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The Pressure of the Holidays

This time of year is filled with joy and excitement for the holidays. There is so much pressure on parents to give their kids a “good holiday” with lots of presents, big family meals and seven foot tall trees trimmed to perfection. The magic of the holidays seems to come at a high price between stress and money. I wonder how much of the pressure we put on ourselves is even worth it.

Remembering Sandy Hook

No matter what I do lately I feel haunted by the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School. We’re coming up on the fourth anniversary on December 14th. I think of those small children who were looking forward to the holidays too. I wonder how many of them sat on Santa’s lap, played in the snow in oversized coats and snow pants, decorated trees or were crossing the days off on their calendars.

Ties That Bind

It wasn’t the first shooting I had ever seen unfold on live television. That would be the shooting at Columbine High School. That happened my freshman year of college and it was horrific, but something about this one at Sandy Hook has scarred my heart. Those kids were just babies. The difference was that by the time this tragedy occurred I was a parent myself. I could feel the universal love we all have for our kids. It’s perhaps the strongest tie that binds us together.

Tragedy can be found anywhere, on any day. I have to turn off the news so my empathetic heart doesn’t break all the time. But I owe those parents who lost children in the shooting at Sandy Hook a huge debt of gratitude. I owe it to them to remember that their children changed the way I appreciate my own.

Honoring the Children Lost

Those twenty little faces remind me to forgive just a little bit quicker when my kids are misbehaving. They remind me to hold a little tighter and not to get annoyed at the “one more kiss” goodnight, which is always more like six or seven. I might be tired and just want to finish my nightly routine so I can go to bed, but I remember that there are parents who would kill for one more kiss goodnight. So I open the door one more time when I hear my toddler’s sweet voice calling for “kisses, more kisses.”

The Magic of One More Kiss Goodnight

We get so wrapped up in holiday magic and giving our kids more than we had. We sometimes forget that our kids supply the magic. Every time they look at you like you are their sun and moon, they remind us that we already are everything they need and we already give them everything they could want.

So this holiday season forgive yourself if you fall short of holiday perfection. If you don’t pose an elf on a shelf (I know I sure as heck don’t), if you burn the Christmas cookies, if you can’t afford a dozen presents per child; it’s all okay. One day, if we’re really lucky they will remember us, our faces, around a tree or a table. What presents they opened or meals they ate, will have long been forgotten. Those are the details that blur on the edge of memory.

The best gift we can give them is just the best of us. A little more patience than we typically have, a smile big as life just because it’s been a couple of hours since we saw them last, and of course one more kiss goodnight.

Erin Johnson a.k.a. The No Drama Mama is the author of “So, You’re Broke? 18 Drama-Free Steps To A Richer Life.” She can be found writing for The No Drama Mama and Hudson Valley Parent when she’s not busy caring for her three adorable kiddos. Her work can also be found on The Huffington Post, Money Saving Mom, Mamapedia and Worshipful Living.

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This week we’re finishing up a fairly large home renovation and believe me when I say I’ll be so relieved when it’s over. Having major work done can be stressful enough, but throw three cooped up kids into the mix and I’m really testing the limits of my patience. Here are some tips to survive the renovation process with kids at home.

1. Stay Away From Home As Much As Possible – If I could have afforded to take the kids away on a mini-vacation and return when our home was all finished, I totally would have. It’s not just keeping the kids out of areas of the home that are being worked on that’s hard, it’s keeping them happy in the now limited space they’re allowed to be in. We put in hardwood flooring on our whole main level which includes the kitchen, dining and living space which is a large open concept floor plan.

When we remodeled our basement into our master bedroom a few years ago, it was MUCH easier on the family because we hardly ever used our basement anyway. With the majority of our living space restricted this time around, it’s been a lot harder. For the most part we’ve hunkered down in our master bedroom with all the kids until bedtime when we take them up to their rooms.

The thing that’s saved my sanity and theirs the most was getting out of the house. I was so grateful the older kids had school most of the week except for Friday. Thankfully, my neighbor was home on Friday and we spent the day hanging out there.

My advice for making the process as stress-free as possible is to get out of the house as much as you can. If you have the money, go on a little vacation, maybe stay with some friends or family or just take some short local trips to places you’ve been meaning to check out.

