Conquering the Chaos & Raising a Healthy Family
When it comes to motherhood, there’s no playbook, no insider’s guide, and no shortcuts to raising happy, well-behaved kids. It’s just a day-by-day journey every momma takes, using her wits, trusting her gut, and relying on friends and family. In today’s busy, modern world, motherhood is an even bigger job than ever. Between school and all those extra-curricular activities, homework and meals, laundry and housework, it can get overwhelming. YVW has found a few mothers who are meeting the challenge and conquering the chaos, and they are happy to share their thoughts on the toughest job you’ll ever love.
Get organized. You’ll be glad you did when things fall apart.
For many busy families, life demands organization, and a family calendar keeps everyone moving in the right directions.
Brook Hadley and her husband Justin have five kids ranging in age from 18 to 7. They all play sports including volleyball, basketball, football, and soccer. She keeps a calendar – with the biggest squares she can find – on the refrigerator to track school events, sports practices, games, and appointments for everyone in the family, including hers and her husband’s. On most nights, she can be found mapping out a plan for the next day.
The calendar works well for the Hadleys, and her older kids have taken to using it as well. However, there are other ways to stay organized. Many mothers keep calendars on their smart phones, which can be set to send alerts for those easy-to-forget commitments. One way or another, it takes writing it down to stay organized.
While keeping a calendar and maintaining something of a schedule are important, experienced moms will tell you to be ready for anything.
“You’ve got to be spontaneous and flexible,” says Ceci Bentler, mother of five. “Something’s always getting cancelled or something comes up.”
Don’t sweat the small stuff (hint: it’s all small stuff)
Bentler’s children range in age from 13 to 5, and her husband Jim is an ER doctor at St. Vincent Healthcare, who works an unpredictable schedule of days, nights, weekends, and sometimes holidays. All the Bentler children are taking music lessons, they ski together as a family on weekends and the older kids are on a ski team. They’re also involved in soccer, cross country, volleyball and there’s homework almost every night and school-related functions to attend.
“My life looks crazy from every outward appearance, but Jim and I want our kids to have lots of experiences when they’re young,” Bentler says.
She admits there are times – maybe more than she’d like – that her house looks like it was hit by a tornado and that the family’s laundry gets the best of her, but her children’s needs always come first. She reminds herself that someday she’ll miss these crazy days.
Jennie Bixby is a nurse at St. Vincent Healthcare, and she and her husband Jim have three children, a 9-year-old, a 6-year-old and a 3-year-old. Like Bentler, she’s learned to look past the housework and piles of laundry and is enjoying all the fun of busy family life.
“There’s always going to be a mess to clean up, but they’re not going be always be this age and this stage,” Bixby says. “More than anything I want to enjoy the ages they are now, and let the little things go.”
That means she might not pull off the perfect birthday party with homemade cupcakes and designer invitations. She might order in pizza a little too often, and indulge her kids in “un-healthy” desserts. She might let bedtime slide a little more than she should. But for Bixby, it works, and that’s what matters most.
“Over the years I’ve realized that those are the small things, and when I focus on them, I’m not focusing on what’s really important,” Bixby says.
Everyone’s an expert, and so are you!
There’s no other job in the world that will open you up to more criticism than parenthood. It seems like experts on the subject are at every family function, every church gathering, and in every grocery store checkout line. So what’s a mother to do with so much well-intentioned, unsolicited advice?
Be ready for it, check what you’re doing to see if it might be worth changing, and be as gracious as possible when you say “thank you,” Bentler advises. The trick is to not let it throw you off course.
“Motherhood does come naturally to some women and for others it doesn’t, but even the people it comes naturally to are going to have those horrible moments of self doubt and worry,” she says.
Above all, trust yourself and remember there’s no single formula that works for every child in every family. Sure, you’ll make mistakes, but they will never be so horrible you can’t turn things around.
“Being a mother is hard. You are always wondering if you’re doing the right thing,” says Brooke Buchanan, a busy mother of a 5-year-old and an 8-year-old.
In time, she’s learned to put the opinions of others aside and focus on what works best for her family. She trusts her intuition and looks to close friends and family when she really needs advice. Every mother needs a few trusted confidants to share their concerns with and find support.
“Share your experiences, and share your weaknesses too,” says Bentler. “And don’t let a competitive environment get started.”
Even Super Mom can’t do it all
That circle of friends will come in handy for more than just solid advice. Even the most organized mother will need help from time to time. At first, it might not be easy asking for help, but in the end, you’ll be glad you did, and your kids will benefit from it.
“You have to let go of the thinking that you have to do everything and just ask for help,” Hadley says.
She often relies on friends and parents of her kids’ friends to get her children to practices, games and other activities. She tries to return the favor when she can.
Since Bixby’s schedule varies and includes nights, days, and weekends, she and her husband rely on her father-in-law for help. When she’s working, he comes over and gets the kids ready and off to school. He’s there when they need him after school as well.
“He’s sort of our nanny,” Bixby says.
They also occasionally rely on other parents to shuttle their kids to sports practices and activities. Not only is it convenient, it also gives their kids some insight into how other families work, Bixby says.
Take care of yourself – for your family
In the midst of appointments, practices, school activities, homework, and the dozens of other commitments that come up every day, it’s important for mothers to find time for themselves, but that isn’t always easy. For some mothers it might be connecting with friends over coffee, spending quiet time in reflection, or indulging in an occasional pedicure.
Hadley schedules her workouts so she doesn’t miss them and teaches a couple of hot yoga classes each week. She’s learned that if she doesn’t make that time for herself she gets run down and her attitude suffers.
“If I’m taking care of myself, it’s easier to take care of my family,” Hadley says.
Buchanan and her husband Todd try to squeeze in a date night together as often as they can, and have learned that a little time away helps them be better parents.
Whatever you do to relax and regain your focus, remember, it’s not just for you, it’s for your family too.