How I Do It: A Busy Moms Guide to Staying Sane

Moms sometimes say to me, “I don’t know how you do it.”

They are referring to my life in general.

I am a mom of two little ones five and under. I am a wife – a wife that in many ways embraces traditional gender roles (that sounds so dirty even writing it!) But I am proud of it. I cook. I clean. I wash. But I also work. I am a business owner running an agency that employs over 100 people. I don’t shy away from taking on new projects, throwing a party, hosting an event. I honestly have no idea what “downtime” is, much less what to do with it.

But my life is no different than the millions of other moms who make it work by being total rockstars. I always say that women make the world go ’round.

Whether you work in the home as a stay-at-home-mom or out of the home as a working professional, being a mom period is challenging work. Because it’s never really just one thing is it? Women juggle so much.

I. am. busy.

But I am also happy and generally, not completely frazzled. Of course I have meltdown moments or stress-induced illness once in awhile. But in general, I feel like I have learned some invaluable ways to organize my time and my life that truly keeps me sane. So how do I do it? This is how:

1. I make every effort to have a clean and tidy home. 

I haven’t commissioned a scientific study on this or anything but I would bet a bunch of money that there is something that happens to us psychologically when we live in a messy environment. Everyone needs a sanctuary for their sanity and when our homes are messy and chaotic and disorganized, so are our minds. When my house is in order, my mind is in order. Spending 20 minutes picking up right after my kids go to bed ensures that I will wake up to a clean house. A fresh clean slate. So I can start the day more peacefully. When I think I don’t have time do clean my house, I make time. When the week is particularly busy and I can’t squeeze out even an hour to clean, I pay someone else to do it. When I can’t afford to pay someone else to do it, I stop buying food and gas and toilet paper and make room in my budget. (Ok, I may be exaggerating a bit on the last part.) But this is how important a clean house is to me.  I  know the power a clean house has on my overall outlook, my energy level and my sanity because when household tasks get neglected and the mess starts becoming out of control, I too feel out of control. Call me crazy. Or just try it. It just might change your life.

2. I take time for myself. 

This is really lame advice when I typically hear it. First of all, in most cases, on most days, their isn’t any time to take. And you can’t create time out of thin air. Or a free babysitter. And second of all, most moms I know, myself included, aren’t even exactly sure what we would do with that time if we did have it. Let’s be honest – interests and hobbies are for childless people. So you have to keep it simple here. If it’s too much pressure to force yourself to do Pilates or meditate or all these things that we “should” do…just think about what it is you actually like to do.

I recharge my batteries simply. A night out having dinner and conversation with girlfriends after I have put the kids to bed and my husband is home (no babysitter required) is one of my favorite pastimes. It doesn’t have to be a long night. Just a few hours. All my mom friends and I are ready for bed by 9pm anyway. I come home feeling rejuvenate and refreshed.

I am also a massage addict. I love, love massage and get it wherever and whenever I can. Nothing fancy or over-the-top. There is a place down the road that is seriously life changing. I can get a 60-minute massage for $48. No membership or appointment required. I just walk in anytime before 9pm. Me time. Ahhhh……

Once you take some time for yourself, even if it’s just a small sliver, the really important part is to do it with zero feelings of guilt. Not only have you absolutely earned this but you can also argue that you do it for everyone else, too. No mom can operate at full-speed all the time without it eventually affecting her patience level. When you recharge your batteries, you are making yourself a better person and mom. It’s a win-win.

3. My world doesn’t revolve around my children and their desires. 

Yea. This is a big one.

I once heard a mom say, “My kids won’t be happy with me if I leave them with a sitter.” Um, what? I am a firm believer in teaching children independence, self-reliance and humility. I know, for a fact, that being with my children 24/7 does not make me a better mother. It makes me lose my mind. It makes me short, impatient and moody. It makes me lose perspective.

When a girlfriend is over and we are talking, I don’t let my kids constantly interrupt our conversation.

I don’t have to say yes every time or even most of the time that my kids ask me to play with them.

My kids had every good country song memorized by the time they were 3. If I don’t want to listen to the Elena of Avalor or Moana soundtrack for the 10th time –  I don’t! It’s okay to say, “It’s mommy’s turn” and turn on the songs that make me happy and relaxed and don’t make me feel like I want to gouge my eyeballs out.

I have enough on my plate so I don’t make special meals for picky eaters. The crusts stay on. Apples remain in tact, unsliced with the skin on. If they don’t like what is served and choose not to eat it, they go hungry. But let me tell you-my children rarely, if ever, starve. Why? Because this is what was established from the beginning and therefore they learned to not only eat but to enjoy raw kale, salmon and steamed artichokes. By not allowing my kids to dictate mealtimes and have finicky habits, I have made my life a whole heck of a lot easier and as a bonus, I have given them the ability to enjoy a full range of incredible foods.

Of course my world revolves around my children figuratively. I love them more than life itself and would do anything for them- including teaching them the cold hard reality that the world does not revolve around them or exist to meet their every need, lest they receive a rude awakening when they enter adulthood. I love them too much to cripple them in that way.

4. We live by routines. Routinely.

I make sure we have so much predictability in our lives. I figure out a system that works and then I stick to that system until our situations or schedules must change and we come up with a new routine. We have morning routines and nighttime routines. We eat dinner at the same time every single night. Not because I am some kind of domestic goddess (I am not!) but because this is just how it has to be for everyone’s well-being (and once again, my sanity.)

