I myself am a busy single mom of 3. I work full time, I’m a part time student and I also manage to have a social life. I’m involved in volunteer programs and I also participate in community awareness projects from time to time. At just about any point in my life for the past few years, I’ve also had a part time job, sometimes two. However, I manage to do it all pretty darn gracefully.
When the kids were younger, I noticed that many times when I go to the grocery store someone would come running to help me as I got the kids and groceries into the car, same thing when I got home. A neighbor, passer-by, or pretty much any random stranger with a free hand would rush to my aide and offer their help. I would always politely decline, but wonder if I really look like I’m struggling because the fact of the matter is that I wasn’t.
First and most important thing in managing stress is to realize that about 90% of all the things you do on a daily basis are trivial. There’s a very small potion that actually warrants your immediate attention. Find out what the things in your life are that require your immediate attention and schedule those things during the children’s nap-time, while they’re at school, or when you first wake up in the morning. These are the things that you want to do at the calmer part of your day.
Remember you can only do one thing at a time. You are only one person. No matter how much we as moms want to pretend were super human and can multiply into 10 different people and do 10 different things, it’s just not so. We do a very good job making it look like it’s possible, but it’s all just a bale of wishful thinking. Don’t be afraid to let your children cry for a minute or two. I see so many moms running every time a child cries and get frustrated in the midst of it all because they were doing one thing, then the baby started crying so they immediately try to appease the baby. But then the phone rings, then the toddler wants a cookie. Next thing you know you’ve started 5 different tasks, you’re trying to do all of them at the same time and none of them are getting completed so you end up overwhelmed. When you know that the children are a hundred percent, safe, fed, and clean, don’t give in. Do the things that require your attention first. There are times when you can effectively do two or three things at once. Take advantage of those times. For example, you can cook, do, laundry, and make important phone calls or pay bills online all at once.
Always reacting when the little ones cry only does one thing. It teaches them that every time they want your attention, all they have to do is cry. Hence premature reaction to the crying only begets more crying which is the opposite of what you need. Use your big girl words with your children. Most parents try to baby talk their children into behaving. Let’s pretend you’re making dinner and your 3-year-old toddler Suzy is crying because she would like you to pick her up. Use a stern even tone voice and make eye contact and say “Suzy, mommy is making dinner and you’re going to have to wait. Do you understand me?” Always have any child of speaking age affirm that they have heard you. This does take a lot of practice if you’ve not been doing it consistently over a period of time, but don’t give up. If you don’t get a response or the child continues to cry, don’t get flustered. Just repeat the affirmation question, “Do you understand?” Sometime you will have to ask the question several times especially to a younger child, but just look them in the eye and repeat, they WILL answer. You will see that if you continue to do this, the child will quickly get the concept. Don’t worry if it doesn’t work the first time, or the second, keep at it. Throw away the whiny sing songy tone when speaking to your children. Use the same tone of voice you would use with an adult and remember to keep an even tone. Don’t forget, you’re the parent and children need consistency. So stick to your guns and hold the line.
Your children can help. Even the smallest child can do something. They can pick up toys and put them away. A very effective way to have younger children help and not get distracted is to sing. I watched Barney as a kid and one day when my kids were younger and I needed them to pitch in, I started singing the clean up song that the children on Barney would sing as they clean up. My kids loved it. My youngest is now 8-years-old and she still sings it sometimes. Watch this very young child show a great example of how well this works. Figure out ways that the children can help. They can help do something as small as carrying light grocery bags. Children love to help. They feel a sense of accomplishment and it also develops confidence.
Lastly, don’t forget yourself. Make time for you. Plan activities that do not include your children. Go to the movies with dad or a friend. Do something you haven’t done in a while. Go out on the town for a night, get a mani or a pedi. Anything that relaxes you and that you find enjoyable. Stepping away from the children does not mean that you love them any less. In many cases you’re refreshed when you return to them and you’re ready to do it all over again. The break in routine takes away the feeling of being stressed out
The combination of these 5 tips will make your life a lot easier and you will find that your days are a lot more peaceful. The sense of being overwhelmed will be replaced by the feeling that you have it all under control and your home will feel like a well oiled machine.