“Come on, boys, we need to go! You’re going to be late to swim team!” I yell.
My youngest walks towards me. His feet are bare.
“Where are your shoes? You need your shoes! Seriously, you know what to do! Go get your shoes!” I bark.
He slowly turns around. “Hurrrry!” I call after him.
“Don’t they know I am doing this for them?” I muse. “What is wrong with them? Why do they move so slowly when we need to leave?”
Practice runs a little late that night. When we finally arrive home it is past their bedtime. “Go get ready for bed. It is late,” I call out.
“Mom, I’m hungry. Swimming makes me so hungry,” my ten-year-old moans.
“Okay, eat something quickly, and then head off to bed,” I quickly order.
I glance at tomorrow’s schedule: Cub Scouts and piano lessons. The next day shows swim lessons and a church meeting. I also have an activity I need to plan and a Sunday lesson to think about. Where will I cram in weekly laundry and grocery shopping? My head starts spinning. “I can do this. If only my kids would listen and move quickly when we need to go,” I reason.
Another month passes. I grow more impatient, frustrated, and sometimes flat-out mean. My children are on edge and bicker regularly. My life is spiraling out of control—all in the name of “”Supermom.”
How I wish I could have a heart-to-heart chat with my younger self. I would tell her, “Damara dear, I know you want to be a good mom, but your red shiny cape has to go! Here’s a great idea: dig a hole in the backyard, toss it in, and cover it with dirt. You don’t need it. You are good enough without it, and your children will be better off.”
At the time, I failed to realize most of the stress and frustration was self-inflicted. My children were not to blame. In my crazed need to be “”Supermom”” (or in other words, “perfect mom”), I forgot what mattered most—my children.
At the time I believed I was acting in my children’s best interest, when in fact I was subconsciously driven by selfish motives. Appearing to be “Supermom” and keeping up my hectic schedule made me feel important and validated.
The result: I was miserable and so were my children.
Since then I have discovered three important adjustments which allow more time for the things that matter most: my relationships.
Be careful about over scheduling children. This required that I thoughtfully consider all activities my children were involved in and scale them back to a reasonable amount. I’m not recommending removing all activities. Instead, closely inspect your calendar for the next week. If your children have more than two activities scheduled per week, contemplate which ones might be unnecessary.
Imagine a mom with five children who each have three or more weekly activities (some occurring on multiple nights). “Supermom” has agreed to juggle 20+ activities per week, not including her own events. Wow, that is a lot to volunteer for!
Counsel together as a family and brainstorm what adjustments need to be made. Also, keep in mind activities do not need to be evenly spread between children. If one child only has one weekly activity, he doesn’t need an extra one to even things out. Trying to be fair and equal can cause more problems than it helps.
Be mindful of personal boundaries. When I always say yes to everyone’s requests, I’m saying no to me and my family. Of course, I want to help others and chip in; however, I realized when I agree to too many projects I later feel resentful. I discovered it’s okay to tell some people, “I am too busy right now, thank you for asking me.” When we have healthy boundaries, we are able to give more of ourselves instead of being spread so thin and feeling miserable.
The house does not have to be perfect. Often women feel their home is a reflection of who they are. When my children were young, I would spend lots of time constantly picking up after them. I felt frustrated and stressed. I was impatient with my children and sometimes lost my temper. Then one day it hit me—what is more important? My spotless house or my relationship with my children? I chose my children! This does not mean my house is trashed. However, it does not need to be spotless, either.
Instead, I invite my children to do the chores with me. At times they are resistant, but I encourage them to join me and learn new jobs together. It has been a wonderful opportunity to talk while working alongside each other.
Keep in mind, young children love to explore and make messes—that is how they learn. When you are done for the day, pick up the house together. Do not fret and stress. More important than a spotless house is a home of love.
Yes, I have things to get done, but I no longer over-schedule my children’s activities, feel guilty about telling someone no, or hyper-stress about my house. For five years I have been on a journey to discover how to balance my life and live for today, so I can feel more love, peace, and happiness with my family. Thankfully, I buried my “Supermom” cape long ago. I am enough, and so are you!
QUESTION: In what areas of your life do you feel out of balance? What adjustments could you make to get more joy out of your relationships?
CHALLENGE: Look over your weekly schedule and assess whether you’ve committed to too much. If you have, begin to pare those commitments down to find a more reasonable balance.
Edited by Lisa Hoelzer and Sarah Monson
What do you say to your kids to get them to help you with chores? Mine resist almost all of the time (4 and 6). In fact, I can’t get them to buy in to any productive activities, like schoolwork and crafts or chores. And we’re not overscheduled, so my children constantly want me to play with them. I know spending time with them is important and lovely, but how many hours do I need to spend playing trucks and dolls? They would have me spend every waking moment playing. Isn’t it important for them to be able to play by themselves (which they don’t ever do)? How do you find the balance?
It is important for imaginative play on their own. Do you try sitting and watching without holding or using any toys perhaps? My kids (4 & 6 this month, also have a 6month old) can get so sucked into their game that I can walk away without them noticing. Other times they notice but only pause for a moment because they are having too much fun. Let them know you have “work” to do before you can play. When they beg for you to play just kindly but firmly let them know you are not giving in. Offer that they help you clean up (or do laundry or whatever the chore) to help you get done faster. My kids love helping me switch laundry, fold towels, vacuum… Sometimes I can even get them to do dishes! Lots of affirmation is always good. It’s very helpful when mommy is holding the baby! Eventually they will choose to play over helping you & then you just have to encourage them to help more. There are weeks they help me often and some they spend more time playing. They are each other’s best friends.
Great questions! Yes, kids do need to learn to play on their own. Megan shared some very good points. Three important points to remember about chores: 1- Routines are huge for young children (and older). Decide on a time of day with your kids when you will do chores together and then follow through. When kids understand this is what we do, that lessens the arguing. 2- Give them a choice between two chores. When they get to choose they are more likely to do it. 3- Teamwork is important. Let them know they are needed as part of your family team. Tell them “I sure enjoy working together and getting things done. Wow, the house feels great when we all chip in and help.” Give these a try and I would love to hear what happens.
Amanda Hes says
I LOVE LOVE LOVE this! I recently did the same thing, I threw my (mental) SuperMom cape in the trash outside. And with it went all the ‘perfect’ mental images I had set for myself as a mom. Now there is always laundry on either the couch or the chair in the living room- it is clean but folding it happens when it happens. We cut down in activities by half this semester and it has made all the difference in our household. We relish the nights when nothing is going on, and we do still have nights where there are a bunch of items on the schedule but they are once or twice a month instead of 3 times a week! This lets us actually enjoy each other and play games and read books which is what they want to do anyway.
As far the responsibilities, we implemented a “Work For Hire” board, each child has 2 jobs that are supposed to be done regularly and after that they can chose to do additional work to earn items. Daily jobs are simple (my boys are 6 and 5) so its making beds, picking up bedrooms/bathroom. ‘Paid’ jobs range from sweeping, cleaning the bathroom, taking out the trash, walking the dog, picking up leaves, or helping mom or dad with additional jobs as needed. Earnings cover everything they ask for; movies, ice cream, new toys, trips, go-carts. eating out, just about anything we could think of. They have to do the 2 first jobs before they can pick a ‘paid’ job. The key to all of it, was now instead of saying ‘No’ to every request, we say “What have you done to earn it?” It is so much nicer and we are 2 months into this and they are getting the hang of it and have created huge wish lists to spend their earnings on! Bonus- I haven’t cleaned their bathroom in 2 months!!
Rachel Johnston says
Love this article Damara! Keep them coming!!