We have all seen moms who seem to have it all together. They quietly speak to their well- behaved, charming and accomplished young children as they bring homemade bread and elaborate, tasty casseroles to the church potluck dinner. They are always on time. Their children are not only well-behaved, but they are dressed beautifully… and so is their mother. They even smell good!
Do you ever look at those women and wonder how they do it? Why are they so serene? How do they live with little ones and yet they don’t seem to constantly be on their last nerve… much less any nerve at all? They carry on in depth conversations with other adults with no worry. Their hair is nicely done, car is clean, house is immaculate. Do you ever feel like you can never measure up?
Well, first let me tell you, those moms DO have days where they don’t have it all together. There are moments in time when their children misbehave, their house isn’t perfect and their bread turns out like a brick. They even lose their temper, forget to do the bills, and they come late to church. The secret is out. Nobody is a perfect mother. Nobody.
I have to bring this up because I’d like to share a few comments I have been the recipient of over the years.
“It is amazing how you are always on time for church even with all your little ones.” Not true, but in their mind, I was always on time. I tried to make it an important point to be there on time, but sometimes a diaper would be loaded up just when it is time to go. I’d get up late and be scrambling to make it there before Sunday school, or one of the children would ruin their clothes just as we were going out the door. But, in their mind, I was always on time.
“Do you do that make-all-the-meals-in-a-month thing? You seem like you have it altogether and would be the kind of person who would be that well prepared.” LOL. No. We would many times throw some hotdogs in the pan with a can of beans and heat up another can of veggies for dinner. My children were always fed, but it was common for us to have leftovers or work out a quick meal at the last minute. But in that person’s mind, I was always prepared. Frankly, the make-all-your-meals-for-the-month thing seems like H-E-double toothpick to me! More power to the moms who do that! “Your children seem to get along so well together. I can’t imagine them arguing or fighting. How do you do it?” There were nine children with nine different personalities and nine sets of emotions while various things were going on at different times. Do you really think they always got along? This person did think that. My children were friends one minute and enemies the next. But, in the end, they knew misbehaving was not allowed. At least in front of Mom and Dad. We tried to teach our children to be respectful to each other, but they chose how they would act and as they grew, they learned more and more the benefits of being friends. They were not perfect and neither was I. But in this person’s mind, our children never bickered.
“How do you stay so calm with so many little ones? I’d go crazy!” I wasn’t always calm. I was calm generally, but I’d lose my temper. I’d have moments of feeling the weight of responsibility especially when one of my children made a mistake in judgment and I knew they needed to change their mindset or they would go down a path that would be detrimental in their life. At those moments, I would feel anything but calm. But, I would come back to serenity in the knowledge that God is in control and I can only rely on Him and do my best. That’s the extent of my power. But I wasn’t always calm. I do, however have a good answer to this question… which we will talk about in a few minutes.
I remember when our children were performing, I told a story because I wanted the mothers in the audience to know they don’t have to “measure up” to the mom they perceive me to be. Or they perceive anyone to be!
Think about how they would feel watching a family of young children get up in front of them and several hundred others… and all those children are smiling, beautifully dressed, charming and singing together. Mom is up there too singing along while Dad plays instruments and acts as emcee. Looking at that picture, wouldn’t a mother feel like she couldn’t ever do all that? Seems so perfect, doesn’t it?
Here is the story I would tell...
“I know some of you moms in the audience are looking at our family up here and wondering how we do it all. Let me tell you an experience I had. After a concert, a family came up to us and the mom had a line of young children behind her. They were all perfect. Well dressed, hair all in place, smiling and greeting each of us in the reception line with grace and social skill. The father looked the part as well. I thought, they are really perfect and have it all together. I could never measure up to her. They think we we are perfect! I laughed to myself at the thought.
We got to talking and started to relate all the similarities there were in our families. They homeschooled and so did we. They were active in church, loved music--- their family played instruments, ours did vocals. The husband even was in a similar field of work as my husband. They had seven children. We had seven children at the time. One other thing… they had a bird and we had a bird. I asked the mom more about her bird because our bird had started saying, ‘kiss, kiss, kiss!’ all the time. It was annoying and I’m sure our bird had heard this from somewhere but now just repeated it endlessly. This mom said their bird said, ‘Let’s pray.’ (of course, I thought. Ours is the delinquent asking for kisses – clearly repeating what they might hear from our home… and theirs is as perfect as they are …clearly in their home, the bird hears ‘Let’s pray’!) I asked if possibly we could get their bird and our bird together and maybe their bird would teach our bird to say ‘let’s pray’ instead!
