A mom friend with two young boys recently texted me because she was frustrated that she couldn’t fit everything that she wanted to do into her schedule. She was hoping I would have some tips. My kids are ages six, four, and 19-months, so we’re still in the trenches, so to speak. I’ve got a long way to go before my kids are raised, but I have learned a thing or two about parenting during these precious, but often stressful “little years.” This was my advice to her (and anyone else parenting young children).
10 Parenting Tips for Moms of Young Children:
1. You can’t be supermom.
Every mom wants to be supermom and to be able do it all – take care of the kids, work (whether inside or outside the home), exercise, make delicious and healthy meals, and spend quality time with each child every day. The problem is that more often than not, the day-to-day life of raising kids does not go as planned, and we moms fall short of our own expectations.
The truth is kids don’t fit on spreadsheets. They’re people with big personalities, and lots of drama (anyone who has a three or four-year-old knows what I mean). Some days they are teething, or overtired, or just determined to undo whatever you think you’re going to accomplish (toddlers, anyone?). You will not be able to check off everything on your to-do list every day. The sooner you realize this, the better – because it will free you up to just do what you can, which is really all your kids need in the first place.
2. Prioritize a few things each day.
Just because you can’t do it all, doesn’t mean you should throw in the towel and give up trying to get anything done. Make a list of all the things you absolutely have to do every day, but also include a thing or two that’s just for you whether that’s working out, reading and drinking coffee, or simply taking a shower. Also, your baby/toddler will be okay if he or she cries for a few minutes while you do these things.
3. Give yourself lots of grace after having a baby.
Don’t buy the lie that taking care of a baby gets easier at the six-week mark-– more like the 6-month mark. When you add in taking care of any older kids or toddlers too, it’s extremely exhausting both emotionally and physically. Give yourself lots of grace and do what you need to do to survive whether that means letting your kids have a movie day, or getting fast food for dinner, or letting your kids play doctor while you pretend to be the sick (half-asleep) patient lying on the couch.
4. Don’t compare yourself to other moms.
One of my friends went on a play date the other day and another mom was feeding her kid beets. My friend said that she went home and started wondering if she was doing enough for her child’s health. Even though she tried to give her toddler healthy snacks, they weren’t as healthy as her friends’ kid’s snack.
This comparison game is a dangerous trap though, especially when it comes to parenting. The truth is we all parent differently for one big reason-– our kids are all different, and we parents are different too. There is no one size fits all when it comes to parenting, so just do the best you can raising your kids and don’t go down that road.
5. Find your tribe.
It’s so important to find other parents and friends whom you can call on when you need help. If you don’t have any sort of support group, look for local Facebook Mom groups, or MOPs (Mothers of Preschoolers) groups in your area. Don’t give up if you don’t find your people immediately. It takes time to find and make new friends, but it’s worth the effort when you find the right people – those friends who will drop everything if you need them. Those are the keepers!
6. Ask for help.
Give yourself permission to ask for help. It doesn’t make you less of a parent to admit that you need help. Our culture values self-reliance, but completely relying on yourself to meet all your needs and your kids’ needs is just asking for burnout. (And for the sake of argument, let’s assume your spouse is sharing the burden of raising kids too. Even so, there will be still be plenty of times when you’ll need outside help too).
7. Simplify your home.
If you feel like you are spending too much of your day picking up after your kids, then it’s time to get rid of toys, or at least rotate them out. Most likely your kids won’t even notice the toys are gone, but you’ll notice that your stress level will go down if you aren’t picking the same toys off the floor every single day.
8. Do only the activities that bring you life.
Don’t get bogged down in too many activities, especially if your kids are really little. If the activity doesn’t bring both you and your kids joy, then it’s best to cut it out, at least for this season of life. There will be plenty of time for activities as your kids get older.
9. Don’t be too hard on yourself.
This stage of life and parenting is stressful and hard. You won’t be a perfect parent, and you will let your child down from time to time. You’ll probably even hurt their feelings. After all they have really big feelings-– it’s easy to do. When this happens, don’t fall into the guilt trap. Apologize, give cuddles, and forgive yourself too.
10. Soak in the perfect moments.
The other day I was talking to a mom of teenagers about how tired I was from taking care of my kids. She kindly said, “Don’t worry! You’ll get your life back one day!” This was meant to be encouraging, but it hit me like a hammer. Yes, one day I will be done with diaper changes, sippy cup spills, toddler tantrums, and whiney kids, but that also means I have to be done with rocking babies, bedtime stories, and cuddles on the couch. As a mom of little ones, it’s impossible to enjoy every single moment because some moments are down right hard or stressful!
But, there are those semi-perfect moments every day-– the ones where your three-year-old makes you belly laugh, or your toddler gives you wet, sticky kisses, or your kids hug you like they never want to let you go. When those moments come breathe deeply and soak them in because one day you will “get your life back,” but the life you’re living now is pretty amazing too.