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I had a hard day yesterday. It was one of those days – the kids just could NOT keep themselves together. There was a massive fight over who got what spot on our huge LEGO platform. My 10-year-old son decided to bake a cake, complete with brightly colored frosting, and there was a food coloring explosion in my kitchen – my counters, floors, and children were blue. There were meltdowns and tears everywhere I looked, and there wasn’t a whole lot I could do about it. Kids are just rough sometimes, right?
Do you ever have days like this? Days when you start thinking, “This is NOT what I signed up for!”
Being a mom is hard work. It’s good, but it’s HARD. Motherhood can be both the biggest joy and the biggest challenge – sometimes within the same 30 seconds!
On either end of the mom spectrum, there are thriving moms and surviving moms. Thriving moms roll up their sleeves every morning, ready to get to work. They bring joy and structure to their families. They roll with the tantrums and the messes, training and encouraging the tiny humans that have been entrusted to them. Surviving moms, on the other hand, are easily overwhelmed by all of the tasks and responsibilities that come with motherhood. They’re irritated with their spouses, who get to enjoy daily time alone during a nice, quiet commute to work and time with other adults during their day at work. They’re irritated with their kids, who spend more time fighting than getting along.
Most of us fall somewhere in the middle of these two extremes, or maybe we go back and forth between the two depending on what the day brings. I’m no exception – I’ve spent a lot of time in survival mode, just trying to get through the day until bedtime, praying that it goes smoothly because I am NOT in the mood for back scratches, 77 stories, and coddling these monsters.
However, I’m generally smack-dab in the middle of the two categories, sometimes having amazing days (or hours or minutes!) and sometimes falling into survival mode.
But nobody wants to just barely get by for the majority of their adult lives. I know I don’t. I want to truly enjoy my children and thrive right where I am. I don’t want the chaos of the days to take over my life – I want to embrace motherhood and find enjoyment in my daily routines.
Over the years, I’ve kept an eye on my friends who seem to be happy and thriving all the time, truly engaged with their kids. These are the moms who actually enjoy standing at the playground swings pushing kids for hours straight (this is NOT my thing!) and the moms who are excited to spend time with their kids every single day. There are certain characteristics that they have and things that they do, and I’d like to share some of those concepts with you.
15 Ways to Enjoy Motherhood More
1. Take Care of Your Body
Let’s start with the most basic of the basics. If you’re not sleeping well, drinking enough water, and eating more than dry, crusty, leftover mac and cheese, you’re not going to feel well. This directly correlates to your level of crabbiness. Feeling annoyed by every little thing and irritated by your children (we’re all in this boat sometimes!), means that you’re not enjoying motherhood.
Once those basics are covered, try adding in some exercise. It doesn’t have to be extravagant – just 20 or 30 minutes a day of motion. My doctor tells me that it can be as simple as marching in place while you watch TV – just get that heart rate up! I like yoga best, simply because it encourages peacefulness and mindfulness – both of which help me to be a better parent.
Also, get dressed every day. Staying in your pajamas all day may seem comfy and cozy, but the simple act of changing from night clothes to morning clothes tells your brain that it’s time to get to work, which, in turn, wakes your brain up and gets it alert and ready for whatever the day brings.
This parenting journey is not for the faint of heart – you need your body to be working at its fullest potential. So take care of it!
2. Don’t Take Yourself Too Seriously
Stop overthinking. Start laughing. Be silly with your kids. Have 30-second dance parties, funny-face contests, and worst-singer competitions.
Be willing to make a fool of yourself. The kids will laugh more, and guess what? They can’t fight while they’re laughing at you!
Also, making mistakes and then laughing about them shows your kids that grown-ups make mistakes too and that messing up isn’t the end of the world. They learn by watching, and if you’re not too hard on yourself when things go wrong, they will learn to go easy on themselves when they make their own mistakes.