The family came over for dinner and brought their bird with them. As we were eating, I could hear their bird saying those words she had told me. ‘Let’s pray. Let’s pray. Let’s pray!’ I was so glad to hear it because I wanted my bird to listen and possibly repeat.
After the meal, we decided to see if we could put the birds together and if any progress could be made. We took our bird out of the cage and put it in the cage with theirs. Immediately, our bird started it’s usual gander squawking , ‘kiss, kiss, kiss!’
Their bird immediately said, ‘Hallelujah! My prayers have been answered!’”
Clearly the point of the story was to say, no family is exactly what you think they are no matter how perfect they may appear. No mom is either. So do not believe you have to live up to what another mom portrays or accomplishes. You do the best you can do, give your all, and the Lord will cover the rest if you count on Him.
How Do You Do It?
There is one question that I did get a lot to which I believe I do have some good answers. “How do you stay so calm, have it all together and do it all? What is your secret?”
As I have tried to tell you so far in this article, I wasn’t perfect, and I didn’t always have it all together. So, though I may relay some ways to avoid being overwhelmed or stressed, it doesn’t mean I never was at times. It only means I learned how to overcome these feelings and what needs to be done to keep a calm head as a mom of little ones. And in the end, I believe I was relaxed and able to be the kind of mom I wanted to be to raise my children.
One of the main points I want to always convey at M4M is that continual struggling with little ones is not necessary. It will happen at times. Yes. But if it is happening continually, something needs to change in order for it to stop.
In relation to me as a mother, that was my philosophy as I raised my children. If I was struggling in some way, that needed to stop and a different approach needed to begin. When I found the approach in any subject that allowed for my children to be trained to behave, taught righteously and be well cared for, and still allowed for me to be calm and content, I knew that was the right method. There was some trial and error, but in the end I believe I accomplished that goal. And that is why I would get the question, “How do you do it?”
Here are the main things needed for you to be a calm mom through the course of raising your children.
Having your priorities in place is one of the key elements to being the mom you want to be.There will be many things and people that will call your name.Demands and requests that will come your way.You must be able to say, “No.”Notice the period after the word?Not “maybe… I might be able to do it later… I will check and see if that works out”… etc.You must be able to say the little word that so many moms and “people pleasers” hate to say.
You must set out boundaries for what things will occupy your time and effort.Your children and their need for a serene and calm mother will need to be the first priority, and pleasing others cannot be ahead of that.
So, when you have two or three little ones and are starting to feel overwhelmed, do not offer or accept a request to lead vacation church school, the PTA meeting, or volunteer to be the home room mother.Unless you really have the time and are looking for more things to do… (which would mean you are a super-mom… good for you… I wasn’t one.) don’t say “yes” to more requests than you can calmly handle.
Yes, there were other moms who I felt would look down at me.I would think they might not understand why I wouldn’t raise my hand at the parent meeting to volunteer to lead one of the fund raising events.After all, I have several children in the youth program, right?
I have several children… that should have been the clue as to why I would not be volunteering.I couldn’t worry about pleasing them or about what my reputation would be for not being the one to take the reins of things outside of my boundaries.I had to keep my boundaries.Later, some of those same moms who were scrambling to finish up events for which they volunteered to chair would be asking me, “How do you do it?”I didn’t over-extend myself.That’s how.
2. Children Are What You Do
When I had little ones, they are what I did. I didn’t work outside the home, although I did have jobs that I did from home to help with the income of the household. I did phone calls for businesses, addressed letters, sold homemade soap, had garage sales (which worked well for homeschooling… lots of math and economics taught with garage sales!), etc.
I am a project oriented person. So, I made my children my projects. Raising them to be well-educated, independent, happy and productive people was my project. When I homeschooled, that was my day. We did music as part of it and performed shows with what they learned. When they attended school, I had other little ones at home and continued the same thing with them. Children is what I did. That is how I did it.
