to pull ourselves out, even though our problems usually have easy solutions.
For example: if you feel you haven’t been connecting with your kids enough, the obvious resolution would be to take 20 minutes, get down on the floor and play cars with them. Thus, they get quality time and you feel great for being on top of things. Problem, meet solution.
The disconnect lies in your lack of energy.
With so many options out there to build it up, what can you be doing? If you’re a new mom and your answer is sleep, stop right there. You’re not allowed to feel like a failure because there’s not much you can do. I feel for you. I promise, things will get easier.
For the rest of us, we need to give ourselves a serious push to make energy a priority because it is the root of everything.
Sure, working out is the preferred option. Not only would you boost your energy, it also improves overall health. But you know what? No matter what the Internet tells you, having a busy life with kids can get in the way of this.
So shoot for something attainable, such as starting the day with a healthy breakfast. Mornings are a pain for me, as I’m sure they are for many of you, so I plan ahead by blending a smoothie the day before, or I bake a batch of oatmeal bars once a week to enjoy with fresh fruit and tea.
Alternatively, you might get energy from socializing with friends, or starting the day with a shower or some alone time. And if all else fails, I know people who are bouncing off the walls all day long and they contribute it to coffee. It’s not the healthiest way to go about, but it works for some people. And desperate times call for desperate measures.
Appearance. Apparently, it does matter.
Yeah, it made the list… If you’re someone who could care less about your looks, I envy you.
I thought I would enjoy the break from the daily hair and makeup and I thought I would embrace the Mom Frump, but it had a negative effect on me. I felt like I was losing another little piece of myself to motherhood.
It might seem silly to some people, but for some of us, we feel more confident and capable when we polish up. It’s like starting the day with a clean slate. I wasn’t about to surrender this, so my happy compromise is to look put together, but in a practical way.
Here are my tips:
HAIR AND MAKEUP
- Discover a few quick ways pull your hair back and embrace your natural texture.
- Take showers at night and wear your hair at the top of your head in a scrunchie, avoiding the tornado look that sleep can cause.
- If you can get away with it, don’t wash your hair each day. Try a few different dry shampoos to find one that works for you.
- Attain a basic five-minute makeup routine that highlights your favorite feature.
- Stay on top of brow grooming, skin care and oral health so you start with a great foundation.
- Use a lash growth serum at night so you can skip liner or mascara without looking like you have zero lashes.
- Find products that serve multiple purposes. A bronzer can also go in the crease of your eye or be used as a soft liner, a tinted moisturizer can allow you to leave out primer and foundation, and you can use your highlighter in the center of your top lid to make them pop.
Now we all know about the 1:00 pajama trap because we’ve all fallen victim to it. Just get ready as soon as you get up. Even if you don’t do your hair and makeup right away, simply changing into some comfy house clothes will make you feel more productive. You also won’t have to hide from the windows and play the quiet game with your kids whenever the doorbell rings.
The thing with house clothes is that you still want decent items. It’s tempting to keep stained or torn shirts because you’re home all day and nobody outside your family will see you, but it doesn’t cost much to hit the clearance racks for new shirts. If you wouldn’t wear it out, don’t keep it.
To complete the mom uniform–you guessed it–leggings! They’re cheap, comfy and they make everyone’s butt look fantastic–just ask your husband!
The basic black leggings and a loose shirt is a great go-to look, but adding different colors and patterns will make things a little more interesting, so have fun with it. You could also go the easy one-item route with comfy housedresses that are flattering, but still cover the goods. Then all you need are some simple stud earrings or a necklace and you have yourself a completed look.
Now, let’s take a moment here to express our gratification for stylish workout outfits. They let you run into town while looking like crap and people will assume you just came from the gym. You could’ve slept in them the night before and people would be none the wiser.
When it comes to creating a mom wardrobe, I found it difficult to find practical outfits that I loved. My tendencies were always to dress up and complete a look with a pair of cute heels. Even if I were running to the store, I wore heels. It was just natural to me. No way this was going to happen once I became a mom. There’s nothing sexy about falling and injuring your baby, and I wasn’t about to up the odds of that. The good news is that moms have an excuse to be comfy and wear flats.
It took me some time, and a lot of Pinterest pins, to learn to love casual and sporty looks. Even to this day, I have to fight myself to stay focused while shopping, or I’d end up wasting money on items I’d never wear. Sure, I kept some special items and I’ll never let go of my heels, but for the most part, I’ve purged my closet of anything unpractical. This makes getting dressed so much easier. You could also make some decent money by selling your used clothing.
Which self-focused tips resonated with you?
Know that none of these changes are going to happen overnight, but any progress you make is going to affect other areas of your life as well. An easy approach would be to find the one thing you could alter that will have the biggest impact. Mastering this one thing will show you that the payoff is worth the effort. The main point is that you’re thinking about solutions and taking steps to improve.
You have to be happy with who you are, but I also believe people should constantly work to become better parents, spouses, friends–better humans.
Let me know how you feel about it by commenting below. And if you leave your email, I’ll be sure to let you know when the remaining four articles from the “SAHM Success Series” are published.
Power on, Mamas. 😉