Parenting Strategies for the Busy Mom
By Mely Cruz
Watch Time: 7 minutes
As a working mom of three, I am always juggling it all: house, work, and school. Life has gotten very busy lately, and mommy duties never end, especially when we added our newest little member to the family. My three kids are all five years apart. Kael is almost 11 years old; Kiara is six, and Kenzie is 14 months. At times it helps having an older sibling around to help, but it's also been challenging since all three of them are in very different stages, and they all have very different needs. While my oldest boy is interested in video games; my middle girl wants me to sit down and do her nails and makeup, and my baby girl needs me 24/7. So it's not easy! I want each one of them to feel loved and special, but I am constantly fighting mom stress and thoughts that leave me thinking, “I am not enough.”
A typical morning
The get-ready-for-school morning rush
When you have multiple kids with big age gaps, everyday tasks can become big family challenges. The first week back to school was full of family stress as we all were trying to adapt to the schedule. Mornings were a bit hectic to say the least: fixing lunches for the older ones and making “special” smoothies (because both want something different). One likes the circle waffles, and the other one likes the square ones - and while they're always ready to help, it can be chaotic. At the same time, I'm feeding the baby and cutting everything in tiny pieces while also trying to get myself some coffee to wake up. And don't forget to change Kenzie's diaper and refill the kids' water bottles!
I try my best to be present and make them feel loved since I won't see them until later in the afternoon, but my mind is also in a million places. Parenting responsibilities never end. Did they put their homework back in their backpacks? Can't remember. And now it's too late. Hope they did!! I kiss them and hug them while they go out the door, and Daddy drops them off at school. Suddenly, its 7:05 a.m., and we did it! Well, most of the time we do, or at least we try. Honestly, I'm not so worried about them being late; I'm worried about how our morning went. I believe it's crucial they start their day right (isn't that true for all of us anyway?). And I know I play a very important part in it. I can set the whole mood and bring a negative or positive vibe to the environment. Sometimes I'm exhausted or operate like a stressed-out parent, but I remind myself that I can do it. I tell myself, “A few more minutes. Be patient. Keep it positive. Breathe.”
Mindfulness takes practice
The more aware I am of it; the more intentional I become at being mindful. It's something I practice every single minute of the day. But please don't think it comes naturally, because it doesn't! It's an ongoing process. One thing that helps me do this is to shift my energy by paying attention to my body language and my connection with my kids in the moments we have before they go to school. I'll explain more on that later.
Late morning mommy duties
After the bigger ones are gone, I continue my day with the baby: cutting more food in tiny pieces, picking up the tiny pieces from the floor nonstop (because she'll just toss her plate when she decides she doesn't want any more), and suddenly I need to remind myself again: “Breathe, you got this.” Finally, I take the first sip of my coffee. How is it cold already? Mommy duties rarely let me drink my coffee when it's hot. I fold some laundry and pile it on the stairs to remind myself to take it up - but it normally just sits there for a couple of days because my hands are already full every time I go up the stairs.
The day has already been so busy, and now I have work to think about. I'm a working mom, and I've got so many emails and lots of content to edit. Juggling work and family isn't easy. I start on that and think to myself, “Oh wait, is it time for lunch already? How in the world? Ok well fine, I should probably eat something anyway.” I start searching the fridge and realize I forgot to thaw the chicken. Great. Parent duties never end.
Take time to be present
And then, in that moment, I glance down and see a pair of beautiful eyes staring up at me. Kenzie's been following me everywhere I go. Crawling around and clinging to my leg every chance she has. She couldn't care less about my parenting responsibilities or the ten thousand things I have left to do - all she wants is me. She wants to connect with me. She wants to know I'm there. So, in that moment I remind myself to just stop. I stop and hold her. I stop and smell her. I stop and smile at her. I make myself present. In that moment, I refuse to make myself so busy that I miss on the good things. I refuse to focus on the to-do list. It doesn't always come easy, but I have gotten better and better at it with practice. And I have realized that I have less mom stress because I choose these moments to take control. Stress-free parenting probably doesn't exist, but these moments help. I am in control when I remind myself that one day, I will miss these days. And I know I will! Because I already do...with my older kids.
