It has been quite some time since my last post. As you can imagine, I did not wait forever for my daughter. Kristiana Joy was born on May 22nd (11 joyful days of waiting) and she has been a wonderful gift from God!
I am blessed to be the mother 2 lovely children under 2–they are in fact Irish twins (less than a year apart). I have heard the phrase “You sure have your hands full” more than I can count. Often, my response is what catches people off guard. Rachel Jankovic said the best way to respond to the shock of lots of children or children close together is that of joy. Per her idea in the book Mom Enough (short, encouraging, manageable chapters–I highly recommend to all moms) I always say “Yes, but my hands are full of good things.”
So, how do I successfully function in society without collapsing on the floor? I have much to learn, but here are a few of my essentials in order to thrive with young children.
1. Take time each day in God’s Word.
It is easy for me to feel busy and task oriented from my early morning rise to when I finally hit the pillow. I know that all my work is in vain if I do not fill my soul with God. If possible, one of the first things I do is read my Bible. It sets the tone for the rest of my day. It may be the audio Bible, or just one or two Psalms, but I will fail to be a good wife and mom without this. George Miller says it best, “The first great and primary business to which I ought to attend every day is to have my soul happy in the Lord.” Check out a great Bible Reading plan from Christ Church-Moscow that I along with many others are just starting:
2. Make a plan
My husband often quotes Benjamin Franklin in saying “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” How true this is in my life! In order to be successful during the day, I need to make a plan. I am getting better at this, but I have so much more to learn. When it comes to planning, start broad and get more narrow. List out what NEEDS to get done for your family to prosper (meals made, laundry done, etc.). I like to look at an average week and put the needs in first.
Next, add in things that should get done every week like mopping the floor, cleaning the bathroom, washing sheets and give them a place in the calendar. We all have more time than we think and it is amazing how much of that can be wasted when we don’t have a plan or go between many different tasks, but I’ll get to that in a bit… Ultimately, a plan gives structure, and we humans thrive on structure. My children do SO much better when they are scheduled. I am a firm believer that schedules for children are a grace, not a curse. God gave us his law (order and structure) as a loving thing. He created a world of order and design, we should also love order and design! Especially with young children, you must leave room for margin, but having a plan truly helps kids thrive. My son knows when nap time comes and he has developed a nice internal clock of our typical days. He usually even brings me his shoes minutes before we go on our daily walk! It keeps me accountable to do the walk, to be sure!
Here is an example of a template I like for weekly planning:
When people say they like to just “wing it” that is usually because they simply didn’t make a plan. In all of this, we must be flexible and gracious, though, so let’s look to my next point.
3. Surrender your plan
Plans are important. Yes. However, we do not live in a perfect world and often, our perfect plans will fail. It is so important to surrender our plans and be willing to adjust when circumstances arise. I have the temptation to simply throw out the plan when things happen, but this is not a good impulse either. Love the plan and embrace God’s providences as they come. I think this point makes sense, but it is a huge challenge for me as a mom! We need to remember that we are finite people and love that we have a God that is infinite. Relying on His grace makes it much more joyful when our plans fall apart. We always have His grace to continue our work joyfully in whatever flawed state we find ourselves.
4. Finish the task you started
I would be lying if I said that I am good at this. It makes sense that this is one of my points in this blog post–I need the reminder! As a mom and as a social extrovert I constantly have ideas running through my head.
“How can I squeeze time with people in today?”
“Ooh! I was gonna put the chicken in, I’ll go do that quick.”
“I better finish that blog post. I’ll do that now and come back to the laundry.”
That last one is actually the case right now. I don’t always follow this principle and it always makes for a messier house and a more frantic me! This principle may be impossible when you have a crying infant that wants to feed early (yes, this has happened to me many times). Leave margin in this and grace for “life” to happen. Even with unexpected interruptions, it is so good to discipline ourselves to go back to the task we started. How much better is it to have all the laundry folded rather than some folded, as well as half of the dishes washed and half of the kids toys put away. Conquer each task FULLY–your house will be cleaner and, trust me, you will get more accomplished in the long run.
5. Meal prep
Save yourself the trouble of constantly thinking what are we going to eat today? Prep your meals ahead of time in batches. I may have to do an entire post on the practical side of this. My family does meal prep for the week on Sunday nights. We batch cook chicken, chop it up and put it into a large container. I make egg bake ahead of time so our breakfasts are set. If you like veggies that need chopping, do this as well!
Portioned egg bake (2 eggs, veggies and spices) and a handful of strawberries. Delicious! The prep takes time, but if you do it all at once, you have much less work during the week. Trust me, it makes life so much easier! I can be creative in the kitchen with dinner, but my lunches look very much the same. In this season of life, that’s okay by me!
Meal prep also helps with balancing a budget. We use everything we buy each week because I plan and portion it out. In addition to prepping meals, writing out your weekly dinner menu can be very helpful. Set aside time every week for meal planning and meal prepping. Your schedule will look much different than mine, but make sure you find a time that works for your family and do it! It saves me so much time and energy during my week. I wish I had started this earlier in life!
6. Rise and Rest well
Ask any doctor or health expert how to cure exhaustion and they will likely first say “get more sleep.” That’s great. How? Plan for it! Sense a theme here? Hold your family accountable to getting good rest by setting bedtimes for your children and for you/your spouse. My husband and I figured out what works best for our family and when we actually follow this, we feel so much more successful going into a new day. The average adult needs 7-9 hours of sleep each night. If you have a little one that needs to nurse, this may mean taking a short nap during the day to make up for lost sleep. A good night multivitamin can help with getting to sleep and sleeping deeply. If you are looking for a high quality option, try Mary Ruth’s Nighttime Liquid vitamin.
Along with resting well is rising well! Plan a time that works well for your body to wake. Usually this is not when crying children wake you. In order to be successful, I need to be up before they wake. When this doesn’t happen, my morning is so thrown off. Of course, kids may wake up earlier when teething or changing nap schedules, but those are exceptions, not the rule.
7. Practice Gratitude
Nothing is more powerful than a thankful heart. I need this bit of wisdom everyday in order to be a successful mom of littles. I often fail here, but know that God will give me his grace and has already given me all that I need in Christ to work out a heart of thankfulness. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 says “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” God purposes that we turn to Him in thankfulness in all circumstances. Yes, that means we should be thankful when our house is a mess, when we have changed 20 diapers in one day, when our husband gets a bonus at work, and even if he loses his job. We can rejoice in season and out of season, when we experience joy or unthinkable grief. I implore you to practice gratitude where you are. My life surely is full, but if I fill my mouth with gratitude, my heart cannot help but be grateful. If my mouth complains and grumbles about “how difficult it is to have kids so close” or “how I wish I could just do something for me” my heart will truly shrivel and I will not love my family well.
So friend, take these principles for what they are. Know that it is only by the grace of God that we can bring anything good to our families and friends. We need Christ for ALL of life. He is working in the mundane and the practical. He cares about your heart as well as what you do with your hands. Love your family this way and having 2 under 2 or truly any circumstance God calls you to can be a joy and a privilege.