For the Overwhelmed Mom of Little Kids: 8 Things I Wish I’d Known

for the overwhelmed mom

I’m not going to tell you to enjoy the little years because they pass so quickly. This is true. But it will not help you today when your toddler wails during lunchtime because you made the wrong shaped pasta. {My sister-in-law has three young boys and her Facebook page keeps me apprised of the latest trends in toddler rebellion.}

I will not tell you to seize the day and cherish all the things. Because you just can’t right now. You are living with tiny tyrants and they make daily life both hilarious and impossible. They wake up at night when the rest of the sane world is sleeping. They refuse to take naps when rest is exactly what they need. They think 4 am is a reasonable start time. They embarrass you in Target. Their volume control is very much in development. They shove peanuts up their nose because they have no sense.

We’ve been watching home movies lately from my big kids’ little years. This has wrecked me emotionally as I am terribly sentimental / wish I could go back in time and do it ALL differently. I can’t. But if I could, these are the pearls of wisdom I would go back and tell myself.

 

1. Your children are at the climax of cuteness right now.

Kiss them constantly and take videos that you won’t have to delete from your phone because the storage is full. Drag out the 2001 Sony Handy Cam and capture 20 glorious minutes of his third birthday. One day they will lose their chubby cheeks and baby teeth and silken toddler hair spun by angels. Their munchkin voice will not always be so munchkin-like.

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Even these big kids of mine are grieving the loss of their own little years. “I loved being that age! I want to go back!”

Since watching the movies, my 6th-grade son keeps telling us he wishes we weren’t too old to have another kid, a statement that feels both precious and insulting.

My teenage daughter is all, “Mom! We were the cutest kids ever! We should have been models!” And I’m all, “You WERE the cutest kids ever! Why was I always frustrated? How could any mom be stressed when her kids are that adorable?”

Their right-now toddler cuteness is not just protection that keeps loving but exasperated parents from committing violent crimes; it will be a later-on reminder {when you’re watching home movies / weeping} that parenting is a privilege, that is goes by too dang fast, and that you really are #blessed.

The flashbacks to the cuteness of their little years has helped me see them differently this week, adolescent awkwardness and all. I’m reminded that even though they can take their own showers and fix their own food {glory!}, they are still needy and vulnerable. My job is far from done. One day I’ll look back on right now with the same thoughts — they are young and precious; simply try to enjoy them, glorious mess and all.

 

2. Laugh.

Babies and little kids are professional comedians. Their antics and ridiculous are effortless. Take every opportunity to see the humor in it all. If we can’t laugh, we’re missing out on comedy day every day. If your toddler is so not making you laugh right now, remind yourself that little kids are pretty much like tiny drunk adults. Or read the Honest Toddler whose Twitter feed should be required reading for any stressed-out parent of a little kid.

 

3. Their weird attachment won’t last forever.

My oldest son went through a phase where he slept with a desk chair in his bunk bed. A DESK CHAIR. There is no rational explanation. For some reason, I chose to fight this battle until I realized that the chair wasn’t a real problem; it was simply a strange thing to want in one’s bed.

Ask yourself these three questions: Is it hurting anyone? Is it a threat to someone’s sanity? Is it immoral?

If the answer is “no,” you’re probably okay.

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My youngest took a bottle with him to bed for much too long. I finally got worried and cut a larger hole in the tip so that milk would drip onto his face. Naturally, it worked. Not that I’m recommending my crazy ways. Just keep things in perspective. I have yet to see a college student who leaves home and still needs a pacifier or demands to be rocked to sleep each night. {It’s a weird world though. I’m sure it’s happened.}

 

4. They’re learning to become independent.

This is the goal of parenting, right? Like baby chicks in the nest, we feed them and protect them and nurture them. But we also teach them how to fly and navigate this big world on their own.

Let’s be honest. Learning to fly is a disaster for everyone involved. If you don’t believe me, google some nature videos on baby birds learning to fly. It’s a flurry of feathers and squawking and panic and death-defying swoops.

But the babies will never learn to fly if the mamas don’t let them practice.

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I wish I’d stood back and let my little ones exercise more independence when it was appropriate. I fought far too many unnecessary battles, all in the name of “teaching them to obey.” {Which they have to learn but I don’t believe it’s the chief end of parenting.}

And can we talk about battles for a moment? The very word implies fighting, bloodshed, and exhaustion. If you spend all your time battling your three-year-old who wants to wear a ridiculous outfit and fix her own hair, you’ll have nothing left when that same three-year-old bites her baby brother or throws her cup of milk in your face.

Save your energy for the battles that matter. She will not always wear 517 barrettes in her hair, nor will she always vehemently refuse your help. Let her practice doing things in her own way. One day, her courage and resilience will astound you.

And you may be surprised when things come full circle. That spirited three-year-old will quickly turn fifteen and have her first high school dance. You just might be the one she asks for help with her hair. {Minus the 517 barrettes.}

 

5. Let PLAY reign supreme.

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This may be the only thing I feel like I did “right” and do you know why? Because I was tired. I couldn’t be the voice of Tika the baby elephant and carry on exhausting conversations with Barbie Island Princess.