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Our carpeted stairs got a makeover.

2. Keep Favorite Toys Accessible – The world would end if I didn’t have access to my two-year-old’s favorite doll Lisa. She literally MUST go everywhere with my child. Whatever your children’s must-have toys are, keep them accessible for them and you’ll both be a lot happier. My bedroom which had been a toy-free haven, has been covered in kids’ toys this week, but it’s a sanity saving must during a home renovation.

3. Back To Baby Gates – If you can’t keep your kids out of the house for the entire renovation, safety is a big concern. Even though we had stopped using baby gates a while ago, we borrowed a gate from a neighbor to put at the top of the stairs. This way the kids wouldn’t just come down on their own into the heart of the construction zone.

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Living room before.

 

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Living room after.

We used the baby monitor to tell when they got up in the morning and went and brought them safely downstairs. We also went and bought the kids slippers so that they wouldn’t hurt their toes on the subfloor before the new flooring went down. Whatever you can do to ensure they don’t accidentally get hurt on construction debris will not only keep them safe, it will help your stress levels tremendously.

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Dinning room getting a new sliding glass door.

4. Prepare For More – Whenever you do a home renovation project you can count on two things. It’s going to cost more money and take more time than you originally planned. The best thing you can do for yourself and your kids is not give them a definitive date when the renovation will be over. Kids have a hard time waiting as it is and even harder time coping when things don’t go according to plan. Giving them a time frame of when your home and family routine will be back to normal is a better bet.

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Kitchen before new flooring and cabinets getting new paint. Cabinets will also be getting new pulls.

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Kitchen after.

Though it’s usually well worth it in the end, home renovation can be a stressful event for adults and kids alike. Making light of a stressful time can make it a lot easier. When we had to eat in our bedroom instead of the dining room, we had a picnic on a tarp. The kids thought it was fun and not worrying about the kids dropping food on the new carpet we put in a year ago made me a less stressed out mommy. Playing games or watching movies as a family can help ease tensions from being cramped up in smaller spaces. Happy renovating!

Erin Johnson a.k.a. The No Drama Mama is the author of “So, You’re Broke? 18 Drama-Free Steps To A Richer Life.” She can be found writing for The No Drama Mama and Hudson Valley Parent when she’s not busy caring for her three adorable kiddos. Her work can also be found on The Huffington Post, Money Saving Mom, Mamapedia and Worshipful Living.

 

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Before you have kids, you might not even be aware of the concept of having work-life balance. You probably work your typical 40 hours a week and save your sleeping in, errands, housework and fun for the weekend. This is all you know. After you have kids you are introduced to this concept of work-life balance.

Whenever I think of this concept I picture a scale where the object on one side weighs the same as the object on the other side and the scales are even. Balance after all is what you’re after, but balancing work and life (including all the things required to take care of those little people that depend on you) never looks like that. I think that’s why so many parents find themselves frazzled and stressed out.

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I’m sure, like me, you know the feeling of there never being enough time in the day and the feeling doesn’t go away no matter your work status. I’ve worked full-time with my kids running a daycare, part-time, been strictly a SAHM, and a WAHM. Every single situation requires lots of juggling.

When I worked part-time there were days I sat proofing copy on the computer while my baby nursed. Luckily I had a very understanding company at the time. There were days I ran a daycare that I still felt that my own children didn’t get the best I had to offer them. I felt like the kids whose parents paid me to watch them got more of my time and attention. It didn’t help that we had three infants in our care and my kids were four and two and didn’t require non-stop feedings and diaper changes.

As is typical for most SAHMs, forgoing paid employment doesn’t mean you don’t work. I did a lot of volunteering through my church in addition to carrying the primary responsibility for the household chores and childcare.

Right now working from home means praying for a long uninterrupted nap from my toddler and is dependent upon my other kids being at camp or school. It means fitting my work into whatever time squeezes around and through the daily webbing of my life. It also means folding laundry, running the dishwasher or vacuuming the house are also fighting for that same uninterrupted time, which is never long enough.