I am always amazed by children. I think we underestimate them all the time. When my oldest started Kindergarten we had a talk on the way home the very first day. (After a long talk about her whole day, of course.) And that talk consisted of us outlining our new “after-school routine.” I envisioned what an organized afternoon would look like- how we could accomplish everything we needed to do, together. As a team. My five-year-old and me. We determined we would first put our shoes in the shoe basket when we got home. Then, she would put her lunch box on the kitchen counter near the sink (where I would remember to empty and wash it), and she would put the water bottle in the sink. She would then wash her hands and put her backpack up on the hook in her room. After a snack, we determined she would immediately do her homework, to get it over with, and start piano practice. Even after implementing her routine she still has at least 3 solid hours to run around, play outside, and spend time with the family before her 7:30 bedtime. The first few days required some coaxing and reminding. It was rocky. But by day 5 she was effortlessly going through each step, totally independently and my life was instantly easier. She still does. Every. Single. Day. Without being asked.

5. I try to reserve some whitespace.  

Don’t over commit yourself or jam pack your schedule leaving little to no blank space in your calendar. (Remember the stress-induced illness I admitted to having? That was when I didn’t follow this rule.)

I try not to over commit. I have been asked to be on a few boards and have declined every offer. I would love to have those prestigious accomplishments in my bio but I simply don’t have the time. I am not involved in weekly or monthly networking groups or clubs. I have one group that really gives me a return on my investment and meets every few months and that’s perfect for me. I am not a girl scout leader and every Sunday I am in church I think, “I should really look into singing with the worship team.” But then I remember. I have no time. And I drop it.  I am disappointed and a little embarrassed to say that I don’t regularly volunteer or do charity work outside of our business. As much as I want to give back, I recognize that raising two little people to be decent, hard-working, honest, kind human beings is the way I am giving back to my community right now. I have so many desires in my heart but I accept that those can wait. I don’t have time. Sure, I could make time. I could take time away from my kids, myself, my husband, my career and squeeze it in. But will I really come out ahead? Will the most important people in my life be served by that decision?

I’ve also freed myself from the pressure of feeling like my kids have to be involved in a gazillion time-consuming activities. It’s okay to focus on one or two things that they really invest in. Whitespace allows my girls the time and freedom to build tree houses, make forts with every sheet in my linen closet, and be creative. They have their whole lives to be a slave to a jam-packed calendar. My decision to minimize the after-school activities may be partly self-serving but it also makes it so my girls can be free to just be.

6. I insist on a reasonable bedtime for my kids.

I’ve already talked about routines. The absolute most important routine in my day is the bedtime routine. It’s as sure as death and taxes. I work hard all day, tirelessly caring for and loving my girls. They need their rest and so do I. Bedtime begins at 7pm for both girls and it’s lights out by 7:30. It’s a win, win. They are getting the proper night’s sleep that is so crucial for their development, and my husband and I get three hours of time to spend alone or together without kids. That still sets me up for my 8 hours of sleep (assuming a 6:30am wake-up time.) But the point is, I have enforced this since my girls were infants and it continues to this day. We are known for leaving social situations in order to be home for bedtime. It probably annoys some people, but it keeps me sane. I need to be off the mommy clock at 7:30 for my sanity.

7. I cut the fat from the craziness.

Life is busy no matter how you slice it, but cutting even the smallest, seemingly insignificant things from our lives and making the slightest adjustments can make a world of difference.

What can you do to make your life easier?

These are my tried-and-true mom hacks.

The best investment I ever made was a mile-high stack of paper plates from Costco. I serve every meal I can on them. This saves me at least 10 minutes a day on washing dishes. That’s over an hour a week!

I use lists on my iPhone for everything from meal options or a running list of things we’re out of to my to-do list. When I have a thought or something I need to remember, I write it down to free my brain from having to store all that clutter. I used to waste so much time thinking about what gifts to buy for people. Now, every time I see something I think someone would like or when my mom mentions something like, “I really need a new tablecloth!” I jot every idea down for later use. Christmas is a breeze now because all year I write down toys that my kids fell in love with at a friend’s house or games that piqued their interest in the Walmart isle. By December, I have a whole list of awesome gifts to add to my Amazon cart.

I don’t really have time to sit and write a blog like this one. Most of the content was created on-the-go, from a thought I had in the shower, and I promptly wrote it into my iPhone when I got out.

I keep a big bucket in my car that goes in and out of the car when we do. It gets filled with toys, trash, school stuff so we carry one thing in every afternoon and it returns filled with lunches, backpacks, water bottles, etc. the next morning. That saves me so much time gathering things in the car and I avoid the need to clear out my car every few days. We have a rule: “What goes in the car, must come out!”

I make lots of meals in the crockpot (with a plastic liner so I don’t even have to clean the darn thing.)

Every little minute saved counts.

8. I give myself grace. 

I don’t have it all figured out. I still wrestle with being resentful when it comes to feeling like I am always the one that does more than my share. I am learning how to ask for help when I need it, and accept that help without guilt. I have days when I stress-eat old Easter candy on the couch in my pajamas while the kids are screaming and my house is a total disaster and I have zero energy to move much less do any of the above suggestions.

I have moments when I beat myself up for falling short of being the mom I know my children deserve.

I don’t practice what I preach 100% of the time. My life isn’t perfect.

But relatively speaking, I live a life of peace and order and I think anyone can add more sanity to their lives by trying to implement even one of the aforementioned habits.  Life IS sometimes unavoidably crazy, but it doesn’t have to make YOU crazy.

How do YOU do it? Share your secrets below!

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