Have you ever had one of those nights that you just think you won’t be able to recover from it? A night where you wake up the next morning wondering how on earth you’re going to make it through the day? A night that makes you wonder where you find the energy to get everything done that needs to get done? Well, I know I have had many (probably too many to count) of those, and one was pretty recent.
At the end of April school vacation for my big kids, my (then) 18-month baby girl got sick. Nothing too serious, but just enough to keep us up at night. My poor girl couldn’t breathe through her nose and this led to six (you read that right, 6!) nursing sessions through the night. I think that was more than she nursed as a newborn, ugh. I was not mentally prepared for that kind of night and I woke up the following day as a groggy, cranky mama.
The morning in question was a Friday, my usual cleaning day (isn’t it nice to have a clean house ready for surprise weekend visitors? I digress). But I was just not feeling up to all of that. Who wants to clean the bathrooms or vacuum the entire house feeling like a zombie? Not this Mama. So I made a decision.
I decided first thing in the morning to change my expectations for the day. I decided that nothing, and I mean nothing, needed to get done that day. I didn’t want to be a zombie mom for my kids’ last day of vacation. I wanted to have energy, I wanted to play with them, I wanted to have a good day. So I made the decision to not worry about cleaning or cooking (yay for leftovers!). I chose to focus on spending time with my kids. Period.
What a great day we had! There was no feeling of “oh no, I need to get this done!” or “sorry guys, Mommy can’t right now, I have to do this”. It was just a day of me and my kids. Yes, the house was a bit messy, nothing I couldn’t tidy the following day while my husband was home and could help. And yes, the laundry was starting to pile up, but we all still had plenty of clean clothes to wear. My choice that morning created a day of calmness and contentedness.
Since there was no to-do list staring me in the face all day, I was able to spend more time with my kids than usual. We put together many (and I mean many) puzzles. We ran around and played tag in the back yard. When the baby was napping, the big kids and I put lunch together as a team. Once she woke up, my baby girl and I got to cuddle and read book after book together, just the two of us while the big kids played on their own. And, I think my favorite part of the day, was taking a moment to breathe while all three kids played together without me and being able to just watch them laughing and playing together, just the three of them. That’s pure joy.
Come the end of the day, I realized that my decision to alter my expectations that morning was one of the greatest gifts I could have given myself. I found that even though I was tired from the night before, I was relaxed. I enjoyed my day. I wasn’t a crazy cranky Mama running around trying to get too many things done. I was happy. And even more important, the kids were happy. Their behavior reflected my mood. I was relaxed, so therefore, they were relaxed. And their relaxation led to them getting along much better than they had all week. My house was peaceful. And as an added bonus, since everyone was content, I was still able to pull away from the kids a bit, clean one bathroom and do a load of laundry. I actually got more done than I expected that day! Win!
I went from having a tough night and being grouchy to having a relaxing, fun and stress free day with my kids. All because of a decision I made first thing in the morning. All because I altered my expectations to something truly realistic and something I actually wanted.
This experience made me stop and really think about our expectations and how they affect us throughout the day. Have you ever noticed that your expectations for the day can drive your mood and behavior? For example, if you expect to take a shower in the morning (don’t we all?), and actually get to (Woohoo! Success!), you feel pretty darn good! But if you don’t…maybe a kid woke up extra early and extra cranky, maybe the alarm didn’t go off when it was supposed to, maybe your spouse beat you into the shower and you ran out of time, no matter the reason you always end up disappointed. You expected to take a shower, and yet, you didn’t get to. It wasn’t your choice; it was the result of your surroundings. This is bound to bring disappointment and negativity right into the beginning of your day.
I now realize that we, as people, have the power to stop disappointment before it starts. We have the power to create a positive day for ourselves. I now understand that as long as we set ourselves up for success (read: achievable expectations for our day) we will be empowering ourselves, instead of setting ourselves up for failure (read: not achieving our daily expectations after setting them too high).
Now, I’m aware that we cannot always have days where we say “nothing needs to get done today” (wouldn’t that be nice?). Houses need to be cleaned. Homework needs to be finished. Food needs to be cooked. The trick is figuring out which things need to be done and which things can be left for another day (or better yet, given to someone else to do).
On days that things definitely have to be accomplished I like to make a short to-do list with the most important thing on it first. I’m talking two or three things on the list. I make my to-do list realistic. If I put too many things on the list, I’m bound to get frustrated when I can’t get it all done. And I don’t know about you, but frustration in my house tends to lead to anger and blame which then leads to yelling over the most pointless things. And not to mention that if you become frustrated, your kids are bound to feel that emotion and will react accordingly. A stressful parent will always lead to a stressful child.
On the positive side, there is nothing like the feeling that you completed everything you had planned. Once everything on your to-do list is done, you’re bound to feel pride in what you have accomplished and that will also reflect on your kiddos. Why set yourself up to not be awesome? And hey, if you get extra things done that weren’t on your to-do list, more power to you! Just make sure you don’t expect to do that every time!
So what are your plans for the rest of the day? Make the decision your own, not a consequence of circumstance. Make what needs to get done your choice. Choose to not stress yourself out over the little things. Choose the important to-dos and ignore the rest. It can turn your stressful day into a peaceful one.
And remember to give yourself a break. Even if you set a to-do list that seems reasonable, there are still going to be times you don’t get it all done. Life happens. The unexpected happens, especially to us parents. It’s okay. There is always tomorrow (or next week). Don’t put too much pressure on yourself, and don’t take yourself too seriously. Life is supposed to be fun; remember to enjoy it!
Have your daily expectations changed since having children? Do you have a schedule or routine you normally follow?
Here is how my third child changed my mothering.
Jennie is a stay at home mom of 3 who’s goal is to help other parents remember what is truly important on this road called parenthood. She wants to share with others how she keeps her mind clear in the face of the craziness that parenting brings. She hopes to help people find their way to enjoying their families to the fullest. You can follow her at.
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