(If you are unable to stay home with your children and must work outside the home, I will write another article for you. Suffice to say, do what you can to change this situation. If you can’t, there are other things we can talk about to help you work out a calm and peaceful life to the extent possible. You can do all things through Christ!)
3. Have Well-Behaved Children
Easier said than done, yes? There is no greater downer to a mom’s spirit than a bratty child, and there is no greater uplift to a mom’s spirit than a well-behaved one.
Make the training of your children to behave a priority in your life. Set all other things aside until this is accomplished. When it is, your entire life will change from a feeling of complete lack of control and being overwhelmed and stressed to a peaceful and calm spirit of contentment and joy.
Incidentally, when your child is misbehaving, they are not content, joyful or calm either. They are unhappy and stressed too. But, they don’t know why. You do. Change things and take control of the situation. The articles at Mentor4Moms will show you how. Take them to heart. Be consistent and don’t be afraid to ask questions. I’ll be happy to help.
4. Quite Your Space
I have recently been studying minimalism. There are some crazy extreme philosophies in this realm, mostly written by single men who have gone about ridding themselves of all things except a toothbrush and a computer. Okay, maybe not that extreme… but almost. These philosophies do not work for people with families and especially for people who want to be in service to others.
Instead, I have settled on a more reasonable philosophy that I do wish SO much I had known about and adopted decades ago. It is cozy minimalism. What a blessing this thought is to me! This philosophy entails getting rid of things that do not bring you joy, and recognizing that the more you have, the louder your space will be.
If you think about it, an empty room is very quiet. As you add things to the room, it starts to speak louder and louder. The more that goes in to it, the louder it becomes. How can we really have a calm, peaceful spirit in a loud room? The more toys, the more “noise” is in the room, even if there is no one playing with them. The more decorations, the more energy it takes from your mind as you try to relax.
Yet, we want the room to speak to us, right? In a calm, quiet way. So, have a place of rest for yourself in which to relax that speaks calmness to you.
One thing I have accomplished in this category. My bedroom is my place to relax. My children knew that this was not their space. They could be invited in and we could talk there, but they did not come in and out of my room freely as if it was there space. This was Mom and Dad’s space.
But, if I had known about cozy minimalism, I would have made my whole house “quieter” with adding less décor and more open spaces. Enough pillows and blankets to feel warm and comforting, but not so many knick-knacks and do-dads to distract from the calmness.
Have a space that you can relax in that is your own. My half of the bed, my dressers, my bedroom is my space. Find yours and keep it sacred.
5. Be Organized
This is such a hard thing for some people to do and so easy for others.No matter which way it is for you, make it happen.Being organized makes for a calm and peaceful life.
I remember we went on a trip to Washington, D.C. when I had 7 children.The youngest was barely 2 years old and the oldest was 13.We were going to be gone for about 2 weeks.We were also going to be performing for an event there and had to have their outfits all ready for that excursion.The ONLY reason I didn’t feel overwhelmed or stressed at this trip was I made sure we were organized ahead of time.
Each child had their own little bags around their waist.In each, there was a chapstick, small snack, some money, our address, phone number and where we were staying throughout the trip.A small bottled water, bandaid, and a pack of gum for the plane ride.They all had matching jackets so we could spot them easily no matter where we were.
Our trip was SO much more fun for me because of just those kinds of little preparations.I didn’t have to stress making sure each child had momentary needs met. They did not have to constantly say, “MOM, I need this!” I could relax knowing all was taken care of ahead of time.
The same goes for any thing you do with your children.You will be calm and at peace when you are well prepared and organized.
This speaks to the last point.The less stuff you have to deal with, the easier it will be to organize it.I suggest you start by studying out the idea of minimalizing your belongings and learn what you need and what you don’t.Then, keep yourself and your things organized.This will go a long way to giving you a calm and peaceful life as a mom.
6. Do Things for You
Okay, so I said make your children what you do. This is true to the extent that if someone asked what you do, the first thing to come to mind is that you are a mom. That is what you do. Just like if someone were to ask your husband what he does…he would likely give them his employment description… and that is what the person asking the question would expect.