There are no perfect situations, only the situation that suits you best in each season of your life. There is no equal balance between work and family time. The scale is always tipping to one side or the other and the most important thing to remember is that you can’t look at any single day to see how your life really measures up on the scale. You have to look at much larger chunks of time – months or years to see the scale average out.

Maybe you’re going through a season where you’re trying to start a business, work towards a promotion, or seeking a new job and the scale seems to be perpetually tipped in that direction. Maybe you’re a SAHM, but you want to return to the workforce in the future and your scale is always tipped toward family to the point where you wonder if they could survive without your full attention.

When you look at your life one day at a time, the scale will never show a balance. Someone or something will demand more of your attention and that’s okay. Because the truth is that work-life balance (as in both work and family get equal attention at all times) doesn’t exist.

So instead of looking for balance, ask yourself the most powerful question that I ever asked myself – “What’s it going to take to make me happy right now?” I’ve asked myself this question right after my first child was born, after I found out my company was going through a merger, when my daycare business was failing and when I was a full-time SAHM in search of some way to earn additional income. The answer was different each time.

The answer may not always be easy or feasible right away. Maybe that looks like part-time work, full-time work from home, or staying home. Finding “balance” is just a way of saying you feel happy with the priorities in your life at this moment in time.

The scale is always tipping, sometimes multiple times a day and it can leave you feeling frustrated, angry or sad. But the scale is not how we should measure our lives. We may not always have the time to do everything we want to do. But as long as you’re actively doing your best to provide for your kids in whatever capacity that looks like for you, then it doesn’t matter what the scale says.

Erin Johnson a.k.a. The No Drama Mama is the author of “So, You’re Broke? 18 Drama-Free Steps To A Richer Life.” She can be found writing for The No Drama Mama and Hudson Valley Parent when she’s not busy caring for her three adorable kiddos. Her work can also be found on The Huffington Post, Money Saving Mom, Mamapedia and Worshipful Living.

 

Have you ever been multi-tasking so much you completely forget what you’re doing? That was my day yesterday. When you work from home, you’re constantly juggling work and family responsibilities. It’s enough to make your head spin. You start just wishing for bedtime so you can just get a little more work done while the kids are sleeping.

With so many balls being juggled in the air at once, something is bound to drop. I felt like a frazzled mama. Even though I didn’t get everything done between work and the kids, here are 5 simple things I do to keep from missing the little moments with them when I’m struggling just to get through the day:

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I was so busy that Sydney was able to successfully get way more Hershey’s kisses than normal.

 1.Single Song Dance Party – My absolute favorite part of working from home is getting to be silly and crazy with my kids when I need a break from my work. I put on my favorite happy music and dance with my toddler around the living room. It helps relieve the stress because seriously who can resist the giggles of a twirling happy toddler?

It puts work in perspective, even if it’s only for one song. So I encourage you when you’re just living to get to bedtime, take three minutes and just have fun with your kids.

2. More Kisses Please – My toddler used my stress to her advantage by repeatedly begging for Hershey’s kisses. With that sweet face and a lot of work on my plate I can honestly say she ate more than she should have, but it’s ok. Sometimes you have to use whatever you can to get just a few minutes of time to finish a chore or something on the computer. Just make sure you follow up with a barrage of real smooches on those sweet little faces and your stress will melt away (even if it’s only temporary).

3. Take a Real Break for Meals – I pride myself on eating lunch and dinner with the kids, even if my husband is working late. But in the middle of my crazy work haze yesterday, I’ll admit that I wasn’t fully present with the laptop open next to me. I know in the future I need to put it away during meal times. Not only do you feel better when you’re not mindlessly shoving food in your mouth, but you feel more connected to your family.

4. Forgive Yourself – I felt my frustration building every time my toddler threw her food on the floor or started pulling on me for my attention. Then, of course, I felt guilty for not paying as much attention to her as I should have. Normally I try really hard to only work during her nap times, but I had a lot of things I wanted to get done.

One day she’ll go off to school and I’ll miss all these little moments with her. Then again, she’s not quite two, so I think I can forgive myself for one day of not giving her my full attention.

If you find yourself just going through the motions with your kids, while praying for bedtime, it happens sometimes. The key is just to make sure it doesn’t become a habit. Parenting is a marathon and we can’t sprint through their childhoods. Trust me, work will always be there waiting for you.