I've been a mom for almost 11 years, and while I'm not an expert, I do know this: time goes by so fast. Before you know it, they don't need help washing their hair anymore, and they get so heavy to hold in your arms. Yes, the days are long, but the years are short indeed.
Being real with your kids
I feel that as moms, we are expected to be perfect in everything, to never be tired, to cook three meals a day, to keep our kids away from electronics, to plan daily activities, and to have a spotless house - the list goes on. As much as I personally strive to be the best mom possible, this expectation is unrealistic. Family stress affects us all, and there are lots of reasons we might experience mom stress: family changes, family conflict, or changes in the family structure or schedule. I have come to realize that it's okay to be tired. It's okay to need a break, and it's okay to let them know how I feel. I am only human, and so are you. Being honest also helps with mom stress relief.
Sometimes we underestimate our kids, but they understand way more than we think they can. I have learned to be as real and transparent as possible with them when dealing with family changes, family stress, or stressful times. l allow myself to be vulnerable, and this has helped them learn how to deal with and process their emotions in healthy ways too. Creating a safe space for them to share and leading by example are very important to us.
We've also learned that making sure our marriage is strong and healthy also helps the entire family. My husband and I are constantly working on us first. This may sound odd, but we believe that to be great parents, we need to first have a great marriage. We've learned to deal with and heal from our own challenges, family conflicts and stress, and insecurities, and this has helped our kids learn by our example. Showing them how to navigate change or how to deal with family stress helps them in their own experiences - even with sibling problems or school relationships.
Tears are welcome
There's a saying we have at our house: “Tears are welcome.” It's how we remind our kids that their feelings are valid when they're going through difficult times. Feelings are there for a reason. We make sure they know that it's okay to share and we'll always be there to listen. We also do a “check-in,” which is a short conversation where we share how we feel emotionally, physically, and spiritually. It's a conversation starter to help us as parents be aware of what's bothering them. Sometimes it's sibling problems or other family challenges. Every behavior or misbehavior comes from somewhere. It's important to know if there's something that needs to be worked out. Having open and constant communication has been key to discovering the roots of what the kids are feeling, and it helps us be able to support them. It has helped us navigate change or learn about other stresses going on in their lives, too.
Parenting strategies to try
Validate kids' feelings and do daily “check-ins”
Let them know it's okay to feel the way they feel: angry, happy, sad, excited, or scared. These are all valid feelings, and kids should never be ashamed of feeling the way they feel.
Have individual dates with each child
One-on-one time is really important, especially when you have multiple kids. It doesn't have to be an elaborate outing. It can be as simple as staying home and going out to the backyard for a little picnic or going on a quick stroll in the park. Kids appreciate the little things because they are getting your undivided attention. And these can be the perfect moment to let them share how they're feeling or any family troubles they are experiencing.
Give kids space to be themselves
Not all kids are talkers. Maybe sharing their feelings is something new to them. Give them time to process any conversations that you have with them. If they don't open up immediately, don't give up. Be kind, be gentle. Remember, they may be struggling too, Mama. They'll come around. Family stress management takes time.
It's okay to ask for parenting help
There are so many resources out there that offer parenting help. So don't allow yourself to isolate. Talk to a friend, to your partner, or find an online community. You're not meant to do this alone, so don't feel bad about reaching out for parenting help!
Also please be kind to yourself. Give yourself grace. Motherhood is hard and overwhelming - and mom stress is real - but it is also beautiful and rewarding all at the same time. It's okay to feel all of that. You're only human, but you're one heck of a human! Coping with family stress isn't easy, but you're doing the best you can, and you're doing a great job.
And please remember to take care of yourself as well, because your kids need a healthy mommy inside and out. Take it one day at a time. I know this season is hard but remember that this shall pass. One day you'll look back, and these times will be just memories. Let's make the best out of them. Some days will be good; some days will be full of family challenges, but that's life and that's the beauty of motherhood. And remember, it is today that we are raising tomorrow's strong, secure adults. So let's equip them with the best tools we can!
WE GOT THIS, MAMA! You're not alone.