As a mom, there are things you need to be a better parent. Scratch that. To SURVIVE without loosing your mind! Yes, yes I said it. With four kids under age four I can pull the sanity card. So here is my top ten "must-haves" for me as a mom, and if you're a mom of one, a mom-to-be, or a mom with a crew bigger than mine, take these into consideration, because that can turn an afternoon of chaos into an afternoon of civilized fun! 10. Preparation As a parent we plan lots of things for our kids. But when preparation is done right, it saves time and prevents attitudes later on. Every night before bed, I go through and prepare for the next day. So rather than getting up and having a sink full of dishes, AND being exhausted from the night before, I just barrel through and fill the dishwasher before bed. I tidy what I can of the main living spaces- by putting things into piles. No it's not spotless, but when is it ever? There's a pile of toys for the kids to clear up the next day, a pile of everyone's shoes at the door, a pile of laundry to wash in the morning. You get the idea. If it's a day when we have an appointment early or church, I'll set out not only my clothes, but the kids' clothes and shoes. Everything down to underware and bows for the girls. That way, when I know we are going to be behind the 8-ball regardless, the kids can be "doing their part" while I finish feeding the baby or whatever else needs done before we leave. Preparation makes for a much easier morning! And then, because I've spent the extra 15 minutes (mind you all the kids are asleep at night too! bonus! I get to prep and pick up ALONE! Win win!) I have a few extra hours to hang out with the littles, or just lounge around in my pajamas! And let's be honest. Who doesn't want to do that? 9. Hands are NEVER empty. Who has hands? Everyone. That means regardless of size (with the exception of the 6 week old baby in her car seat) everyone is capable of carrying something. With 4 kids, you'd better believe we carry and hull lots and lots of crap. So whether we are Unloading groceries, going to the pool, loading the dishwasher or washing machine, everyone who has hands carries something to the destination. It helps me out, and it doubles as a lesson in responsibility for the kids. You better believe my son will be one of the few men one day who actually carries his laundry to a laundry basket! And his future wife will thank me! 8. A job a day We've all hear the saying about the apples and the doctors, but what you haven't heard is my remix of the phrase. It goes like this: "one big job a day, keeps the mom's crazy away". With Pinterest sweeping the nation, and society I general stacking odds against us as mothers, do yourself and all of us a favor, and just come back to reality. You will never, I will never, No one will EVER be an awesome parent AND have a perfect house! So just come to terms with this and keep from going crazy! I have a chore chart hanging in the laundry room, and each day has one big job listed. Don't get me wrong, I do the dishes once a day, and I wipe off the counters. But, I only change the bedding in our house once a week. I only clean the bathrooms once a week. I only dust once a week. And in there, I give myself two days of a break. The house stays decently clean for a house of six, and I'm Not going crazy. And don't forget rule number 9 here. Little hands don't go empty- so give them some windex and a paper towel and send them to the slider doors! My 20 month old can help unload the dishwasher by bringing me items. I'm telling you- you're doing society and yourself a favor when you teach the kids responsibility!! 7. TV is ok. Don't get me wrong, there's plenty of crap circulating the cable and satellite waves. But there's also plenty of wholesome, semi-educational programming available too! So get some things on the DVr, or on a DVD, or from the library if you're "anti-having-a-cable-bill" and get yourself an hour in the day! I can't tell you how many times Mickey Mouse has saved dinner! And I will have him to thank one day for allowing me the 7.5 minutes I need to shower, or crap alone, or tweeze my eyebrows, or whatever else you can do in a 22 minute program! 6. EVERYONE naps. I know what you're thinking... "Bri, I have a 9 year old and that kid will not nap!" Well have I got news for you. My four year old doesn't always nap anymore. Heck, sometimes my 1 year old doesn't either. Maybe it's because they are secretly rioting and rebelling. Or maybe (shush don't tell the kids) they really aren't that tired. But every day, every single person in my house who is not "mom" naps. By nap, I mean, lays quietly in their bed. Whether they actually fall asleep, is another thing. But there's no talking, no getting up, just quiet. For at LEAST an hour. It gives me a chance to catch up on house work. Or dry my hair. Or actually nap once in a while!! If you don't have "nap time" at your house, I seriously recommend you re-instate it ASAP! And you'd be surprised at how often kids who think they don't need naps, actually do! 5. Zebra cakes WHAT?!? You mean your house isn't all organic?! Balls no. We have jars of candy. We have refined sugar pastries. We have ice cream and Popsicles and fruit snacks and marshmallows. That refined sugar stuff is good for bargaining. No- don't manipulate your kids into doing anything. That's witchcraft. But, when dinner is served and the kids aren't thrilled, I offer the chance to be rewarded with some junk food. They love it and become instantly motivated. Now, it usually ends with the girls asking "how many more bites they need to be done?" And I'll say "7". So they take the seven bites and wonder why they can't have the ho-ho. Well, the deal was if you eat ALL of your dinner you could have some processed deliciousness. This also works well for things like, clean your room...in 15 minutes. Or without whining. And honestly, about 89% of the time, the task isn't completed within the terms of the contract, and I'm left with delicious zebra cakes to eat on my own!!! Mmmmm. 