I never thought I would survive raising two under the age of two until I came across an article explaining the seasons of motherhood. In the trenches of double diaper changes, teething, weaning, and sleepless nights, I recognized this was just a season I needed to get through.
As our children grow, we moms continuously enter and exit phases of motherhood along with them. Infancy, toddlerhood, that weird stage between five and nine, preteen, the teenage years, etc. With every stage our children hit, moms enter a new season of motherhood to endure. Typically, without warning, we prepare our mommy superpowers to develop new skills to help our children grow, and sometimes, just to make it through the day.
Once I got over my trauma in the two under two phase I realized motherhood has many seasons. They are ever-changing, come without notice, linger for what feels like centuries, and take a toll on my mommy brain and body. To be prepared to navigate the continuous change, to be fully present for the good and the bad moments, I needed to invest in the proper artillery. Here are a few battle tactics that keep me on my toes to handle the mental and physical mommy load.
Eating for fuel.
It tastes good, but does it make you feel good? I am no stranger to a sugary treat. In fact, cookies became my reward for keeping the kids alive until nap time. Now I’m not a nutritionist but what I’ve learned from listening to my body wrangling the attitudes of growing humans is that it takes more fuel than the quick satisfaction of a sugary treat. Nine times out of ten, my afternoon fatigue sets in early and it’s hard to get my second wind before dinner if I reach for the cookies.
Start with a solid breakfast. Incorporate leafy greens and complex carbs in your snacks and lunches. “Who has time for breakfast?” you ask. I know it seems like an extra, unnecessary step in the morning, but it’s definitely an undefeated tactic. By not eating, you are more vulnerable to being hangry. Being hangry while managing tantrums, pick-ups, and drop-offs is fun for no one.
When I focus on healthy eating, my day goes smoother. It’s as simple as that. The getting dressed tantrums and running late for drop-off vibes don’t penetrate my armor as deeply. So, listen to your body: how do you feel after you eat? Eat for fuel to get the energy you need to manage the seasons of motherhood. Eat your breakfast, snack on fruits and vegetables, and cut out late night snacking before bed–remember, you’re prioritizing sleep now. Ice cream before bed keeps your body awake for digestion and the sugar will make it harder to fall asleep.
You don’t have to wake up at 5:00 a.m. to go to the gym. But you do need to move your body to stay sane in the seasons of motherhood. As moms, we need all the endorphins we can get.
Organizing a bit of physical movement in your day will boost your happiness, I promise. Instead of driving to a playdate, schedule something you can walk to. Instead of sitting in the bleachers, walk the perimeter of the field or court while you watch. After sitting at your desk, walk to the farthest restroom in the building or even use the stairs.
We are all busy, all the time, but the more physical movement you give yourself, the more serotonin you’ll have pumping through your body–improving everything from your mood, to your sleep, and even your digestion.
Like anything, it’s going to take some getting used to. I didn’t think my boys would ever make it more than two blocks in our double stroller before fighting to get out. With persistence and a few kid-friendly bribes, morning walks became a valuable routine that gave me the energy to stay on my toes to battle the mental and physical mommy load.
Having patience, grace, + faith.
You aren’t going to get it right every time, show yourself a little bit of patience when adjusting to the seasons of motherhood. We practice patience with our children; it’s a right of passage in parenting, but we hardly ever use that same patience on ourselves. If you want to get through the seasons, be patient with YOU first.
Sprinkle in a little grace from time to time too. The family down the street may look like they have it all together. Your children’s peers may be hitting milestones quicker, or jumping into adulthood more gracefully, but it doesn’t make you any less of a mother. Acknowledging you might be transitioning through seasons, or ending the sweetest season you’ve had as a mother, requires grace.
And stay invested in having faith in yourself. Be assured, even when you feel like you’re failing: you are winning. You’ve won another set of good morning kisses, another chance to teach your children a lesson, another second to reflect. Having faith in yourself will give you the confidence you need to be challenged by any other season of motherhood.
This may seem impossible with a newborn or a newly potty-trained toddler. It may even sound improbable as a worrying mother of a preteen or future graduate. But the message isn’t to get good sleep–it is to simply start prioritizing it while moving through seasons of motherhood. Prioritizing your sleep could be anything from not falling asleep with kids in the same bed, setting a bedtime for yourself, cutting out naps to get the kids sleeping through the night, or not falling asleep on your phone in bed.
It’s too often we allow ourselves to “Netflix and chill” as self-care. Yes, it feels good, but the gratification is short-lived. Besides, that extra episode isn’t going to give you the energy you need to battle teething and tweening. And the coffee addiction? It’s cute, but it is not serving your body any good. If we value a good night’s rest, we, as persistent and resilient moms, can make it happen. It may take a few days for your body (and your responsibilities) to adjust, but don’t give up.
My tenacity completely changed when I gave up putting my kids to bed. As a stay-at-home mom I handle everything from wake up to dinner by myself. I enlisted my husband to take over putting the kids to sleep without my help. This has given me time to wind down and get to bed at a reasonable hour; fully rested with clarity and energy to conquer all the mommying through the changing seasons.
Planning to see my friends, or to take myself shopping–even if it’s to the grocery store alone–is regularly scheduled into the family’s monthly calendar of activities. It’s not an option. My sanity depends on it like my youngest depended on his pacifier to survive. Without it, there will be no peace.
In order to deal with any season of motherhood you have to mother the mother. When you have something kid-free to look forward to, the chaos of the changing seasons loses its power. Put yourself on the calendar and take a break from your family. Take the time to miss your children and to have them miss you. Love does grow fonder in absence and so will your strength to defeat the overflowing load of mommying.
You don’t even have to leave the house. One of my favorite ways to take a break is to kick everyone out of our home for an afternoon so I can enjoy my space in peace and quiet.
And finally . . .
Mommying is hard and wonderful, and challenging, and glorious all in the same breath. You are going to make mistakes, you are going to feel stuck in a season. You are going to mourn a season’s end or cheer when it’s over. And the change of it all will bring you to your wits end. Have patience, have grace, and have a little faith in yourself.
I once worried if my picky eaters would ever just eat the food I made them. Now I worry how I will ever be able to keep up feeding two growing boys. Just remember, it’s only a season–if you can do this, you can do anything. Stay prepared, prioritize your sleep and your body’s needs, and know we’ve all been there, trading one season for the next. You’ve got this!