Wednesday, April 28, 2010

How to Save Your Sanity as a Mother (and Help the Earth too)

 I am certainly far from an expert on motherhood, but in my 15 years of experience I have learned that there are certain cultural expectations placed on mothers that just aren't worth hanging onto.  You may not necessarily agree with all of my ideas, but these are some of the things I've let go of over the years that have, in effect,  preserved my sanity as a mother (and helped the earth too).

1. Getting kids involved in activities at too young of an age--the day will come soon enough when their lives will be filled with comings and goings, why make their life (and your life) prematurely crazy?   Too much competition and running to and fro is not going to help their development or arguably their athleticism (remember I'm talking about kids 8 and under).  I personally believe that one of the contributing factors to the childhood obesity epidemic is making kids believe that the only way to be active is at a sports practice or game.  For as great as sports are for teaching teamwork and learning about healthy competition (when they're old enough), it's not real life.  Running, jumping, and good old-fashioned playing with other children will teach them just as much about teamwork as any sport and help them to develop a fitter and healthier lifestyle.

Lest anyone accuse me of being anti-sports or anything, I have to say that Glen and I were both high school athletes (and Glen a collegiate athlete) and we both feel very strongly that sports are a great thing for our kids....just not too much too soon.  While you may not agree with my ideology, it has single-handedly been the biggest stress reducer in our lives (and saved the earth {and my behind} from all those extra car trips too).

2.  Daily baths.  Okay, don't call me an unfit mother here.  I just don't see any reason why my kids need daily baths, unless they're actually dirty.  If my kids don't smell good or are filthy, they'll get an extra bath, but otherwise twice a week works great when they're young.  As soon as they're old enough to care enough to bathe themselves (in the shower), they can bathe whenever they want.  This idea has streamlined our bedtime routine significantly and saved us from using 35-50 gallons of water per day.

3.  Cooking three course meals.  With as much as I like to cook, this one may surprise you, but I really believe that a healthy main dish, with a raw fruit or vegetable to be a perfectly fine meal.  I serve a salad kit, or  a handful of baby carrots with ranch dressing, or have apple or orange slices, or a simple fruit and spinach smoothie (which they love by the way).  I feel like the raw fruits and veggies are better for them anyway and it lets me focus in on making the main dish, rather than spreading myself even thinner at that crazy time of day.   It means I'm less stressed, we eat earlier (so the kids are happier),  and I don't use any more energy (mine or the earth's) in giving my kids a side dish.   My exception to this is that I often make homemade bread when we have soup for dinner. 

4.  Getting kids into too many activities (at any age).  Going along with my #1, I think if an older child is excited about music or sports or art, by all means find an outlet for them to develop their talents (and interests), but why on earth do so many people think that their kids need to do it all?  With heavy homework loads that seem to be creeping ever earlier into their school years, I feel like it's so important that kids have time to be kids.   Like #1, it benefits the earth reducing the daily car trips we take. 

5.  Saying, No, too quickly.   When I'm tired and busy, it is often my knee-jerk reaction to bark out, "No," to every question they ask of me.  I'm trying really hard to be better at pausing before I answer one way or the other.  While there's certainly plenty of opportunities to say no, but I feel like, in general, kids should hear more yeses than nos.  I remember a quote from Marjorie Hinckley who said that for every no she said to her children, she followed it with a yes...."No, you can't have a doughnut for dinner, but you can have one for breakfast tomorrow morning."  I'm definitely still working on this one!    This one benefits the earth by reducing the noise pollution coming from my house. 

6.  Trying to solve the kids problems for them.  Whether it be kids fighting, an argument with a friend, or a homework woe, it is my natural instinct to rush to the rescue and try to fix it.  While I still have to interject when they start yelling and screaming, I'm trying to be more hands off when it comes to finding their own solutions.  It saves my sanity and teaches them better coping mechanisms and it saves the earth by me sending out more confident and capable children into the world who know how to deal with their own troubles.

7.  Caring about what they wear. As long as they're clean and modest, who cares?  I have a child who 9 nights out of ten wears their jeans to bed.  It used to drive me crazy, but then I realized that he was still sleeping fine despite his uncomfortable attire, and the only person who cared one iota was me.  Same with the child who completely refused to wear collared shirts.  And the other who continues to dress in mismatching layers.  And the other who went an entire summer without wearing shorts because he didn't feel like it.  And still another who is growing so fast their clothes are almost always too small. I still have to fight my tendency to say anything, but I'm learning it's just one of those things that just doesn't matter a tiny bit and it's not worth the stress caring about it.  And the earth?  I'm stretching here, but letting my kids out of the house in their goofy outfits makes the world a little brighter and brings smiles to people's faces.   Plus if you have a child like mine who refuses to wear pajamas, it's just one less thing in the laundry pile.  :)

8.  I know it's cliche, but sweating the small things--Things that involve their safety or eternal salvation are too important to mess up on, but life is too short to spend fretting over all the things that don't matter or that we don't have any control over anyway.