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This is the memory I want to keep from my very busy day- Sydney’s sweet smile.

5. Take a Picture – Take a second to snap a few pictures of your kids. Years from now, you probably won’t remember what you were working so hard on, but you’ll be able to look at their sweet little faces and remind yourself of why you work so hard. Photos have an almost magical power to remind you of all the things that really matter in your life, while blurring out the things that don’t.

Life is always going to get busy. There will always be days that you’re just praying for bedtime, whether it’s so you can get some work done while the kids are asleep or so you can break out your secret snacks and catch up your favorite show on Netflix. The key is to find a few moments to just be fully present with your kids, even if it’s just at the dinner table or snuggling during your bedtime routine.

How do you cope with days you’re crazy busy?

Erin Johnson a.k.a. The No Drama Mama can be found writing on her blog The No Drama Mama and Hudson Valley Parent when she’s not wiping poop or snot off her three adorable kiddos. This “tell it like it is” mama has NO time for drama, so forget your perfect parenting techniques and follow her on Facebook or Twitter for her delightfully imperfect parenting wins and fails. Her work can also be found on The Huffington Post, Money Saving Mom, Mamapedia and Worshipful Living.

Whack A Mole

I’m having one of those “MOMMY” days, you know just like EVERY other day of my life. I’m just scarfing down a cereal bar at 10:30 in the morning after getting up, taking care of the kids, bathing the baby after a colossal poop, and praying for an end to spring break so that I don’t have to referee fights between my older kids anymore. Today is just another day I will take care of everyone else’s needs while I play wack a mole with my own. I will breastfeed the baby while my belly growls and pitifully pray for 20 minutes to shower because I’m starting to smell as I dutifully make sure everyone else is showered.

“Me Time?”

I’m not going to be one of those people who tells you that housework or childcare is super hard and I just need some “Me time.” The reason being is that those are not the things that make motherhood hard. What makes motherhood hard is putting your needs last every single day. It’s telling yourself “no” and others “yes,” all the while knowing that no one will say thank you. Yes, motherhood is the ultimate thankless job sometimes. As for “Me time,” what is that?

This is for all the Mommies who are silently screaming in their heads, “there is No “Me” in Mommy.” This is for the Moms with the Mom hat super glued on 24/7. Those of us for whom “Me time” means running to the grocery store alone. Those who longingly look at their spouse’s car and wonder what it would be like just to get in the car by yourself.

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Image found via www.familycircus.com

No Time For Puking

A few weeks ago, I had the stomach bug and even though I was able to get a mom friend to pick up my older kids from school and watch them till my husband got off work, I still had a baby to take care of. There is no sick time or paid time off in this gig. Promotions for the Stay At Home Mom means having another child for which there is one more person demanding your time and attention. It’s not like I don’t love my kids. I love them more than I’m willing to fully let myself feel because I know if I do I will walk around terrified every second of every day that something bad will happen to them. But this Mommy gig is emotionally hard.

It Takes A Mom To REALLY Know A Mom

I remember once when I was in my early twenties and working my first “real” job after college. I was planning an event and was so overloaded with work and stress I called my mom sobbing. I needed her, even though I was a grown woman, to listen and tell me I would be ok and that it would all work out. Awhile later, she told me that it was her birthday that day I called and I didn’t remember. I wish I could turn back time and thank her. I wish I could thank her for all the times she pushed her needs and wants way down deep and took care of me and that it wasn’t in vain. I wish I could thank her for all the times she watched my kids so I could run errands or the times she stayed over and took the night shift for me, while my daughter was a newborn so that I could actually sleep and feel like a person for a few days.

In Case You Don’t Hear It Enough

Some days I wonder if all those skipped meals and sleepless nights will ever be recognized. Oh sure there is “Mother’s Day,” but seriously there is no real break from motherhood on that day either. Maybe one day after I’m gone, my kids will reminisce about the things I did for them the way I do now that my mom is gone. Until then, I will continue to play whack a mole with my needs because right now there just is no room for “Me” in Mommy. Just in case nobody tells you today – “You are doing a good job. Thank You for your sacrifices!”

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