3. Concentrate on Connection
As busy moms, our minds are often elsewhere – we have so much to do and remember that it’s hard to pause and enjoy motherhood. Even if you’re not physically doing something, your brain is more than making up for it.
When we’re busy raising our kids and making our homes, so much of that time is task-oriented. It’s easy to prioritize task management and lose sight of the greater purpose of connecting with our kids and winning their hearts. Not being present means that you’re missing out on the joy. It’s hard to enjoy your children when you’re stressed about the daily tasks.
Put this into practice by starting small. Set a timer for 15 minutes, 30 minutes – whatever you think will be effective and not too big of a burden – and be present with your children. Build LEGO, play a board game, read books to them, or just chat.
Sometimes we get so caught up in the pandemonium of everyday life that we forget to keep connecting with who our children are and what amazing, wonderful people they are becoming. Learning their interests and their thoughts and opinions helps us to feel a sense of connection, which is where the joy begins.
4. Have An Identity Beyond “Mom”
Being a mom is the most important job in my life, but I need more than that. I need something to do besides breaking up fights and feeding people.
Sometimes we just need time to collect our thoughts and emotions and refocus. We literally need a break. It doesn’t have to be long or fancy.
I’d like to encourage you to still do the things that you love doing, even in motherhood. THIS is how you remain a whole person with interests and activities outside of motherhood. THIS is how you enjoy motherhood – by taking a break every now and then to be just you.
Spend time with friends who encourage you and lift you up. Go on date nights with your significant other. Find something that belongs to only you, something that you don’t have to share with anyone else. For me, that’s this blog – it’s a hobby, creative outlet, and my thing that’s only mine!
Parenting can be amazing, but you need time for yourself in order to make it so.
5. Practice Gratitude
Note that I called this one “Practice Gratitude” rather than “Be Grateful” – there’s a difference! By practicing gratitude, you’re actively looking for positives every day.
On the flip, “being grateful” makes me feel like it should be automatic. And honestly, there are many days when it’s not anywhere close to automatic.
Some days, it takes serious effort to find things to be grateful for, but the more you practice, the more you’ll find. I like to use a reminder on my phone to practice gratefulness. It causes me to pause in the middle of my day and think of the good. Gratitude journals work as well!
When I’m really wrestling with negativity, I try to focus on the mundane tasks of motherhood and remember why those particular tasks are a blessing. Too many dishes to do? At least I’m able to feed my kids and pets with healthy, nourishing food. Floors need washing again? At least I have a roof over my head, heat, air conditioning, and running water. Kids constantly fighting? At least I have four beautiful, healthy children – some women aren’t so blessed.
6. Stop Comparing
You are unique and perfectly imperfect just the way you are. Don’t let the Instagram and Pinterest moms make you feel like you’ll never measure up. And don’t compare yourself to the mom you thought you’d be either – that perfectly polished, always happy lady isn’t realistic, and comparing yourself to your vision of how things are “supposed to be” is just as unhealthy as comparing yourself to someone else.
If there’s something you know you need to change, by all means, get it done. But remember that you were made to be the way that you are, and nobody else can mom those particular kids the way you can.
If you’re secretly wishing you were more fun, patient, skinnier, less introverted, or anything else – just STOP. Accept yourself, change what you can, and love who you are.
7. Don’t Let One Bad Moment Ruin Your Day
Every present moment is a chance to start fresh. You don’t have to rely on what has happened to determine how you’re going to move forward.
As moms and kiddos who spend all day together, we feed off of each other’s emotions, both positive and negative. Changing your mindset to a more positive one can salvage the rest of the day and stop the downward spiral.
When you feel like you’re having a bad parenting day, “erase” what happened and start over. Doesn’t matter if it’s mid-afternoon or even after dinner. Don’t wait for the next day to start fresh – do it NOW. I try to take 5 minutes to myself in a different room, then walk back into the fire with a changed attitude. This may not work for you if you have smaller kids who can’t be left alone, but you can take 30 seconds to close your eyes and breathe.