4. Having kids takes time. My mom once went with me to target just after having my third, Wesley. She was so frantic and stressed about the 15 minute shuffle of unbuckling children from car seats and putting them into the carts and stroller and gathering their paraphernalia, and entering the store that she nearly freaked out. But it's a lot less stressful I've found, if you don't put time constraints on the process. Having kids takes time. It's going to take an extra 30 minutes to grab ONE item in the first aisle at Publix. It's going to take an extra hour to feed, dress, and loa the kids for a day out. It's going to take an extra lifetime to forget all the moments you've shared too. So don't stress. It is what it is. Allow the time to go, and you'll find it passes all too quickly. Allot for said time too, when you're committed to being somewhere. It's rude to be late. Even if you have kids. I always count backwards and figure how long we will need to get ready or get somewhere. Then I add on an extra 30 minutes. It doesn't hurt to be ready early. Or to arrive early. You can always stall. What you can't do is redeem the time you've wasted on others, when you're late. Be on time, and honor others. That's a lesson to teach your kids too! 4. Find a regimen that works. As a mom, I don't have all kinds of extra time frolicking around me like I did when I was 18. So now I have to find things that work for my life with the kids. For example, I know that I only have about 20 minutes to get ready in the morning. If I'm lucky. So I've found that hot rollers are my best bet for awesome hair. I can have them heating up while I do other things at home, and then wrap my hair up and get back to the kids. 20 minutes later, I've spent all the time on other things, but the rollers did the work for me. It also means I don't have time for clothes that can't "go in the dryer" or make up that needs re-applied 4 times a day. I need to be able to throw things on, get things done, and know they're done without worries. Spend the extra $10 on a "wrinkle free" shirt so you never have to worry about it and can always grab it in a hurry. Little things like that can save seconds of time once a day, but over the course of a year, it adds up to hours. Catch the time where you can. 3. Take the help Trust me, I hate group work more than anyone in the world. But a lesson I've learned over the course of time is to let people help when they offer. If someone offers to wipe the table off after you've hosted dinner, don't feel rude saying "sure- the spray is right there under the cupboard, thank you!" People feel better Jen they help. And you will too. The saying " it takes a village" couldn't be more true. There have been plenty of times when I COULD have bathed all four kids alone, fed all the kids alone, dressed and put to bed all four kids alone. But instead, my parents have offered to help and I've let them. Or a friend offers to hold the baby. Saying " yes" to help doesn't mean you're incapable. It means you're the smartest person in the room for allowing others to lighten your load. 2. Realize that melt-downs will happen. I had a teen from our church ask me the other night, "what happens if all the kids start crying at the same time?" And I responded with, "usually I join them". It was sarcastic, but there's truth in every bit of it. Sometimes life sucks and is overwhelming. Sometimes there are bad days. And sometimes there are worse than bad days. Days when none of the kids listen, no one has napped, poop has been smeared, food thrown, an I've started my period. There are bad days. And when everyone is crying. There are days when I cry too. Cry out of physical and emotional exhaustion, or mental. And it's ok to cry sometimes. I'm teaching my kids that I'm human, and not a super human without feelings. Screw all the super-moms. (Sorry if you're her) But the most important thing, is whether I'm crying out in real tears, in angry screams, or sighs of silence, cry out to the Rock. The psalmist says it best, "when my heart is overwhelmed, lead me to the Rock that is Higher than I". There is not a single day that I can manage without falling upon the Rock. And the days that I start without Him, are usually the days I end up in actually tears. I beg you, whether you're overwhelmed now, or not. You will be at some point as a parent...CLING and hold fast to the Rock that is higher. 1. The 3 C's This has become my new mantra. Since I'm only 5 players short of a full team, and 2 kids short of pall bearers, I've discovered three things that too the charts. Coffee. Concealer. And Christ. Get yourself some good strong coffee to cope with sleeplessness and the drag that overtakes us moms at about 2pm. Go to Target right now, and pick up the best concealer You can find. It will cover what coffee can't fix. Get one with a yellow tint to help fix dark circles. And slather that crap all over the place. And finally..Jesus. He tops my list. AT&T your days at the cross and His cross will carry you. I mean it. Not in a superficial religious way either. I mean, when you're woken up and can't go back to bed, pray hard for those little souls. When you're kids say they are bored, teach them a new bible story. When they're hungry, and you're all eating together in the car, feed their spirit man life with music that teaches the word. The world will teach them to be popular, to be well-rounded, to be a dreamer. Their natures will teach them to test the limits and push boundaries. It's your job to teach them to be disciples of the living God. And there isn't a better way then to live it and love Him yourself. I could go on and on about things I need to get through the day. Like my husband who supports and relieves me when I'm loosing it. Or friends who help me laugh through the most stressful years of my life. But I won't- because you all know all about those things. I hope you'll leave a comment with how these have helped you. Or maybe you have a "Must-have" of your own, and it needs to be shared with all the mommas to help them keep their sanity!
Bri is the mom to four little people, the wife to a gentle giant, and a lover of Jesus. She's figuring out the best ways to parent by trial and error, and sharing her struggles, successes, and stories with you!