Who would have thought that developing a unique skill was part of the parenting puzzle? As little girls, didn’t we dream what it would be like having our own home and raising our own family? Every child has different dreams, but I’m sure most of us dreamed that we would be the perfect mother. Not only would our homes be paradigms of peace, we would have beautiful children who would laugh and play together. Our children would always be clean, well groomed, well mannered and… you know what I mean.
What happened to our dreams? How do we end up feeling overwhelmed and exhausted and the kids fighting seems to never end? It is impossible to imagine the time, effort and skill that goes into running a household and raising children. The sleepless nights, the endless housework, sick children, issues at school and the list goes on. Not to mention, navigating a relationship and juggling part or full-time employment. Is this what we signed up for?
In addition, there are all of the spans in the works that life throws our way. A job loss, an unexpected illness, a family crisis, a cut in salary and so many others surprises and challenges that we experience in day to day living.
And even when things are running relatively smoothly, there are so many things that cause us pain. Our kids are not listening, they may even be disrespectful, they dawdle in the mornings, and they don’t clean up their toys. There may be times when our housework is out of control, and we are too tired to put anything but pizza on the table. Things just seem out of whack. You may feel out of balance, you never get to start the project you were planning and you don’t feel on top of things. You want to take the kids out for that special time but somehow you can’t get it together.
Don’t worry, you are not alone. So many mothers experience overwhelm when life throws it’s punches. With a little thought, planning, and skill you can get things under control. What is the magic formula, the magic skill that will turn things around?
The Game Changer Skill
Well. to be honest it is not just one plan and one skill. However, to really change the patterns, there is one important skill that can make all the difference. And that is the ability to look objectively at our situation and assess where things are breaking down. In other words, the skill that needs honing is to take a step back, look at your home, your kids. your spouse and see where the real problems lie.
Are your kids really at odds with each other or are they just hungry and cranky before dinner? Is your house always a mess or just right before your husband comes home when you are too busy navigating dinner, baths and toys to give the house the attention it needs?Are you always exhausted or are there certain times in the day when a little outside help would make all the difference?
When we are caught up in the moment and feeling overwhelmed, it is very difficult to be objective. Everyone needs quiet and calm to think about and assess life situations. Quiet is not something that is easy to come by with a growing family. When my kids were growing, I went back to school for a Masters degree. In order to finish my school work, I had to find a time that was quiet. I was too tired to work at night, so I got up an hour or two before my kids, to do my school work. During this quiet time, I finished my work and greeted my kids calmly each morning, no longer feeling edgy the entire day.
Although we are sleep deprived as it is, taking a little time before the kids get up, can help us get the thinking time that we need. We head start our day by doing important chores that are impossible when we are busy with family needs. Perhaps getting up a half hour before the family twice a week will give you the time to think about challenges and find solutions.
The time of day doesn’t really matter, but taking the time to look at a challenging situation objectively is a skill that all parents would be wise to develop. Let’s say that as soon as the kids come home from school, they start fighting. Perhaps it’s not a relationship problem but just hunger. They haven’t eaten since lunch and need more than a quick snack. Could you have the first course of dinner waiting for them when they get home? It could be a salad, some soup and crackers, or cheese and bread. Once the kids have eaten, they will probably be ready to do homework or play together until baths and dinner.
By assessing the situation objectively, we can find solutions to problems that we never believed possible.
Is time management your problem? It’s no wonder. Managing a family, and all of the many tasks require Herculean efforts. It’s not necessarily a skill that we learned in school. Here is a great book that gives some solid tips about time management:
Are messes and cleaning getting you down? Formulating a budget (a budget??) is not easy, but in doing so, you can find the extra cash to hire some cleaning help. Of course, you may have to do without another luxury but at this point in your life, it may be worth it. Here is an excellent book that really helps to revamp your finances and set your priorities:
If you are feeling like your kids are not cooperating, make sure that you have clearly thought out and communicated your expectations to your kids. We can resolve many issues when we get our kids on board in a fair and consistent way. Stating our expectations, working with our kids’ preferences, and being consistent can make the difference between a peaceful and happy household and one fraught with tension. You can read more about setting expectations and restoring calm in your home here.
One summer vacation I had an appointment and left my oldest babysitting, for a morning. I knew that the competition between my oldest and another child close in age could escalate. Instead of leaving things to chance, I arranged that the other child would help a neighbor who ran a playgroup. It was a win-win situation. My oldest managed the other children beautifully and my other child had a wonderful time helping our neighbor.
The key is assessment and then a plan. When we break overwhelm down into manageable chunks, we can find creative and workable solutions. Parenting issues can be challenging, but with a little skill and planning, we can truly build the family of our dreams!
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