Parenting presents us with a never-ending stream of decisions to make: what to feed our kids, what kind of schedule to put them on, what activities to do with them, etc. I’ve gotten stressed out over lots of these things, and continue to do so, but I’ve found that just making a decision is a huge help. Here are five things I’ve decided over the past four years that have made my life a little easier …
- Join the gym. I touched on this in my “how to stay positive” post – going to the gym (in our case, the Y) is a lifesaver for me. We joined when Maggie was 7 months old and I was simply going crazy from being home alone with an infant all day. When we signed up, a helpful staff person told me about the Mommy & Me swim classes they had available; I looked at him like he was crazy and said honestly, “I’m joining the Y to get away from my baby for awhile.” At the time, wanting to get away from the baby made me feel like a bad mom, but now I’ve gotten to the point where (1) I know that I’m a perfectly good mom, and (2) I know I’m a much better mom when I exercise and get away from my kids for awhile. As a bonus, my kids LOVE the Y. They get to see other kids and play with different toys than we have at home. Win win win.
- Turn on the TV. Maggie was not exposed to much TV as a baby. We keep our TV in the basement, mostly because Pete & I don’t watch much TV – we bring it up for ND football, Downton Abbey, and March Madness, but otherwise we watch movies on the computer instead. I also vaguely believed that TV would rot my children’s brains. But I eventually got to a point where I just needed some down time, and sitting Maggie down in front of a video was the only thing I could think of. So then I did it, but felt bad about it, for a couple of years. Then I read a fantastic book about pregnancy by a University of Chicago economist, who mentioned in her preface that a good look at the evidence proves TV does not rot children’s brains. I shared this info with Pete, we decided together we’re perfectly fine with Maggie watching an hour or so of videos each day, and finally I got down time without guilt.
- Just feed the kids already. In my ideal world, everyone in the family would sit down to a balanced meal together three times a day. In reality, I feed the kids as soon as they wake up, and then Pete & I sit down to breakfast 30-60 minutes later. The kids often join us for “breakfast part 2.” Then there’s morning snack for the toddler (no set time for this, it’s usually right after her morning video), lunch for everyone, usually afternoon snack for everyone (small one because dinnertime is near), and then I feed the girls dinner around 5:00. Similar to the breakfast routine, the girls usually stick around or come back for “dinner part 2” when Pete and I sit down at 6:15. The important thing here is that I have decided on this schedule, so I am no longer constantly fretting about whether someone can have a snack or whether I should feed the kids dinner early. Having two parts to breakfast and dinner is tedious, but I’ve found it to be what works best for us right now. Again, the point is, make a decision so you can stop fretting.
- And on a similar note … bananas, grapes and goldfishes are key components of our lives right now. We always have bananas in our house, even though it’s ridiculous to go out & buy bananas twice a week, because bananas are nutritious and easy to feed to the kids. I buy grapes for the same reason, even when they are out of season and expensive. I buy goldfishes, even though I’d prefer that my kids eat whole fresh food all the time, because they are easy and non-messy and the kids love them, and because I simply don’t have the time and energy to prepare my 100% ideal menu for them every day. Food and nutrition are actually one of my top stressors – I worry a lot about how best to feed my kids – so finding something that works, and deciding which benefits outweigh which costs for our particular family, saves me a lot of emotional energy.
- Toys, toys, and more toys. I totally believe the baby books that say kids shouldn’t have too many toys … but my definition of “too many” has expanded over the years. We had very few toys around when Maggie was younger, and I was constantly despairing over her inability to play independently. Wasn’t she supposed to be so interested in the simple world around her that she would just play with her five toys and explore the house and be perfectly happy? We’ve accumulated lots more toys over the years, and unsurprisingly, our second child is a champion at playing by herself. Elizabeth makes her way around the house playing with the dollhouse, the Legos, the stacking rings, the play kitchen, the musical toys, the stuffed animals, the baby dolls, the board books … this is not a complete list of the toys on the main floor of our house, and then we also have toys in the basement and the bedrooms. Lots of toys, lots of independent play. She’s happy, I’m happy.
So there you have it. Maybe one of these five decisions will be a helpful idea for your family too, but your family is different so maybe not. The bottom line is, just make some decisions and be peaceful!