Finding Your Inner Peace as a Mother
When you have babies or toddlers, you sometimes don’t even realize how exhausted you are. Self-care for moms is a popular topic right now, and I think there are some very important aspects to it. You need those moments to collect yourself and rejuvenate. These aren’t selfish “me time” tips, these are survival tactics. You are a better mother, wife and person when you can get the breaks you need. Here are a few simple and free ways to find more relaxation in your routine.
Go Places by Yourself
I love my kids and I love being a SAHM, but sometimes taking a break is like getting a breath of fresh air. Being able to just get out of the car without unbuckling car seats, run into the store and right back out (without answering 20 questions), makes me feel young and free. Yeah, it’s a little extreme, but getting a few breaks throughout the month means moments where I can just be me and not mom first.
Sometimes this means getting a relative to watch my kids. Other times I go during nap time on the weekends when my husband is home. And sometimes, my husband just tells me to go by myself to run an errand or two because he knows I need a mental break.
Establish a Daily Bedtime Routine
This is a slightly controversial one, but sleep exhaustion is a real thing. Studies have found that sleeplessness can have the same impact on the brain as intoxication. Not only is a lack of sleep hard on you as an exhausted parent, but it is hard on the mood, health and growth of your child. Not every kid needs the same amount of sleep. Of our four, two need more than an average amount of sleep for their age, one is pretty average and one could use a bit less than average. But every kid needs a solid block of sleep. I believe in sleep training.
While I don’t judge parents on how they handle sleep (you can do whatever works for you), I encourage struggling parents to set up a schedule and train their kids to follow it. Just like training kids to eat vegetables or to hold your hand while in the parking lot, there are a lot of good habits that don’t come naturally to the majority of babies. As parents, we can decide on schedules that make sense and then work to train our kids to stick to those schedules unless something unusual occurs. Our kids typically sleep from 8 or 8:30pm to 8 or 8:30am. That’s 12 hours of sleep for them and a few hours of quiet time for us before we head to bed.
Finding time to just hang out (we literally Netflix and chill most nights) helps us feel more refreshed for the next day. Getting uninterrupted sleep is also key to feeling up to regular activities and having the energy to parent, work and enjoy life in general.
It takes about 3 nights to form a habit—especially for babies. Gently, but firmly stick to bed times and they will catch on. You don’t need to let them cry for hours. Check in on them after 15 minutes (set a timer) and then keep that up until they go to sleep. I verbally remind them: “it’s night night time right now. It’s time to go to sleep. I love you.” After a few days, it will become natural. Pay attention (especially if your kids are older) to when they are drawing things out and just say “No, it’s time for bed right now.”
Find Your Afternoon Quiet Time
I find my sanity during times in the day when my kids aren’t asking me 20 questions. I love my kids more than anything, but I simply cannot get good amounts of work done when they are up and awake. My kids all take a nap and having that scheduled into our day has made it easier to hold on to.
They often hit stages where they don’t want to nap (especially around 3), but still need the sleep. If you hold on to the habit of the nap, then it works. I tell my kids they don’t have to sleep, but they do have to be quiet and stay in bed (spoiler alert, when they are quiet for more than 15 minutes, they sleep). My daughter is in kindergarten, so she only naps on the weekends or over breaks.
As they get older, they can take a 1-2 hour quiet time in their rooms if they are home during the afternoon. At some point, I know they probably won’t be able to nap because of homework or extracurricular activities. But I am taking advantage of the time they have now to let their brains and bodies rest.
Learn to Say No
I love to be busy and do lots of things, but you still have to sort out what is really best for you and your family. It’s important to choose projects and uses of your time that you feel are truly valuable. For example, I find it valuable to work on art projects, but far less valuable to scroll on Facebook. I love teaching at the gym (great for my health too!), but I might need to say no to signing the kid up for a second session of gymnastics.
This is totally subjective to your family and completely different for everyone. But look at your priorities. Don’t say yes because you are guilted into it or because the opportunity is there. Don’t fall for the hype of being overly busy.
Mini Parent Vacations
At least once (and sometimes twice) a year, we give the in-laws their grandkids and stay in a local hotel for a night. Even though we are in the same city, just having a few hours (and a couple meals) to ourselves is extremely refreshing. At least one other time in the year, we stay home for a weekend, while the grandparents take our kids during a few of their vacation days. These vacations aren’t elaborate, but they are exactly what we need to be more connected and more prepared as parents.
You have to set routines and rules that you are prepared to enforce, even when exhausted. But when you find this balance, things get easier because you aren’t drained and your kids know what to expect.
Look for Joy in the Every Day
At the risk of overwhelming you with opposite points; if you have to escape your life to enjoy it, then something is wrong. Not every day is going to be sunshine and roses. But there is the opportunity for joy and beauty in the everyday moments. Anne Frank wrote in her diary, “I don’t think of all the misery, but of the beauty that still remains.” Even in the hardest circumstances, our perspective is what we make it. Taking on mantras of gratitude and joy can go a long ways towards improving our feelings about it.
And, while sometimes we spoil our kids and do too much, there are other times we get wrapped up in daily tasks and busyness. It’s hard to slow down and see the value and beauty of the mundane. I’ve written about making the effort to let your kids be bored, and I wrote a post about 10 easy (and free) ways to smile with your kids. It doesn’t have to be extravagant, but adding a smile to your day is good for everyone involved.
Take Time to Pray
The quiet time when you meditate on prayer and focus your thoughts is a great time for destressing and collecting yourself. When I take time to still my mind and think about things from that outside perspective, it helps me not get bogged down in the little things. Burning incense when I pray can cause a helpful reminder to stay focused by the scent. I also use the Bible for reflective prayer when I am struggling to focus.
Know You Aren’t Alone
Most of us don’t feel like great mothers. We feel fuzzy, tired, awkward, inadequate. It can be lonely if you think everyone else has it together. Know you aren’t alone. Intimate women’s Bible studies at my church have been one of the most helpful things for realizing so many of us think and feel the same way.
This doesn’t mean depression/anxiety/stress isn’t real. The purpose of this post is to offer ideas for how to reduce mental strain with some of the things you can control. It all adds up, so alleviating even small points of tension might be enough to get your head above water.
I believe in counseling and I know there are truly things that impact us outside of our control. Talking to a professional about mental health is always a good idea, even if you feel healthy. Thinking through our actions and tendencies helps us be even better versions of ourselves.
We are all tired. We all struggle at times. Keep your head up, mama. Find that peace.