Over the past few days, I’ve talked with countless moms.
Moms who love and adore their children.
Moms who want to make the most of these moments we have now been given.
But moms who are also business leaders, educators, entrepreneurs and in ministry.
Moms whose to-do lists have gone from long to unending.
Moms who are trying to juggle their jobs, teaching and monitoring schoolwork, parenthood, household tasks, and some self-care by the end of the day.
And we’re all in it together.
As I’ve chatted with these incredible women, many who are moms to preschoolers or younger elementary-aged children, it has taken me back to the days when we had:
4 children, 4 years and younger!
I was doing my best to juggle a small photography business, lead a mom’s ministry, mentor college girls, take care of my babies, find time for my hubby and at some point cook and sleep.
It was exhausting.
It was hard.
And there were days when I didn’t feel like anyone else understood my struggles.
But now, standing here in these moments, I am hopeful that some of my trials and errors might be of use to a mom who feels like she’s sinking.
I don’t claim to be an expert, but I have walked this road before.
So here are a few things I learned along the way:
1) Use music to set natural rhythms to your day.
A wise mentor suggested this and after implementing it, I was amazed at the impact it had on both my children and me!
In the mornings we played upbeat fun music. It set the tone for a joyful day. It allowed my kids to dance and sing in the kitchen and down the halls. Sometimes I’d join in.
After lunch, the music shifted to calmer tunes. For my youngest ones, this signaled that it was nap time. For the ones who had given up sleep during the day, it served as a cue that quiet time in their rooms was beginning.
While cooking dinner, I played worship music. This may have been as much for me, as it was for them. It kept my heart in the right place during that critical point in the day when emotions can be overwhelming to manage.
In the evenings, we went back to calm music- the same music from their naptimes.
Even now as teens and preteens, when Jim Brickman comes on, they immediately respond “I’m not tired!”
There’s the proof!
2) Create Zones (and rotate through them during the day)
For little kids, predictability coupled with movement is so helpful when you have lots of hours to fill.
Have several spaces that you use for particular activities, like a learning space (kitchen table or desk), an active space (family room or backyard), quiet space (bedroom), messy space (kitchen island, dining room table or plastic table cloth on the floor).
I also found it was helpful to have together spaces (couch, playroom, loft, basement) and alone spaces (bedrooms, forts/tents, beanbags).
Utilizing a kitchen timer to signal when to move from one zone to the next can be helpful as well. (And as the mom, you can adjust the length based on your needs too! There were many times when the messy space or quiet time needed to be 30 minutes longer, so I could accomplish a task like laundry or editing a family session).
As I planned out our days, I looked for ways to naturally move my kids through these zones.
We might start with the kitchen table for some time practicing writing or reading, then move to the family room or backyard for some active play.
After cleaning up, playing in a bedroom or family room was next, followed by something messy like playdoh or finger paint in the dining room.
We might watch a favorite cartoon or read out of The Jesus Storybook Bible in a together space and then move to an alone space for a scheduled quiet time.
Depending on the day, we may cycle through these zones more than once.
On weeks where my workload was pretty intense, I would spend anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour the night before, pulling out supplies or printing things off the computer and putting them in the zones ahead of time.
It took a little extra planning on my end, but it made the days a lot less chaotic.
3) Have a quiet time- for everyone!
As a mom, it’s important to have some downtime and it’s just as important for our children.
In an age where technology is accessible at every turn, it’s nice to set aside some moments for resting and unplugging.
For littles who still take naps. Praise. The. Lord.
But for the ones who have outgrown them, this time is still critical.
We used indoor tents or blanket forts with baskets of books during this time.
On other days, a tub of blocks or legos would get pulled out.
And I often had to remind myself that boredom is ok.
It breeds creativity in the minds of our littles and allows their imaginations to ignite.
You’ll be amazed at what they can come up with when everything else is turned off.
As for you, you might feel the need to catch up on work, while the kids are having these quiet moments.
But when possible, I always tried to use at least some of the time for my own self-care.
I could be a better mom and wife if I had time to deflate- to read a book, to pray, to take a shower or exercise.
4) Leave a Bible out on the kitchen table or counter.
This one may seem a little strange, but in the long days of mothering, it can be hard to steal away 30 mins of silence to read God’s Word.
There are seasons in life and this one is unique.
Getting up an hour ahead of your children to spend time with the Lord, may not be possible if you’re up all night with a baby already.
So you have to seize the pockets of time you find.
While your kids are eating lunch or while you’re watching them color, you may find 10 minutes to pick up your Bible and read!
Some days I even read it aloud.
These were some of the sweetest moments for me. I felt like the Lord was joining me right in the middle of the chaos and that was so comforting and encouraging- and many days it gave me the strength to get all the way to bedtime!
Bonus: The more your children see you doing this, the more you may discover moments like this.
5) Extend Grace and then do it again.
As a perfectionist, this probably should have been the first one I listed.
Because there is no perfect day.
You can have schedules and charts, zones and quiet times and things can still go sideways.
Kids wake up cranky.
We wake up cranky.
Anxiety rises, tears flow and everyone just needs a re-do.
And that’s ok!
Give yourself grace on the journey, but don’t forget to give it to your kids too.
Particularly during these unprecedented days, when our children- no matter how small- recognize that things are different, we need to live life through this lens of grace.
If something isn’t working- stop and dance, give a hug, read a book together, go on a walk, bake some cookies, dish out some ice cream.
Watch. A. Movie.
Then try again.
None of us have this figured out.
We’re learning together. Walking together. Crying and celebrating together.
The best we can do is give it our best, by pulling our strength from Jesus and then living out of the overflow of His love.
So do not fear, for I am with you;
do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
So let’s do this, Moms!
I’m cheering you on!