Full disclosure: I have rewritten this post several times. I initially aimed to list practical ways to survive difficult parenting days. You know the ones, when you’re waving the white flag at 7:09 AM or escaping to the garage in tears to eat the rest of the chocolate; when your children decide to surprise you by painting your favorite shoes or your son proudly announces the toilet is clogged (again). When you just need to not be needed another second and you just want a moment of silence.
In Loving the Little Years, author Rachel Jankovich talks about her twenty-minute rule. No matter what is happening, she looks at the clock and tells herself that in twenty minutes, this particular challenge will be over. You might be embarking on a new challenge, but this particular challenge will be over.
I’ve found this to be true. The internet is abuzz with tips and tricks for toddler distraction. But, at the end of the day, we all just really want to be present. Every mom I know loves her children deeply. Every mom I know doesn’t want to be the type that’s counting down the hours or minutes until bedtime.
But feeling gobs of guilt over difficult days inevitably perpetuates more difficult days. The days when we set such high expectations of ourselves to redeem difficult days of parenting past simply lead to yet another difficult day, another day of nonstop Daniel Tiger with promises to ourselves that tomorrow will be better; tomorrow we will be better.
Might I suggest that a bulk of our difficult days are self-made? In my case, this is true.
The hustle is real in 2017. Momming ain’t easy. We are to provide sensory activities, crafts, reading aloud, organic meals, independent play, routine, rest, social interaction, and on and on. I haven’t even touched all of the things we are supposed to avoid. The stress to get it right can be overwhelming. Then we need wholesome family meals to ensure our children will stay off the (gasp) streets and make it into Harvard.
It’s, more often than not, those days that I am fully set on “nailing it,” that everything goes to pot. I am going to spend quality time with each child! I will not get on my phone at all! We will bake muffins together and make thank you cards for birthday presents! The higher the expectation, the further we seem to fall.
So, maybe I can’t help you claw out of the pit that is a difficult parenting day. But maybe, just maybe, we can prevent a few difficult days by lowering the expectations of ourselves. Let’s do a few less activities and not beat ourselves up for scrolling through Instagram while our children play in the sandbox. The days are long but the years are short. Let’s relax.
Kara Garis is a cloth diapering, baby wearing, semi-crunchy mama to two active boys and a baby girl. She lives with her husband in Oklahoma and loves running, cooking, traveling, reading and teaching herself how to braid. She blogs at karagaris.com.