I’ve been a mom longer than I’ve been anything else in my life, unless you count being alive.
Here are a few strategies I’ve developed along the way which seem to have kept me (relatively) sane.
1) Remember: I made this.
Remembering we made our children is important for so many reasons.
First, it helps us to forgive our bodies for their saggy boobs, stretch marks and other unmentionables down south I can’t discuss in a nice, family oriented article.
Second, it’s the definition of empowering. Knowing you have the innate power to create another human? One word: dayuuum.
Third, whatever misery and fallout transpires because of our kids, it is ultimately our responsibility. We made the choice to have them, so we shouldn’t complain too much when they leave the toilet seat up and pee all over the floor so you slip in their urine and then fall in the bowl in the middle of the night.
That’s if you’re lucky enough to have sons—don’t get me started on daughters.
2) Say, “Don’t sass me.”
Pre-kids I was as loose with the expletives as a sailor at an expletive spelling bee—post kids I’ve had to tone it down.
What I have not toned down is my insistence that I be taken seriously. Good moms learn how to say words like “Don’t sass me”, “Not in this life”, and “Try it and see what happens” in a tone of voice that could send chills up Dracula’s spine.
3) Play Scrabble.
I’m a big proponent of playing old fashioned games with my kids: Scrabble, Othello, Gin Rummy and Monopoly, are some of our favorites. When we play these games together it’s more companionable than any other time we interact, and seeing my child’s brain growing right in front of my eyes is awesome.
Also, I no longer completely suck at these games which gives me hope that my brain has grown in some capacity too.
4) Let them lose.
My challenge when playing these sorts of games, however, is allowing my children to lose. I was the youngest in a family of cut throat competitors who never took a fall, so I know what it’s like to lose. As a mom, it’s hard to bring this preventable kind of suffering upon my kid (though it didn’t seem hard for my mom, or my dad or anyone else in my tribe), but it’s critical.
A kid who never loses turns into the sort of grown up nobody can love.
5) Take a shower.
If you don’t have little ones, you’ll laugh at this one. If you do, you’ll nod your head sympathetically.
Once you become a mom, your own state of cleanliness drops to the bottom of your to-do list. It begins when our babies are newly born and they need constant attention, but continues because we’ve realized the world keeps turning even if we slob around around in our sweats with unwashed hair all day.
Don’t get me wrong, I am grateful to have lost the vanity of my twenties, but sometimes I catch a reflection of myself in the mirror and am shocked by my state of dishevelment. Even if I don’t manage to put make up on my face these days, I have realized that a shower makes everything better.
6) Insist on kisses.
My kids aren’t going to be kids forever, and my policy is, I’m getting as many kisses as I can while the getting’s good. I need to stock up so I have enough to tide me over until grandkids.
7) Stop sharing pictures.
The results are in!
99% of people do not want to see 500 frames of my child eating a handful of Cheerios. If I suspect I can’t stop myself after showing you just one, I promise to wait until my mom swings by so I can show her all 500.
8) Do something else.
It’s easy to become lost in mothering. The whole routine can leave us feeling like a shell of our former selves. But when the baby years were over and my kids finally went to school, I realized I needed a life. Well, not a life, my life.
I believe it’s imperative for moms to have something that’s just for them—something real that absorbs them and that they feel passionate about. It needn’t be a job, and we don’t have to find it right away, but remembering we are people with dreams and potential beyond changing diapers and wiping noses makes us, if nothing else, cooler moms.
9) Find one vegetable.
Parenting is a never ending riddle with no rhyme or reason. We sweat and we wonder, what is the right way? What do we feed them, what should they read, what shows can they watch, are they active enough, why aren’t they doing better in school, am I too strict, too lenient, to nice, too mean, too generous, too stingy? Bah!
Sometimes (most of the time) we just have to do the best we can. When my son wouldn’t eat any other vegetable besides a carrot for the first 9 years of his life, I decided that one vegetable was good enough. And you know what? It was.
10) Have a mantra.
I’ve had a lot of mantras over the years. Among them, “This too shall pass” (recommended by my own mom who I tortured thoroughly), “May you be free from suffering and the cause of suffering” (handy when so angry you’re afraid you might drive your kids into the middle of a field and drop them off, laughing manically as you race away to the nearest roadside bar) and “You’ll get yours when you have your own kids”, for when revenge is the only emotion hearty enough to get you through ’til bedtime.
These techniques, combined with a copious helping of wine, have seen me through dark days. I’m hoping they will serve you well too.
Want 15 free additional reads weekly, just our best?
Editor: Rachel Nussbaum
Photo: elephant archives