8. Wake Up Before Your Kids
Or, at the VERY least, stay in bed for a few minutes to read, think, pray, or meditate before you’re launched into the madness. Even this little bit of quiet time works wonders to center yourself before the day begins.
Instead of using this time to run around the house in a frenzy trying to get some things done before the hungry monsters appear, choose something slow, relaxing, and enjoyable to you. For me, it’s reading or writing.
If you’ve read any of my other posts, you know that waking up before your kids is a recurring theme – it’s one of my absolutes for my own household.
How does it relate to enjoying motherhood more? Here’s how: When your kids wake up, you’ll be ready to greet them because you’ve already started your day on your own terms. You’ll be in a better mood, so you’ll be able to interact more positively with the kids. This, in turn, allows you to enjoy this journey.
9. Forgive Quickly
I love that kids don’t hold grudges. They can have a knock-down, drag-out fight and then, 5 minutes later, be back to playing together like nothing even happened. We moms need to learn to do this too!
This is one of my struggles. Recently, one of my boys was throwing a bouncy ball around the house, and he knocked a shadow box frame off the wall, which took a huge gouge out of my wall AND broke the frame. I yelled. He had already been warned not 2 minutes previously that bouncy balls are not to be thrown full-force in the house, so I was especially annoyed. Not only was I angry, but I sat and stewed about it for way longer than necessary.
When I’m angry about something one of my children has done, and he or she knows that it was the wrong thing to do, I know they need snuggles and kind words, but it’s SO hard to un-mad myself enough to give the affection that they need.
But I need to try.
Show your emotions. Share your feelings with your kiddo and do your best to move forward. Practice forgiveness with the little things so that it comes easily with the bigger things. Goodness knows your kids will give you plenty of opportunities to work on this!
10. Change Your Expectations
Most women form their view of motherhood long before they actually become mothers. We look at the world around us to determine what kind of mom we will or won’t be. We’re so positive that our angels will never throw a tantrum in the checkout line at the grocery store. We just know that we’re going to be feeding them all healthy, organic food – NEVER fast food or snacks with artificial food dyes. We won’t ever plop them in front of the TV when we need 15 minutes to ourselves, right?
Every mom is the perfect mom until they have kids, right?!?!
Unfortunately, this isn’t real life. Why do we do this to ourselves? It’s fairly ridiculous to define motherhood before we’re even mothers. This way of thinking sets us up to feel like we’re not doing it right, which steals our joy as mothers.
So change those expectations – let go of what you thought successful parenthood should look like, and embrace the real, messy, chaotic life that exists now that you actually have children. Part of what keeps moms from enjoying motherhood is that we have it in our heads that it shouldn’t be messy. But it is, and the sooner we figure that part out, the sooner we can see that there’s beauty in real life, and it’s even better than we thought it would be pre-kids.
11. Don’t Assume That Parenting Has to Be Hard
I mean, it is hard sometimes. It really is. But assuming that it’s always hard means that you’ll see only the hardships and not much else.
Not every moment of motherhood is hard. There are those times when you find yourself enjoying time spent with your kids and when you get that rush of happiness from spontaneous hugs and “I love yous.”
The key is to find more of these moments. Find the positive, no matter how simple it may be or how challenging your day has been. Practice gratefulness.
You get what you picture – if you’re only looking at the hard stuff, you miss out on the joy.
12. Put the Phone Down
Better yet, if you’re able, put it in another room entirely. This enables you to keep your mind and attention on the little humans in front of you.
This is a huge one for me. I’ve noticed that, when I’m interrupted in the middle of using technology, my reaction is grumpier than it would be if I were interrupted while reading a book or cooking dinner. I’ve also noticed that, when my phone is in the other room or is silenced, I connect more with my kids and I get more done around the house.
Technology has this strange ability to suck us into its world and detach us from the people who are actually around us. Spend less time on your phone and more time with the people you love. What’s happening right in front of you is wayyy more important than what’s happening to that Facebook friend that you haven’t spoken with since high school.