What would you add to this list?  

This topic is taken from #11 on the list, 30 Things to Blog About , so if you have any more requests feel free to go back to that post and write in your vote for a topic for me to cover.

Coming next:  What parts of motherhood are worth sticking with, despite the time they take.



Denise said...

Great list Lara. GREAT! I believe in these things.

Andie said...

Oh, Lara, I love you! I couldn't agree with you more about not getting kids involved in stuff too early/too much. So many nights/weekends our family we are torn in different directions with church stuff alone. A good friend of mine from Omaha, who I knew when her three kids were teens, had this rule for their family: one person doing one activity at a time, the rest watching and supporting. They tried really hard to stick to that and their kids are grown now-and they are really well-rounded, well-adjusted adults.

Totally agree with the not caring what they wear, too. Mason's speech teacher says it's a very good way to encourage independence. So I close my eyes when he dresses head to toe in gold or goes to the park in inside out and backwards shorts.

I'm working on #5 too, trying to understand that sometimes my kids DO have a point.

I found a quote yesterday when doing some YW stuff that said something like "before I was married I had six theories on how to raise children. Now I have six children and no theories!"

Dad-Mom said...

Wow! Fruit and spinach smoothies! Really? No way!

Great post on parenthood. It seems that you may have discovered the most important of all attributes of a good parent: and that is NOT to take ourselves too seriously.

You are an excellent mother and we are very proud of you.

Meeks said...

Spoken like a woman with experience under her belt!
I am soo with you on all these things...but some of them are so un-PC!
I'm so glad to know that somewhere in the world, there is someone else that has learned through trial and error to not sweat the small stuff, and go with the flow!

melissa said...

where was this post say... five days ago??

some of these things I'm learning through experience!!

I went visiting teaching the other day and we were talking about something and one of the older more experienced mothers (with kids grown and gone) had similar things to say about not taking ourselves too seriously!

wise counsel :)

Charlene said...

Great minds think alike!! Although I must give the credit to my husband about not doing too many activities. He felt like our family needed more family time and too many activities would take that away.

Steve-Rosanna said...

Some more things my mother taught me:

1. My mother taught me TO APPRECIATE A JOB WELL DONE .
"If you're going to kill each other, do it outside.. I just finished cleaning."

2. My mother taught me RELIGION.
"You better pray that will come out of the carpet."

3. My mother taught me about TIME TRAVEL.
"If you don't straighten up, I'm going to knock you into the middle of next week!"

4. My mother taught me LOGIC.
" Because I said so, that's why."

5. My mother taught me MORE LOGIC .
"If you fall out of that swing and break your neck, you're not going to the store with me."

6. My mother taught me FORESIGHT.
"Make sure you wear clean underwear, in case you're in an accident."

7. My mother taught me IRONY.
"Keep crying, and I'll give you something to cry about."

8. My mother taught me about the science of OSMOSIS .
"Shut your mouth and eat your supper."

9. My mother taught me about CONTORTIONISM.
"Will you look at that dirt on the back of your neck!"

10. My mother taught me about STAMINA .
"You'll sit there until all that spinach is gone."

11. My mother taught me about WEATHER.
"This room of yours looks as if a tornado went through it."

12. My mother taught me about HYPOCRISY.
"If I told you once, I've told you a million times. Don't exaggerate!"

13. My mother taught me the CIRCLE OF LIFE.
"I brought you into this world, and I can take you out.."

14. My mother taught me about BEHAVIOR MODIFICATION .
"Stop acting like your father!"

15. My mother taught me about ENVY.
"There are millions of less fortunate children in this world who don't have wonderful parents like you do."

16. My mother taught me about ANTICIPATION.
"Just wait until we get home."

17. My mother taught me about RECEIVING .
"You are going to get it when you get home!"

18. My mother taught me MEDICAL SCIENCE.
"If you don't stop crossing your eyes, they are going to get stuck that way."

19. My mother taught me ESP.
"Put your sweater on; don't you think I know when you are cold?"

20. My mother taught me HUMOR.
"When that lawn mower cuts off your toes, don't come running to me."

21. My mother taught me HOW TO BECOME AN ADULT .
"If you don't eat your vegetables, you'll never grow up."

22. My mother taught me GENETICS.
"You're just like your father."

23. My mother taught me about my ROOTS.
"Shut that door behind you. Do you think you were born in a barn?"

24. My mother taught me WISDOM.
"When you get to be my age, you'll understand."

25. My mother taught me about JUSTICE .
"One day you'll have kids, and I hope they turn out just like you !"

K said...

Wow Dad! You learned a lot of useful things from Grandma. Does she know you shared all her wisdom with the world? (o:
Good post Lara!

Annette said...

Spoken from one with experience (perhaps learned the hard way?).

Gee, you are on a roll lately with all these great posts!! smile