When it comes to what a mother should know, most moms feel like they need to know at least a little about everything. Your family looks to you for all the answers to life's questions, big and small. While being the master of all information is pretty impossible, these seven manageable, clever tips for moms will set you up for success.
Flexibility Is the Key to Survival
Structure is important to children and families. You need some semblance of order in your life, or your universe will become Lord of the Flies. That said, you have to learn how to be flexible with your days if you are going to survive, oh, I don't know, EIGHTEEN YEARS PLUS of parenthood. Every stage of your child's life will require a shift in patience and flexibility. I will be the first to admit; this is not my personal strong suit. Not holding fast to schedules makes me want to cry in a corner and breathe deeply into a paper bag or bottle of wine.
Many moons ago, I stressed structure over flexibility and what I discovered was I was constantly shooting myself in the foot. By never allowing leeway into our lives, I was setting everyone up for failure, stress, and exhaustion. Like Elsa, I had to let it go. I needed to duck, weave and bend when necessary. I'll say that I am better at this now, not great, but a work in progress definitely. On that note, give yourself the grace to not be perfect at things, to make mistakes, and to allow space for personal parental growth. Know that dinners will get pushed back, sports schedules will change, kids' plans will redirect your day, and in the end, everything will be okay. Creature your structure, make room for flexibility, and remember that balance is everything.
Learn the Art of Letting Go
It's a well-known fact that children accumulate mass quantities of "stuff" over the years. Even parents striving for minimalistic lifestyles suddenly stop one day and discover that their universe is full of junk in every color, shape, and size. Toys, clothes, and artwork from four years ago take over every inch of your living space, and if you don't learn to let go of what you don't need, it will consume you.
In all seriousness, Marie Kondo your life a few times a year. Sure, keep a few of those special holiday outfits that hold a dear place in your heart, and a few art projects that can be safely tucked away in basement Tupperware containers, but release junk regularly so that you can make room for more junk. Toss items that are broken or falling apart, and donate things you no longer need that other families can benefit from. A mother's memory capacity is massive. Store everything up there, not in your living room or basement.
Helpful "Suggestions" Are Still Just Suggestions
There are so many wonderful people in the world, and many of them make it their life goal to help you through the throes of parenthood. When you are a mom, "helpful" suggestions will come at you from all directions. Everyone is suddenly an expert in everything, and they have all the answers to your problems. Heck, they even have answers to problems you didn't know you had! See these suggestions for what they are. Allow the people who love you, and they likely do truly have your best interest at heart, to share their tidbits of wisdom, and then move on with what YOU know and believe. Smile, let things go in one ear and out the other, and carry on with your mission of raising decent human beings. You don't have to take anyone's advice when it comes to your children. Bottom line: You are their parent. You are the expert here.
"Me Time" Is a Thing, and It's Important
If I had a dollar for every time I heard a well-meaning person tell me that I needed to make more time for myself... well, you know the rest. Moms pressing pause and putting themselves above all for even a few minutes a day is so much easier said than done. The truth is, you actually need to make space for "me time." Maybe not every day, definitely not all day, but sometimes you really do need to carve out a space to practice mindfulness, happiness, and even selfishness. Even when it feels completely impossible to step away from the crazy momentarily, remember that you really cannot give your all if you are entirely depleted and running on fumes.
Find what makes you feel at peace and what brings you back to center and work it into your life. Connect with nature, with friends, with art, with anything! Be a person outside of being a mother for a few minutes and return to your brood family, recharged and ready for whatever they are about to throw at you.
Find a Carpool and Never Let It Go
When your children are young, you are all about finding your mom tribe and filling your days with engaging and worthwhile activities to enhance your tot's universe. Life with littles is a continuous cycle of meeting needs, boosting brain power, making moments, and wondering if you will ever sleep again. (I'll go ahead and break the sad news to you on that last one: you won't.) Your brain is swamped with learning what educational toys are best, what foods you should be introducing, and where your baby falls on the growth chart. Things like a carpool are the furthest thing from your mind.
But then, the kids get older, they make friends and become involved in school and travel sports. You realize that you are suddenly living in the family vehicle while serving as the bonified and extremely underpaid Uber driver to your spawn. That is no way to live. You are past the whole nomadic, cold French fries are maybe a vegetable, sleep is for the weak stage of life. You need to be in your home during most evenings making dinner, checking homework, folding laundry, and psyching yourself up for the next day, even when your kids are out and about, living their best pre-teen and teen lives. This is why you need the carpool. You need it like the desert needs the rain, like Jay Z needs Queen Bey. Carpools are game-changers for busy families.
Make nice with a few families on your kid's soccer team or dance squad, and divide and conquer. Everyone takes a day, sacrificing themselves to the kid sports gods. That day will suck, but the days your pals take their turn? Well, those days feel like Christmas morning. You will suddenly be so happy to stay home and do laundry in your sweats! Look at you practicing gratitude! Find a good gang to get your carpool on and never let them go. Hold onto those people tighter than you do your spouse. You may someday decide you don't need your partner, but you will ALWAYS need the carpool.
If You Teach Your Kids Anything, Make Sure It's Independence
This is a win-win thing to work into your parenting practice. By fostering a sense of independence in your children, they become capable and confident, and your life becomes exponentially easier. Teach your kids to help themselves, solve their own problems and create solutions even when they see none, so that they never grow up to be the one who is always asking their partner where they keep the towels. Raise your kids to know they are capable of anything and everything. If they can think it, they can do it. Erase boundaries, break the ceiling and raise independent thinking warriors who will be just fine once they reach adulthood. Should they become stifled later on in their adulting stages of life, it won't be on you.
Even When You Have "No Time," Make Time
This pertains to taking pictures, watching movies, going on trips, and enjoying outings. Make the time to make the memories. Moms are always the makers of magic but rarely seen enjoying the magic they are responsible for creating. Learn how to be in the moment with your kids. Do the things that feel "lazy" or "unnecessary" and see life through the lenses of your children. They want to see you happy and smiling. They need you to relax so they can also unwind. Force yourself to experience parts of life alongside your kids, because when they are grown, those memories are going to hold you together during bouts of nostalgia.
The Single Most Important Piece of Advice
One gem of advice will always reign supreme when it comes to tips and tricks geared to better surviving parenthood. In the wild world of motherhood, right answers are not a thing. Don't spend your days wondering if you are doing everything correctly, or if you should be saving up for future therapy bills because you are royally mucking things up in the parenting department. Your path and your parenting journey is like a fingerprint, completely unique to you. Trust your heart, your instincts, and your capabilities, and enjoy the ride. Being a mom truly is the experience of a lifetime.