If you’re like many moms, finding the perfect balance between all of the roles that you play may be a difficult task. Trying to find time to complete everything that requires your attention within a 24-hour period can be mind-boggling. Instead of feeling “in control” of things, you may feel like you’re controlled. Finding a solution is unlikely when you can barely keep your head above water. Paying the bills, cooking dinner, running the kids here and there, finding time for your spouse, keeping the house clean and working outside of the home is not only emotionally taxing, but physically exhausting too.
Perhaps you don’t wear “all” of the hats above but it doesn’t change the fact that you’re feeling overwhelmed or perhaps dissatisfied by the course that you’re on. To make things easier, here are a few helpful tips and suggestions that just might make your day-to-day life a little less hectic and perhaps allow you to enjoy quality time with your family.
The Perfect Balance – Ten Tips to Help Balance Your Schedule:
Becoming a mother was the single-most rewarding day of my life. I waited late in life to have children desiring to have my teaching career in place allowing me to enjoy it before being torn between work and home. Knowing me and my personality, I knew that once I had children, I’d be drawn to the “stay-at-home” lifestyle so that I could enjoy raising my own family.
Being extremely organized in my personal life and career, and having experience with multiple children in the classroom, perhaps a “control-freak” of sorts, I didn’t realize how much the addition of children would alter my life. Luckily, my first child was the “perfect” baby which allowed me to figure out how to balance all of the hats worn without much controversy or the feeling of despair that so many mothers have shared they sometimes feel.
I’d like to share a few tips and suggestions that every mother can implement that will make “balancing” much easier, productive and rewarding. Perhaps you’ll find some of the suggestions just what you need.
Tips & Suggestions for Balancing Life AFTER children:
1. Routine and Calendaring:
As funny as this may seem, establishing a routine and schedule is essential for reducing potential levels of stress and helping one balance everything. If you are employed outside of the home, you probably recognize the importance of knowing where you’re going, when you’re supposed to be there and what needs to be completed before you leave. With children, your schedule will take on a whole new meaning. With infants, you’ve got regular doctor’s appointments, and some that are unscheduled. Sleeping routines that are undoubtedly modified from days prior to having children; mealtimes and preparation that must be juggled around multiple household tasks, shopping, etc…
Getting a day planner, or some sort of schedule that can be used to “establish” specific times for pretty much everything that your “new life” will require will be a tremendous tool to help balance your day and keep you organized. Obviously, being able to be flexible will be necessary, but having a “starting point” will certainly make flexibility without panic possible. When scheduling or planning a routine, keep in mind that you’ll want to plan “you time”. A time just for you to unwind and relax. This way, you’ll be able to plan ahead if you need a babysitter or perhaps arrange with your spouse or significant other a time that they’ll be responsible for the children so that you can take some time for yourself. This is necessary for mental, emotional and physical health.
You’ll want to schedule: Bedtime rituals and routines; mealtimes; a time for housecleaning; running errands; nap(s) if applicable; appointments outside the home; shopping; time for your profession (if applicable); date nights; and “you” time.
2. Meal Planning:
If you’ve got more than one child, meals can be truly frustrating for families. If you’ve got an infant and you’re nursing, you’ll still have others that you’ll need to plan and prepare meals for each and every day. This task can be easily accomplished by planning a weekly menu.
When I say menu, I mean what you’ll be preparing for each meal every day of the week. By recording what you’ll be preparing, you can create a shopping list and shop accordingly during the time set aside for leaving the home to get the items that you’ll need. I found it easier to plan for the entire week and shop for the entire week vs. shopping every day or every other day (which my husband likes to do). I also found it more cost effective. Additionally, if I had the ingredients needed for every meal, I could be more flexible in the event something wasn’t thawed in time and/or we weren’t in the mood for a Mexican dish on the day planned.
Meal planning around our home also included one night a week set aside for dinner out. Everyone deserves a break from the kitchen from time to time so make certain that you pencil your night out – in!
Word of Caution: If you have more than one child or a finicky eater, don’t fall into the trap of becoming a “short order cook”. This will result in a lifetime of frustration. When you plan “meals” – cook them and serve them.