But, most moms need outlets for other interests. Have some that do not take away from the priorities of your first job. I helped with Right-to-Life, taught Sunday school, and did at home businesses that were very part time. And of course, we had a family singing group. But at any point, if I felt these things were overwhelming me, I could drop them without any huge repercussions to others.
Also, get a trusted baby sitter, homeschool teenager, or family member to babysit during the day a few times a month. Go out shopping, get your hair done, get a pedicure, or just go to Barnes & Noble and read while you munch on a pastry. Take time for yourself. You need it and it will do wonders for the loss of energy you may sometimes feel.
Think of this as a gift to your children and family. They need you to be in top form so you can be the mom you want to be, and they need you to be. You need this time alone to rejuvenate and re-energize yourself. Take it and DON’T FEEL GUILTY. Even people who are employed outside the home need breaks. You do too.
Some might say, “You get vacations just like everyone else does. You go on trips with the family, don’t you?” LOL. No. Family vacations are not vacations from being a mom. A weekend alone with your husband? Yes, after you actually leave once all the children’s bags are packed, all their activities and rides are arranged, and any medical issues are taken care of … then… while you are gone and not feeling like you need to call to see how they are doing… yes… that may be a vacation. How often does that happen? You need regular breaks.
I would have a homeschooler come in once a week or so and I would work on things at home without interruption, go out shopping or do errands by myself and even get lunch with a friend.
DO IT, LADIES!
7. Down Time Not Spare Time
Every day, you need some down time. Time to read, study scriptures & pray, relax, talk with your husband, whatever. My boundaries were after 6pm. I would not do work after that time each evening. I still don’t. That is the time I have to relax. I do not feel obligated to do laundry, dishes, cleaning, help with homework, or any other chores. I arrange my time so that evenings are my down time.
I may have had to give baths to children before bed, but I would have fun with that. We may read a book, but that was relaxing and fun too. Then, the little children were in bed by 7:30-8pm. I would have a couple of hours before bed to relax at the end of the day. I would look forward to that.
(And if I didn’t want to read to the children before bed… there was always a mommy tape! See the article “How to Create Calm in Your Child: No More Bedtime Battles!”)
Maybe you’re a morning person. Maybe you would rather have your down time early and wouldn’t mind doing laundry in the evening. When you make your down time each day is up to you.
But, do not think of this as “spare time”. Spare time and down time are two different things. Spare time means you can fill it with something else. It means that relaxation is not a priority in your schedule. When someone asks you to do something for them, you will think… I have some spare time! I could do it then! NO. This down time is not spare time. It is scheduled. The priority on the schedule is you have time to relax. This is one of my true and real, and important SECRETS to being a calm and peaceful mom.
8. Spend Time with Other Adults
Especially when you have little children, time with other adults is important. Make time for your husband and you to go on a date. Get a sitter at least once every week or two and go out. If you don’t have a lot of money, spend what you do have on a sitter and go to the park with a picnic lunch, to the mall for an ice cream, or just window shopping. Get away with your husband to keep your relationship alive and your energy level high. (Looking forward to time out does give you a certain skip in your step!)
Do the same with some friends. Get together once a month with a group or friends or a special friend. Go out to lunch or to an event together. Baby and toddler talk can only take you so far, right? You need some adult conversation and brain stimulation other than thinking up new ways to teach the ABCs. Again, this is something you need to be the kind of mom you want to be. Schedule it.
So, let’s recap. Here are the secrets to being a calm mom.
Children, It’s What You Do
Have Well-Behaved Children
Quiet Your Space
Do Things for You
Down Time, Not Spare Time
Spend Time With Other Adults
Moms, have a mindset that by taking care of you, you are taking care of your family. It is not selfish. It is a giving thing to do. Sometimes we tend to want to do for others a lot. That’s a good thing, right?
But, doing for others actually can be selfish too. How? When you give for the purpose of feeling good about yourself. It makes you feel accomplished. There is nothing wrong with that unless it overtakes your care for you. When it does that, you are thinking more about how that giving makes you feel than about the toll that will take on your family through your exhaustion.
You are a part of the family you are supposed to be caring for. By allowing yourself to be overwhelmed and stressed, you are not taking care of that family member. So, think of it that way and realize how important your calm spirit is in your life and the life of your children.