Suddenly, I had a little boy. A toddler who wanted what he wanted and challenged every ideal I had about parenting.
My baby had grown. He’d reached the age where motherhood no longer consisted of simply feeding, changing, and rocking. Apparently, new mom-survival methods, discipline, and creative training were required.
So, I bought a parenting book. And although the man who wrote the book had some good theories and valid reasons for why he believed I ought to parent or discipline in certain ways, by the end of the book, I was left feeling frustrated:
Yes, but… why don’t you give me some real-life, in-the-trenches examples of how I’m supposed to make this work in my everyday life with a toddler who, at only two, appears to be smarter than I am?
What I craved were stories and ideas from moms who’d been there before. I wanted practical, creative, doable ideas to survive motherhood.
Even better, I wanted to find ways to thrive in it.
How to Thrive in Motherhood with Little Kids
Over the years, I’ve followed two practices that have helped me to survive – even thrive in – motherhood:
- I ask for advice from other moms, then I hold on to what works for me and let the rest go.
- I seek out books and articles about real moms living real life, then I hold on to the stories that encourage me and let the rest go.
Today, I’ll share a mixture of parenting tips and true mom anecdotes with you. They’re meant to be both practical and encouraging.
Please hold on to what helps you, and by all means, let the rest go!
1. Children Hear Everything (the Praiseworthy and the Embarrassing)!
I was singing a praise song in my kitchen about how great God is while my two-and-a-half-year-old ate lunch. He paused his chewing to ask, “Mom, is our God stronger?”
“Oh, yes!” I answered. “Our God is stronger than any other God. He’s the only true God.”
“Oh,” he said. “Is our God bigger?”
“Wow, cool!” And he kept eating his lunch.
Your children hear everything, even when you don’t think they’re listening. Maybe especially when you don’t think they’re listening…
When my boys were four and two, I heard them playing in another room. Suddenly, one of them shouted, “What the heck!” And the other one answered, “What the heck!” And then they both chorused, “What the heck! What the heck!”
Now, who do you think they got that from?
At first, I thought it was funny, but it got out of hand almost immediately. They started their new phrase all day, whether we were at home or on a play date, and when I scolded them for it, they thought I was hilarious.
We finally made a pact that if they had to stop saying it, I’d have to stop, too. And I quickly ran to God and asked him to help me break my own habit!
So, what’s the tip?
- Remember that children hear everything.
- Don’t condemn yourself for the thoughtless things you may say, but do bring your struggle to God. He will help you.
2. Transition from Naps to Quiet Time
When your toddler stops napping, it can be a difficult adjustment for both of you.
The truth is that even if he or she doesn’t need to sleep during the day anymore, you likely both still need quiet time to decompress from the first half of the day.
After my baby was down for his nap, I used to set my three-year-old up in his bed with books and toys. I explained that he didn’t have to sleep, but we both needed some quiet time. I set a timer so he’d know when he could get up, and I used that time to either nap, read, or pray.
This quiet time didn’t always go smoothly, but it was a welcome break when it did!
3. Try to Enjoy the Phase You’re in Instead of Yearning for the Next One
Have you ever pined for the next season of motherhood – as I have – in the following ways?
If only my baby was sleeping through the night, I’d get more work done around the house.
If only my one-year-old would be happy with a babysitter, I could join a Bible study.
If only my toddlers were out of diapers, I’d have more money for groceries.
If only my kids were already in school, I’d have more time to pray – uninterrupted!https://saralivingfree.com/2022/04/26/god-accepts-your-season-motherhood/
When my boys were one and two, I struggled to reconcile my phase of motherhood with all I wanted to accomplish. In fact, here’s what I wrote in my journal in May of 2011:
I want to spend every chance I can outside with the boys, but I feel bad that – once again – I’m not getting anything done in the house. I often think that I must be a lazy person because I choose to go out instead of clean.
Jesus, please help me to remember that this is the phase of life I’m in right now with little children. All too soon, I will have lots of time to exhaust myself in productiveness.
Remind me to use this time to pray and to play with the boys. But still… would you give me the motivation to tidy the house while they nap so at least a little housework gets done?
I know what it’s like to both love your life with your kids and be severely frustrated with it at the same time. Acceptance can help with frustration.
Accept your life, and bring your struggles to Jesus.
God doesn’t need you to be the next phase. He loves the work you’re doing right now in raising your child.Tweet
4. Let Prayer Work with Your Personality
I once heard a woman talk about prayer in a way that at first gave me the motivation to pray more as a young mom. Later, it simply made me roll my eyes.
Here’s what she said (paraphrased, of course):
“Even as a mom of young children, you never have an excuse to not pray. You can pray anytime, anywhere, doing anything. You make supper, don’t you? Well, pray while you’re stirring the sauce on the stove! Pray in your head while you’re grocery shopping. Pray while you walk to pick up your child from school.”
Hearing this advice, I thought, Hey, you’re right! Why don’t I do that?
So, I tried it. I quickly figured out that this woman’s advice may be helpful for some, but it was not helpful for me.
Prayer takes too much concentration for me to combine it with another activity. I get half a sentence in and forget what I was thinking.
I can’t walk and pray.
I can’t stir the sauce and pray.
I can hardly fold laundry and pray (unless I keep it short and sweet while focusing on my daughter’s sweater that I’m folding, for example).
