I NEED alone time. What I mean is if I don’t have some alone/downtime, I start to lose it a little. My kids are four and one. We went through this phase where one of them was awake at almost all times (except for a few hours at night). I was never alone. Even if I did seem to get them both down at the same time, there was the husband. Don’t get me wrong, I love my husband, but it just seemed that at every second of the day someone needed me and I didn’t have time to recharge.
Along with no alone time, I also seemed to have no time to do my normal “mom duties” like clean, do laundry, and cook. I felt like everything was crumbling. I was going crazy, and I felt like the enormous piles of dishes and laundry (that never seemed to go away) were going to suffocate me.
Then to add to my feeling like a failure, it seemed I had no time for God. In college, I would wake up two hours before class and spend time praying, journaling, and doing a Beth Moore study. (Who was that person??) But I somehow made it a priority to fit that in amidst class and work. In fact, in college I was always a full time student and at one point had three jobs. Surely if I could handle that, I should be handling this mom thing, right??
After about a year of struggling and finding anger boil up in me towards God when my kids woke up early from naps or at night, I decided that I could keep living like this or I could try to make changes. These are a few practical things I did to try to keep from going insane:
1. Understand it was a heart problem. I was letting discontentment have complete dominion in my heart. It took me a long time to realize this. When I think of contentment, I tend to think of how it relates to material things – “Am I content with my car, the size of my house, my clothes, etc.?” But it’s so much more than that. In fact when Paul spoke of contentment, he says, “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.” (Philippians 4:11, emphasis mine). I realized I had to accept that these were my circumstances right now. I have two very young children who need me, and with whom I chose to say home. It won’t always be like this. One day I will use the restroom alone. But that day is not today. One day I may be able to have that two hour quiet time with candles burning while I sip a homemade latte. But today it’s ok if my quiet time is reading the children’s Bible with my kids in the morning and praying at breakfast. In fact, I realized maybe that’s better? Doing a quiet time by myself (while necessary for my soul sometimes) isn’t modeling for them what it looks like. If I invite them in to my time with the Lord, that is teaching them more than my words ever could. Instead of complaining and being bitter about my lack of “me time,” I am praying to be content with whatever time God gives me. After all, He doesn’t owe me anything. If I have 15 minutes to stare at a wall, and that’s all I have that day – praise Him. He didn’t have to give me that. It’s a constant battle with my heart to not demand He provide more and to trust that the time He does give me is enough.
2. Wake up before my kids. There are two groups of people reading that statement. The first group read it and said, “Duh!” The second group (where I used to fall) wants to stone me. I love sleep. In fact I’ve written several posts about that. My view was that if God, in His goodness decided to part the skies with angels singing and make my kids sleep longer, I would be ungrateful to not take advantage and sleep longer myself. But after hearing from many moms how this helped them so much, I decided it was a sacrifice I needed to make if I wanted to see changes. I started out slow, waking up just 30 minutes earlier. I told myself, “Really how much less tired is 30 minutes going to make me?” I have to admit, now that I’ve been doing it, I’m hooked. It is literally the only time during the day when no one else is around. I take that time to pray, work on my Bible study, and if I finish those and by some miracle my kids sleep past 7, I get to watch the Today Show ALONE while drinking coffee. It’s pure heaven. That alone time has made a huge difference for me.
3. Prepare meals ahead of time. This one is still a work in progress, but what I did was get a crockpot meal cookbook that had a grocery list pre-made for seven meals. Usually I waste so much time going through recipes, making sure there’s no weird ingredients that I don’t know where to find, etc. But I took a different approach to this one – “cookin’ without lookin’.” I bought every single thing on the list and decided I was going to cook every single meal – weird ingredients or not. I prepped them when my mom was here one weekend and put them all in the freezer. My family wasn’t going to starve!! (ALL the praise hands!) The drawback was the meals were pretty bland and not my favorite. But they were healthy. And they were food. Even if it’s not a crockpot meal, I’ve had to make myself do the prep ahead of time – either the night before or during the kids’ nap time. I’ve also had to tell myself it’s ok to cut corners. Yes, I know it costs more money to buy the prepackaged salad, or the frozen pre-cut onions, but my sanity has a value too. And sometimes it’s just worth it.
4. Utilize the Samodoro method. That’s right – I made up my own method and named it after myself. This is very loosely based on the Pomodoro Technique. The entire technique wasn’t going to work for me. If I had several chunks of 25 minutes to work with each day, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. I figured I could swing ONE 25 minute chunk that did not include my morning alone time. I decided this chunk would be right when I put my kids down for nap and would be dedicated completely to cleaning/household chores. I realized what was happening to me with house tasks was that it was constantly so overwhelming and to get it all done, I knew it would require 5 hours. So when I knew I was only going to have about one hour when the kids were napping, I sort of gave up and did some sort of escapism activity like waste 30 minutes on social media. So when the kids went down, I went to the kitchen and told myself I didn’t have to get it all done, I just had to give it my all for 25 minutes (or sometimes just 15 minutes). Giving myself the freedom to not have to completely finish, made me feel a lot better. I would set the kitchen timer, turn my phone on silent, and attack it. The funny thing was – with no distractions, a lot of times I was able to get it completely cleaned. If things were still out of control, I would do the same thing when I put the kids down at night. Again, giving myself the freedom to not have to finish it, but just work at it for a certain amount of time helped me not get so discouraged and feel like I had to give up my entire “night chill time.”
5. Clean with Kids. Again this is another one I think there are two groups of people reading – one that says “duh” and one that says “no way.” I was in the no way group. It seemed whenever I tried to clean with the kids, another equal or greater mess would be made in another part of the house, so there was no point. I also felt bad cleaning when they were around. It was this mom guilt that said, “Why are you wasting precious seconds with these two angels who will grow up so fast with cleaning when you could be cuddling them and squeezing their cheeks??” But it is important for them to learn they need to contribute to the house, and what I’ve found is they actually like it! The key to not making things worse is to do the task with them. Leaving them to do the task will almost always result in a mess. Yes doing it with them will take longer and it may not be done as perfectly as you would like but in the words of Elsa- “Let it go.”
I feel like I should add a disclaimer: I have not perfected this. There are days when the kids are up at night and I turn my alarm off. Or everything wars against me in the morning – like my plan backfires and the kids wake up earlier (how do they always KNOW you’re awake??) or I just can’t deal with dinner and we get pizza. And the messes sometimes pile up and my house is Hoarder worthy. But those things are slowly becoming the exception and not the norm.
I hope a few of these things will help someone not go insane 🙂 And if you’d like to share your methods to keep your sanity, please share!