“Mom, will you help me build a Lego zoo?”

“No thanks, I have an important nap to take. Get your sister to help you or read the instructions.”

“Oh, you can’t read yet? Okay, just pretend you can.”

My kids learned early that their mom was a lazy mom when it came to play. This meant toys everywhere and lots of art supplies to clean up. But it also meant free-range kids who loved to play outside and build a city where Polly Pockets and plastic animals could live in harmony. In God’s ironic and gracious providence, my slacker mom status resulted in kids who had vivid imaginations and enjoyed copious amounts of playtime. It’s the one thing I wouldn’t do any differently and it was sort of accidental. Being a tired introverted mom has its perks.

 

6. Don’t over-schedule the little years.

I see parents of young kids shuttling preschool children to ballet and Chinese lessons and piano and soccer and I’m like, “Why?” One day they will be teenagers and you will spend so many hours each week in your minivan, the driver’s seat will have a permanent imprint of your behind. Your Toyota Sienna will feel like an RV because you live in it. Pace yourself, dear parent.

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7. Hang out with older moms.

It doesn’t mean you can’t hang out with your mom friends and their littles at the park. But here’s the thing. You are all in the same stage of parenting. No offense but you have zero perspective. An older mom who you love and respect will be balm to your striving soul. She will remind you of what matters and what doesn’t. She will tell you it’s going to be okay, and she will redefine what “okay” actually means.

I have several older moms in my life, women whose kids are grown or nearly grown. Their grace and perspective is priceless. Plus they’re crazy about my children and just seeing how much they love them reminds me of how lovable my kids really are. We all need to see our kids through the eyes of those who love them fiercely but aren’t their parents. {Grandparents can be awesome for this.}

 

8. You are more than your kids. You are more than your motherhood.

Even with all our supposed advancement as women, I feel like moms today are more obsessed than ever with being a “good mom.” We are drinking from the Fountain of Mommy Guilt like it’s free margarita night and have therefore lost our minds.

{This is the part where I put on my bossy pants.} Listen up Young Mom. You are more than your kids. You are more than how your kids turn out. You are more than how many times you volunteer at the school. You are more than your work / family balancing skills. You are more than your kids’ success and you are more than your kids’ failure.

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Motherhood is a full-time job and it has nothing to do with whether you work or stay at home, whether you homeschool or send your kids to school. In the words of Elizabeth Stone,

Making the decision to have a child — it is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body. 

These hearts of ours walking around outside our bodies? It means that a mother can’t ever truly rest. Not really. When is a mother ever not on call? When is she not worried about one thing or another regarding her kids?

In the midst of this full-time role as mother and this full-throttle culture of Professional Motherhood, don’t forget who you are. Don’t define yourself by false standards or others’ standards. Don’t lock up your former self for the next eighteen years.

I believe your kids need a mom who has endeavors that make her come alive, who knows that she was made to live art. Maybe you’ve stopped cooking the fancy meals you once whipped up with joy and passion. Perhaps you’ve put away the writing journals or the paint and canvases. Maybe you’ve stopped singing or given up on reading books that aren’t from the juvenile section of the library.

Maybe you should start again.

Just because motherhood is infinitely sacrificial doesn’t mean you die in every other aspect of your life. As you tend to the bodies and souls and talents of the ones in your care, don’t forget to tend to the body and soul and talents of the one who cares for them. A better you means a better mom.

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A fun announcement!

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Join me for the FREE Hope*Writers Summit!

My FAVORITE resource that encourages me in my writing is Hope*Writers. I’m so happy to tell you about the Hope*Writers Summit that you can receive for FREE, only from May 16th-19th!

Hope*Writers Summit is offering everyone access to twelve interviews. {And mine is one of them. #gulp}

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One of the things that makes me a better mom is giving myself permission to write. Though I’ve written in scattered journals since adolescence, I discovered blogging as my “escape hatch” when I was in the season of mothering / homeschooling my young kids. Though much has changed with school, work, home, and kids, writing has remained my faithful companion. I’m learning to create time to write even when it feels like I don’t have any to spare.

I talk with one of my favorite authors, Emily Freeman, about everything from unfinished books proposals to “stewarding your story,” something I’ve learned to do as I’ve written my way through messy chapters of my life. You’ll learn why I write on my blog and in a journal. You’ll also learn why my husband is my best editor, even though he’s not a writer.

Curious? CLICK HERE to learn more and to sign up! 

If writing is part of your life at all {or if it’s not but you maybe want it to be}, I highly recommend this online space.

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This post was featured on “Grace at Home” at Imparting Grace, a lovely online space hosted by Richella Parham.

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Comments

  1. says

    Oh, how I love this! And you are SO RIGHT. I hope every mom of littles will read this and take heed.

    Pinned to my parenting board (where another post of yours is prominently pinned!).