13. Embrace the Chaos
Children are all over the dance floor emotionally because they aren’t fully grown. Even the best of parents can’t control those big feelings in their kids. Your days will never be perfect. Your children will never be perfect.
Expect a mix of both sweet and sour moments every single day. One doesn’t go without the other. It’s all relative – you can’t appreciate the sweet if you don’t sometimes have to deal with the sour.
The ability to enjoy motherhood is to find joy in the chaos. I don’t do well with a lot of noise and hectic kids running around me – it makes me super cranky, but I have four kids, so I pretty much did it to myself. When the chaos starts to get to me, I try to remember that it only exists because of the fact that I have THEM. Not just any children – these children.
Is this life what I was expecting? No. But it can be so, SO much sweeter when I strive to find the true enjoyment that comes when I take a minute to soak in the sweetness of my four kiddos uncontrollably laughing together and jumping on the couch like crazy people.
14. Seek Out the Happy Moments
They may seem like unicorns, but if you actively look for the positive moments, you’ll probably find them! Consider recording them, whether with a photo or video or in a journal.
Listen for those moments when your kids are playing and laughing together. Their conversations are so precious! Watch for the times when your kids are looking out for each other – like when one kid asks for a cookie, then immediately asks for another for her brother or sister. These sweet moments, when I seek them, happen more often than I expect!
Recognizing these positive interactions helps fill your love tank back up after all of the bickering and noise has depleted it.
Seek out, soak in, and enjoy those happy sounds of childhood – goodness knows they’ll be back to fighting in 5 minutes!
15. Give Yourself Grace
Not only are your kids learning and growing every day, but so are you! You aren’t going to love every single minute of motherhood. It’s simply not possible!
Here’s the thing: If you were a bad mom, you wouldn’t care about any of this. You wouldn’t be googling “how to enjoy motherhood” and reading all the articles you can find. You wouldn’t give a second thought to healthy eating, reading to your kids, or yelling at them. You wouldn’t feel overwhelmed by mom guilt. You wouldn’t feel remorse when you yell at your kids. You wouldn’t apologize.
Your reaction to the non-joyful days of motherhood (and the fact that you’re even reading this post in the first place) proves that you are a loving momma who endlessly and unselfishly cares about her kids. It proves that you want what’s best for them.
When the doubt and guilt creep in, remember that too much mac and cheese never killed a kid, and neither did too much Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. You may not always be proud of the way you handle your actions. You’ll make mistakes. But your mistakes will help you grow into the mom you want to be. They’ll ultimately grow the bond between you and your children – not make it weaker.
Do your best, even if you don’t feel like it. But don’t beat yourself up over every little mistake you’ve made. Give yourself grace and move on.
When you’re working out how you can enjoy motherhood more, focus on what YOU can do. Be responsible for your own actions (or inaction), and consider what you can do moving forward to turn things around. Motherhood CAN be enjoyable if you truly want to make it so.
That’s not to say that there won’t be hard days when you want to quit. We’re still sleep-deprived with cranky kids, and we have too many things to do and remember.
I’d like to challenge you to reframe the enjoyment of motherhood. Don’t let one moment ruin your day. Be grateful for what has turned out great, and take responsibility for the role you play in your own life. Go with the flow when things don’t go according to plan. Have fun with your kids, and don’t take life too seriously. And don’t expect motherhood to be hard 100% of the time, because it truly doesn’t have to be.
If you put in some work, you claim the power that allows you to make actual changes and take control of your journey. I don’t want to just “survive” these short years that I have my kids at home with me. I want to be able to look back and say that I’ve done the best I can with them, that we had fun together, and that we created a life that they can look back on and remember our happy, cozy home.
It’s time to enjoy motherhood more. There will always be rough moments – that’s part of life. What I try to do to have a better attitude and more patience on the bad days is to have more fun on the good days.
Take a few minutes to truly enjoy those kiddos today! And remember that you are enough.
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