I have to be honest — I debated on whether or not I was equipped to answer this question mainly due to the elephant in the room: I don’t have kids of my own yet.
But then I got to thinking: I have a slew of nieces and nephews, and am constantly giving guidance and motivation to my sister’s who are full time mothering and feeling like they can’t catch a break. I also consider myself to be fairly intuitive and empathetic – meaning it isn’t hard for me to put myself in someone else’s shoes. So I’m giving this one a shot.
Here is the reader’s question:
“How do I stay mindful with little kids? I feel depleted most days — like I’m being pulled in a million different directions every day..”
First, let me just take a second to celebrate you – you amazing, powerful mama bear. I will forever be in awe of all the mothers out there raising good, loving humans. My hat is off to you — and I can’t wait to have that honor bestowed on to me one day, when the timing is right ;)
Second, I love this question. As I mentioned above, while I don’t have kids of my own yet, I feel an ache for you reading your question — the same ache I feel when I talk to my sister and I can hear it in her voice that she’s stretched so thin.. that she hasn’t had a moment to herself, and she can’t even imagine how she could make that happen.
The phrase “it take’s a village” is repeated so often because it’s true. You cannot do this alone. You were never expected to. So let’s start there.
1. ASK FOR HELP
Don’t be afraid to ask for help from whomever you can rely on. A neighbor, a babysitter, a family member. This is not a sign of weakness, rather it’s a sign of self respect.
2. MAKE YOUR OWN JUDGEMENT CALLS
I say this mainly when it comes to finding ways to get breathing room for yourself. There is SO much judgement around kids watching TV or interacting with programs at a young age, but let me ask you this:
What’s more important? You being a calming presence for your kids or your kids watching a show here and there?
Don’t let anyone press their judgements on what YOU need to do to be the best version of yourself for you and your children. K? Promise?
3. CREATE A GAME PLAN FOR EACH DAY
You know how people talk about morning and evening routines being imperative? It’s for good reason — but the same goes for having a game plan. Especially when, like you’ve said, you feel like you’re being pulled every which way with only so much to offer.
A fun interactive way to do this is to create a large chart somewhere where your little ones can see it. You can call it THE DAILY GROUNDING CHART or THE ME-TIME CHART. Start teaching your little ones about me-time and how much fun, important and valuable it is. Show them how mommy does it and encourage them to do it, too. In one section of the chart, let child A pick how they’d like to have their “me” time (yoga, meditation, reading a book, coloring, painting with water on the deck – genius idea I picked up from my sister), etc. Child B does the same thing, and so does Child C (if applicable). The bonus? Momma gets her own section, too ;)
Have “me-time” occur at the same time every day. Make it something they look forward to — something that’s celebrated. When me time is over, give them a sticker to place on their chart section to show that it was completed. Sit around the table and talk about it, ask how it made them feel, etc. Make it something worth celebrating. Everybody wins.
4. GET THEM INTO ACTIVITIES, AT THE SAME TIME
While I completely understand that enrolling your kids into activities requires money — and money isn’t always flowing enough for this to be a possibility (along with child care), I do want to mention it regardless, because I believe there are two ways to go about this:
• If you belong to a gym, ask if they have daycare.
If they don’t, consider finding one that does. I have a girlfriend who belongs to the gym, but doesn’t even go to work out all the time — she’ll host up at their cafe and get emails done, do some writing, spend time on Pinterest, whatever makes her feel good in that moment, while her babies get to play and have some fun. Since she has the gym membership already, this is an added bonus.
Consider putting them all into the same activity.
Maybe it’s a sport or a class (karate, painting, music, etc) that doesn’t require parental supervision. A lot of places will do a discount if you enroll more than 1 child.
Ask around for a local teenager to babysit.
This also goes hand in hand with the “asking for help” portion of this post. Not only are you able to find someone that you can rely on (which is why I emphasize that this person comes from someone you know — say, a co-worker’s daughter or a teenager from your local church or what have you). The younger they are, generally the less they cost (usually anywhere between $8-$10 per hour). This gives you free time to breathe, go on a walk, hang out with a girlfriend, get a mani/pedi, whatever you need to feel more like yourself.
Let’s take a quick detour and create a scenario where perhaps you’re at home with your kids, no opportunity to leave that day since you don’t have childcare, or maybe you don’t have the car or perhaps you have a little one that’s under the weather. Your kids are cooped up, it’s raining, and they’re bouncing off the walls due to cabin fever, and you think you might explode due to the intense stimulation accumulating inside your four walls (it’s just one of those days).
I’m sweating just thinking about it — but it happens often, from what I understand. So how do we stay mindful in this type of scenario?
The first thing to remember is that kids response to how YOU respond. Now I don’t mean to compare your kids to dogs, but in the same way that dogs are intuitive to your energy, so are those tiny magnificent humans. if you’re stressed, they’ll take that on. If you yell, they’ll feel compelled to charge in whatever way feels necessary (a tantrum, getting sassy, etc), but if you’re calm? They may lash out for a little, but I can petty much guarantee that it’ll be wrapped FAR quicker than if you meet them at their level of anger.
How might you do this?
Whisper / Talk gently.
If your little one’s are yelling, don’t try to meet them at their level. This only encourages the behavior. If you want them to talk softly because you fear your head might explode, talk softly TO them. If you can’t get their attention due to the volume, come up with a fun way to do so. Ring a bell, play a funny song, make a funny noise (like a crow or a monkey). They’ll hear you. Promise.
Don’t ignore the situation, embrace the situation.
I am by NO means a child therapist and again, I don’t have kids of my own, but if I’ve learned anything through witnessing my sister mother her kids or even just interacting with my niece and nephews and my friends babies, acknowledgment is all they really need. Now I’m not debating the “cry it out” method — that’s not for me to dispute. But what I am saying is that if your little one is crying out for attention and its’ causing you to lose your mind, and you decide to pretend like it just isn’t happening — guess what? It’s only going to build. You are their audience. You are who they want to impress and get a reaction out of. Whether it’s that they’re doing something silly (and loud or some-what disruptive) or they’re throwing a temper tantrum, simply acknowledging that you hear them, that you see them, often times is all it takes to get them to take a deep breath.
When you prioritize yourself and listen to what YOU need, and you treat it with the utmost importance (as in, you don’t negotiate getting time for yourself), you allow yourself to reconnect with your kids on such a powerful, emotionally in-tune and balanced level. I can’t imagine, as a parent, that there’s anything more important or gratifying than that – right? When you lay your head down at night, I assume that what leaves you feeling successful or the most fulfilled is knowing that you showed up as the best version of yourself for your little ones. We can’t do this unless we’re filled up — not just as a mother, but as a person.
Best of luck, mama bear. But we both know you don’t need it. You were born to do this work. x