  2. Elyse P. says

    I’m a mom of a toddler with one on the way… This was a great read! I especially loved the part about playing. So often I feel guilty because my husband is wonderful at playing with our little boy, but not me. Nice to know I’m not alone:)

    • says

      My husband has always been better about that too, Elyse. I found that reading was my thing to do with the kids. Playing was exhausting but books were such a great way for us to snuggle up together and lose ourselves in a story. I think each mom has to find her thing. Even now, I have different ways I connect with each child, things that we both enjoy. With one, it’s a trip to Starbucks or shopping. With another it’s just time alone together, doing anything. And with yet another, it’s thrift stores and yard sales. Every child is different and every mom is too!

      So glad you stopped by. : )

    • Marian says

      It’s all consuming, which is why it’s so hard to find perspective. Thankfully you have those who are a bit further down the road to remind you of what matters and to love your kids fiercely. So grateful this was good for your heart. : )

  3. Tracy says

    Great article, Marian! As a mom of almost-grown kids, I heartily agree with your list! My favorites are #6 (and I have embraced this wisdom through their teen years) and #7. Surrounding myself with women at other stages in life is very balancing.
    Congrats on the Hope*Writers Summit!

    • Marian says

      Thanks Tracy! I’m so glad that a mom of almost-grown kids tells me I’m on the right track. Sometimes I write things like this and think, “Is what I’m writing actually true?”

  4. says

    Thank you for this. I have five children ages 7 and under, so I’m in the thick of the ‘little years’ and will be for a long time yet. Your words are encouraging, inspiring, healing, and freeing. Keep writing! And, I’m so excited for you to have this opportunity with Hope Writers! I joined last month and I agree, every time I read an article or listen to an interview it’s like getting an adrenaline shot and suddenly my fears and insecurities about writing subside.

    • Marian says

      5 kids under 7. Lauren, you deserve a looooong nap. : ) Thanks for your kind words. I write for young moms like you because it’s so hard to see clearly and find perspective during the little years. Grateful to be an encouragement. And yay! You’re a fellow Hope Writer!!! It IS an “adrenaline shot.” Love that analogy!

  5. says

    THANK YOU for these life-giving words. I am about to have 3 children, 3 and under, and most days it feels as though I’m barely keeping my head above water. I’m going to pin this article and read it often! And I can’t tell you how awesome it is to hear that there’s an upside to being a tired, introverted mama–my children will also be on the path towards vivid, creative imaginations ;-).

    • Marian says

      Tired, introvert moms UNITE! Thank you Meredith for stopping by and for those kind words. I wish I could personally deliver a cup of coffee and supervise your kids so you can take a nap. : )

  6. says

    Yes, this was wonderful! You are a great internet/voxer mother mentor to me! and writing/creative mentor!

    The desk chair in bed story mad me laugh. Oliver slept with his soccer ball last week! He is two right now, and everyday I just cannot get over the cuteness factor. And because sometimes I wonder if all my photo & video taking is indulgent, I really loved tip #! so much!!!!

    and I am finding this to be so true: ” In God’s ironic and gracious providence, my slacker mom status resulted in kids who had vivid imaginations and enjoyed copious amounts of playtime. It’s the one thing I wouldn’t do any differently and it was sort of accidental. Being a tired introverted mom has its perks.”

    Thanks for this post!

    • Marian says

      Thanks for your kind words, Melissa. It is always a treat to have you here!

      Two is truly a scrumptious age. All your documenting is not indulgent; you’ll be so glad down the road. : )

  7. says

    i’m a 40-yr-old mom of two toddlers and a decade gal 😉 i loved this so much…i would have written it myself—except i’m too tired (at the moment) to write something so brilliant. just kidding—your way with words and humor and truth were complete saturday morning balms for my mid-life-mommy soul! seriously. have i yet said thank you times a million? if not, thank you!

    • Marian says

      Brooke, thanks so much for those words. I’m grateful that anything I write is balm for another’s soul. May Saturday treat you well and provide an extra cup of coffee or two!

  8. says

    With a two year-old girl and another baby girl on the way, I find myself simultaneously excited, overjoyed, and also battening down the hatches. This post is great! (And so was your video in the hope*writers summit!!!)

    • Marian says

      Haylie, I love having young mamas in this space {because I’m not such a young mama anymore.} Thanks for stopping by and for your kind words. I hope you’re enjoying the Summit!

  9. says

    Stumbled upon this through a long and winding interwebs rabbit hole, but it’s *precisely* where I am. (My kids are 0, 2, 4, 6, which is a little misleading because a month ago, they were 0, 1, 4, and 5- basically I have two pairs of babies. But anyhow. That hardly matters.) Thanks for this. It’s dizzying. I’m tired. I’m having a heckuva time hanging out with parents of older kids or parents of any kids or really anyone but my kids themselves. But I’ll keep trying. <3 And I'll take some more video because their voices and pronunciation and ideas are all adorable and hilarious.

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