Tip of the Day
Five Mothering Challenges We Can All Relate To
The battles, the sleep deprivation, the time for you!
-Melissa Stanton, www.lifesupportformoms.com
If you’re the mother of one or more small children, chances are you’ve experienced these parenting “joys.”
1. The battle to get your children – and/or yourself – dressed, fed, out the door on time. Just when you’re ready to leave the house, a diaper needs to be changed, a shoe can’t be found, someone has to use the bathroom, you forgot the sippy cups.
Megan, a stay-at-home mom of two boys, laments: “I miss being able to leave the house with a moment’s notice.”
To reduce some of the chaos, gather and pack your own purse or tote beforehand (perhaps the night before), so your stuff is ready even if the kids aren’t. Or set your clock several minutes fast. Although you’ll know the kitchen clock is 10 minutes fast, simply seeing it strike 9 a.m. – when you need to be on the road at 9 a.m. – is an added jolt for getting the troops moving. After the initial panic, you’ll appreciate that you’re not really late – yet.
Another tactic: To get her two young girls up and on the go so she can get them to day care and herself to work, Laura puts her daughters to bed in the clothing they’ll wear to school the next day. (“It’s not like they get dirty in their sleep,” she explains.) When that fails, Laura lets the girls leave the house in their pajamas and dresses them when she arrives at the preschool. “They want to play with their friends, so they’re motivated to get dressed quickly,” she says.
2. You’re sleep deprived. According to sleep disorders researcher Joyce Walsleben, PhD author of A Woman’s Guide to Sleep, a mother typically loses 700 hours of sleep during the first year of her child’s life. Since many women have more than one child, that sleep deficit just increases with time. Walsleben notes in her book: “Women are probably the most sleep-deprived creatures on Earth.”
3. You are incredibly lucky if you actually succeed in eating and enjoying one sit down meal a day – or even a week. It really is hard to feed yourself when you have to prepare and serve the meal, cater to the diners, bus the table, clean the dishes, etc. As one mother of three told me, “Before having kids, I enjoyed cooking. I’m not sure that what I do now even qualifies as cooking. It’s more like putting food on plates that won’t be rejected.”
For all of those reasons, moms who work outside the home ought to try, whenever possible, to sit down for a nice, grown-up lunch when they can. A stay-at-home mother can attempt to feed the children early and eat dinner later, with her partner or on her own, once the kids are in bed or entranced by a movie. The best solution for all moms: Get a sitter and go out to eat!
4. You find it difficult to make time for yourself (or you and your partner together), without the kids. And you have an even harder time accepting that, for the well being of all involved, you need to do both.
Sitters cost money and can be hard to find. Husbands of stay-at-home moms often don’t appreciate that stay-at-home parenting is a job, and that such women sometimes need a break. When employed moms aren’t at work, they often want to be with their kids, or feel they should be since they’re gone for most of the day. These concerns and unwarranted guilty feelings can make many a mom lose sight of the fact that, occasionally, she needs time alone … to read a book, shop for herself (without kids in tow), maybe just veg out. Relatedly, couples sometimes forget that their relationship with one another is just as important, perhaps more important, than their relationships with their kids. Taking time to be without the kids isn’t a rejection of them when it’s an essential rejuvenation of you.
5. Friends, loved ones and perfect strangers all have opinions about the fact that you:
a) left the workforce to care for your kids
b) didn’t leave the workforce to care for your kids
c) you’re trying to do both a and b
d) you allow your kids to watch television
e) you don’t allow your kids to watch television
f) Fill in the blank: _______________
The best retort is to have a smart, solid retort or, better yet, ignore the unsolicited comments. You live your life with your kids. No one else does. So long as a woman’s children are loved and well cared for, outsider nattering is just static. Parents, and especially moms, need to surround themselves with people who will provide support, encouragement and, when necessary, some babysitting help.
Melissa Stanton is the author of The Stay-at-Home Survival Guide: Field-tested strategies for staying smart, sane, and connected while caring for your kids, published by Seal Press/Perseus Books. Prior to becoming an at-home mother of three, Stanton was a senior editor at LIFE and People magazines. Her articles have appeared in The New York Times, Glamour, Parenting and MotherVerse, among other publications and websites. Stanton is the founder and editor of “Real Life Support for Moms“. She lives with her family outside of Washington, D.C.