I’ve discovered that I most prefer these three ways of praying:
- in total silence,
- as journaling, or
- while reading my Bible.
Specifically, journaling my prayers has been a lifesaver for me. I can journal prayers and concentrate on what I’m writing no matter how busy or loud my family is around me.
What’s your personality? What helps you concentrate on prayer? Try new things to discover how prayer can work with how you’re made.
But whatever you do, don’t give up on prayer. There’s an idea (or maybe two or three!) out there that will be just right for you and God.
5. Don’t Compare
When my children were little and misbehaved, I had a hard time not comparing them to other, quieter toddlers. I also worried that other moms were judging my parenting skills when my expressive, energetic, strong-willed child defied me in public.
Sometimes, we have enough trouble accepting who we are ourselves, never mind the added sadness of feeling like others don’t accept or understand our children.
- Remember, you and your child are created by God.
- Remember, your child is already accepted and already loved by God.
- Remember, God chose you to be your child’s mom.
- Remember, your child’s personality is a hand-picked, God-given gift to you and to the world!
- Remember, your child is a rough diamond (just like you and I are); the value is already there and God is faithful to smooth out the rough edges in his timing.
Let’s be gracious to our children and to ourselves. Let’s try not to compare our children to other children, or ourselves to other moms.
Praise the Lord! We’re wonderfully and uniquely made!Tweet
6. Ask God to Help You Cultivate Joy
One day, my boys (ages one and two) and I were having an extra grouchy day. I felt lazy. My boys were clingy and ornery.
After a day of depressive feelings and crying children, I finally announced that we were all going outside for fresh air!
Normally, going outside would shift everyone’s mood back to happy, but not this time. The boys continued to whine and cling.
At first, I thought, Ugh. Lord, why can’t they just be happy so I can be happy?
Then suddenly, a kids’ praise song popped into my head. The lyrics reminded me that joy is something we receive from God and is meant to be shared with others. It’s not something we take or demand.
“Well, you gotta help me then, Lord. Cause I’m failing at giving joy. That’s for sure.”
Right away, my toddler approached, gloomy-faced, and said he was “all done playing.” He wanted to go back inside. Probably to watch TV.
“If you clean up your sand toys,” I suggested, “I’ll come play trackball with you.”
Wouldn’t you know? We had fun! My son giggled almost the whole time we played trackball in the yard. And so did I.
Joy isn’t a feeling we can muster up. The two most effective ways I know to cultivate joy in my day are:
- Thank God until you finally get your joy back; and
- Ask God to give you joy and help you cultivate it in your family life.
7. Let Go of Perfection
When my first child learned to crawl, it was an army crawl where he dragged his body around by his forearms. At that same time, he was also an intense drooler.
Drool, drag. Drool, drag.
Slobber smears covered my floor at all times.
I used to joke that he was washing the floors for me. To be honest, it was kind of true. I was a first-time mom and was barely juggling motherhood with cleaning chores. Washing the floors was a last priority for me.
A couple years later, when he was a toddler and I had a one-year-old as well, washing floors looked different but not necessarily better.
With two little boys running around my house, the only way I got any cleaning done was if they “helped.”
I would wash, and they would slip and slide across the wet floors, giggling and scrubbing with their bare feet.
Again, smears covered the floor. But at least it was cleaner than it had been before we’d washed!
Do your best to let go of perfection. Your house doesn’t need to meet the same standard you held before you had babies.
8. Get “Quick” About Prayer and God’s Word
I find that I get the most out of my Bible reading when I can retreat to a quiet space with my Bible and journal (and a cup of coffee!). This is why nap time and quiet time were so important to me as a young mom.
Raising young children doesn’t often lend itself to finding these alone times. Quiet time doesn’t always work out.
Rather than give up on praying or reading your Bible, see if any of the following ideas could work for you:
- Subscribe to a short, encouraging email devotional series and read it when you have a spare moment (like when you’re on the toilet? Hee, hee). Bible Gateway has an enormous selection of devotional series you can choose from that are quick and easy to read.
- Keep your Bible open on the counter and read one verse at a time as you pass by throughout the day.
- Toss quick prayers up as you go:
- Annoyed at those clothes lying on the floor? Say, “Jesus, forgive my annoyance. Help me to pick up after myself and teach my kids to do so also.”
- Overwhelmed at the thought of making supper? Say, “Jesus, what can I make for supper? Could you give me an idea?”
- Did your son’s raging eczema cross your mind and cause you to worry again? Say, “Jesus, I don’t know how to help him. Please show me how.”
- Listen to a free audio Bible app. (Okay, I know this doesn’t fall under “quick,” but it is convenient, so I’m including it anyway.) Again, Bible Gateway has an easy-to-use audio Bible app that you can listen to while washing dishes, walking to the park, or folding laundry.
I hope you’ve found a least a few of these tips helpful today. But if not, don’t give up! Jesus loves you and he knows your daily responsibilities, tiredness, and overwhelm. He will help you find a way to thrive in motherhood and connect with him.
Let’s Pray Together
Dear Jesus, You’re the best! I’m so glad we can come to you with anything and everything.
Whichever ideas in this post that would be of help to my dear friend, give her the motivation to try them.
I also ask that all feelings of condemnation she may feel about any of these ideas would be cast away, in Your Name.
You know what she needs today. Bless her and keep her. Bless her family. Bless her home. May your peace reign in her heart. Amen.