One of my followers, a mom of four children, wow, that’s a lot of children, from eight years old down to a twenty month old has asked me to write a blog about how to be a better parent. Now, I’ve never met this mom, or her children, but having been a mom I can share what helped me through some hard mothering days. Not only does this mom have a lot of kids, but they’re all at very different stages of their lives. When kids are spread out over almost a decade, parenting can be both challenging, and frustrating, because the primary issue becomes how to stimulate the eight year old while also entertaining a twenty month old.
I dealt with this when we had Mikaela. She came along when Brianna was seven and Dominique was five. The two older girls were in school, luckily for me, which enabled me to spend quality time at home with Mikaela every day. Making sure that both she and I were having our needs met. It started to get dicey as Mikaela became “mobile” needing less naps, and more attention, but so did the bigger girls. They had homework needs, and extracurricular activities, and Yannick was filming, which meant the bulk of the parenting fell on me. And lets just say there were a few nights I could be found sobbing in my closet curled in the fetal position, exhausted, overwhelmed, frustrated and lonely.
Mothering is a complex role. It is, also, most often a thankless on. So much of what a mother does day in, day out, is what I like to refer to as “expected.” I mean, we have the kids so it’s our job to handle all the tasks that go along with it, isn’t it?
Well yes and no. Of course we need to provide the necessities of life for our children, but there’s nowhere in the parent handbook, actually there isn’t even a handbook, might be nice if there was, to say that a mother needs to go it alone. Especially in the case, like this reader of mine who has four spread out over a pretty good age gap. We can enlist the help of a professional, meaning a nanny, if finances allow by all means get the help! If cash is tight, and with children in the house it often is, here is a creative way to get “live in” help. What we did, and something I strongly recommend to anybody who has the space in their home to do it, we had an extra bedroom in the house that we were renting in LA, so we had a young single woman move into that room, rent free. She was able to live rent free in exchange for one week night, and weekend day for Yannick and I to go get some time alone as a couple. She also would help, on occasion, when her schedule allowed with pick up from school or driving to an activity. Help is an amazing stress reliever when parenting multiple young children. You can never have too much help, from your partner, from family members, i.e grandparents, and like I suggested above finding a way to have somebody live in and help even a few hours a week. You can also check with your sons school to see if there are any after school programs he could join in on right there on school property. If so this would give you some extra time with the little ones at home, to complete things on your “to do” list.
Put your oxygen mask on first. It is super important and helpful in dealing with your kids to ensure that you’re feeding your own soul, and getting quality time ALONE, by yourself, FOR YOURSELF. When we were strapped for cash I would go to the YMCA/community centre and pay a minimal day fee to just walk on the treadmill, or swim, while Mikaela would hang out in the gym daycare for an hour or so. If it was lovely outside, we would walk along the beach, anything at all to get me, and her out of the house. Nature and exercise are so good for the body and the soul, so find a way to work this into your daily routine.
Something that else that can help an overwhelmed mother, who feels her patience is too short for all that being the mother of four calls for…is make lists. When my girls were little I used to have a weekly list. I would spread my tasks out across the five days of the week equally to allow myself down time very single day that helped me to feel like I was being successful, rather than feeling like I was dropping balls all over the place. This changed my life. I honestly can’t tell you how much, but trust me when I say that having that weekly list, and only completing the tasks that were on it for that day, kept me sane during those totally wild early years. One other thing that helped even though it sounds like it would be the opposite, do a load of laundry each day. By leaving it all for the end of the week, makes it actually a living hell. Knowing you have eight loads to separate, fold then put away is a nightmare. Nobody likes that. So start this practice right away, and get your eight year old involved. Get them to help separate the clothes and put them away. Never too young to help around the house, plus you can give him allowance. Either his favourite treat or money in a piggy bank. Get him excited about being mommy’s big boy helper.
Something else that I cherished was leaving the girls with their father for half a day on either Saturday or Sunday, and just getting out of the house by myself to grocery shop, meet up with a girlfriend for coffee, or for a lovely walk. This also proved to be a lifesaver. And besides, I didn’t make the kids on my own, so there is that…
Yannick and I also adopted another weekly activity, where he took each of the girls out for a date. He would take them one by one out to do whatever they picked to do, this would free me up from at least one busy person. It may not sound like much, but even getting one of them out of the house for a couple of hours was a huge help and reduced the mommy workload significantly.
If all else fails and you’re still feeling like your fuse is too short, that you’re not being the best parent you can be for your children, then I strongly recommend seeking professional help. Losing our cool, snapping at our children, or neglecting them are never options, no matter how lost we might feel. And trust me, did I ever feel lost many, many times over the years of being a mom. Hell I still find myself blowing it now, and they’re all in their twenties. We’re human beings, we’re not perfect, and our personalities might not align with our children. There is no shame in any of that. But there is shame in taking our anger, our exhaustion and frustration out on them. If any of you moms out there feel this way talk to your doctor, they can direct you to the proper person to help you through the challenging, and give you tools to help you turn it all around. You want to enjoy the time you have with your kids, it all goes by so quickly, and the best way to make sure you make beautiful memories and develop healthy adults is to get help when you know you need it.
I wish you joy, and strength, in your parenting journey!