Encourage your child(ren) to learn to eat what you serve instead of preparing this and that to accommodate each individuals palate. This will make life ahead a much less bumpy road. Take it from me, I’ve heard from many parents who’ve fallen victim and prepare one meal for one child, another for the other and yet another for herself and husband – this is NOT the way to go. In fact, this type of routine began, for many, when the children were toddlers and continues today when they are teenagers. Be firm and teach them to eat what you prepare.
3. Household Chores & Responsibilities:
Even though you may be a stay-at-home mom, everyone within the home should have certain chores and/or responsibilities. For instance, when my children were infants/toddlers, my husband was responsible for maintaining the yard; cleaning the bathrooms and keeping the porches and decks clean. These were jobs that I couldn’t do while keeping an eye on the children.
As the children got older, chores and/or responsibilities were modified although every member of the home still had specific jobs. My husband became responsible for feeding the pets in the morning to allow me time to rest when the children were sleeping; he would take the shopping list and purchase the items needed to avoid my having to take the children into the stores (which was difficult with two boys, two years apart).
Even today, with teenage sons, every member of the family has responsibilities so that I am not overwhelmed trying to manage everything myself. My boys are responsible for cleaning their own bathrooms and bedrooms; washing their own laundry; and mowing the lawn.
My husband puts leftovers away after meals; feeds the pets; trims hedges and weed-eats; and is responsible for unloading the dishwasher and putting the dishes away daily. We cook meals together and the boys set the table and clean it off after meals. Not only does dividing household chores teach many life skills but it also alleviates a great deal of anxiety that I would otherwise experience as I’d find it difficult to complete all things myself.
4. Establish Rules and Consequences and STICK to them:
Establishing household rules is necessary if you want your home to run smoothly. These rules should be “in place” before the children arrive so that you and your spouse are in agreement and on the same page when the first violation occurs (and it will – before you think).
For instance, establishing both rules and consequences about running through the house; jumping on the bed; jumping down the stairs; playing with the buttons on the remote control or telephone; pressing buttons on the dishwasher; throwing balls or objects in the house; biting; pinching; hitting; tattling; hurting others; name calling; interrupting; talking back, etc… Playing each and every occurrence by ear is NOT something I’d recommend as usually it leaves children feeling confused.
Consistency and parameters are needed for well-adjusted children. Children need rules; consequences teach them about adhering to the rules (as long as the consequences are related to the violation and are intended to teach); consistency by parents in enforcing the rules and applying consequences will help children feel secure.
5. Creating and Living within a Budget:
With children come many new expenses. Some expenses are necessary while others are a matter of “spoiling” our children. Yes, we want our children to have the sun and moon but doing so within a budget is a must – especially if you’ve eliminated one source of income.
It is possible for a once-upon-a-time two income family to make it on one-income as long as you “stick” to a predetermined budget. Obviously many of your pre-child expenses will be the same but you’ll want to account for an addition to your health insurance premiums and co-payments for your new and frequent visits to the doctor; expenses for diapers (disposable) or cloth (or diaper service); formula (if you’re not breastfeeding); incidentals such as infant supplies, i.e. soaps, shampoos, laundry detergents, etc… ; and perhaps an increase in your budget for items to decorate, clothe, entertain and keep your baby/toddler safe.
There will be expenses that you’ve not even considered so always try to plan for “exceptions” to the budget. Living within a budget, although not easy for everyone, is something that will take time to learn and determination as it is NOT easy to pass by the adorable dress on the sales rack without the urge to take it home. But, you can do it!
Well, there you have it. How to balance your life (before) and after children. You may have already thought about implementing some of these suggestions, perhaps not. I promise you that these simple tips allowed me to welcome child number two into this world without even a wince. I was able to work outside of the home (or from home which I do now); prepare meals for my family every evening; have “me” time; and enjoy quality time with my family. Every member of our family learned what was expected and understands that completion of his/her responsibilities is necessary without the need for reminders. When rules are violated, consequences are in place which eliminates MOST rules from being broken – an occasional violation vs. rules broken each and every day by my standards is a GREAT day!
The most important thing that every parent should understand is that life is a journey. There will be good times and bad and that each will teach us a lesson or two. Embrace each and every one of the experiences and opportunities that parenthood allows with an open mind and heart. Know that you cannot control where life’s path will take you – you can only make the most of the walk. But, by implementing a few of the suggestions above, you’ll be able to take the time to smell and enjoy the roses along the way.
I hope that these simple tips and suggestions will assist you in finding balance and harmony in your life.
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