Friday, July 11, 2008

Motherhood Game Plan

Some of you may have read a past post of mine entitled, “Wait– This can be fun?” I discussed the turning point where I discovered that motherhood could move beyond the point of “survival mode” and actually be enjoyable.

For the first 18 months of my daughter Lydia’s life I was barely holding on. Everyday I was just trying to make it from one moment to the next. Things got better, and then they got good. That process wasn’t instant, however. For me it took figuring out a game plan: something that would make this new life I was living not only doable, but allow me to be successful at it. I compiled a list of 10 things that work for me:

1. Treat household duties as I would a career. My mom gave me this advice and I love it. Sometimes we think that since running a household isn’t exactly brain surgery, we should be good at it. I have discovered this is not the case. Trying to juggle everything from cleaning, cooking, food storage, finances, etc. – it is much more than a full time job. I’ve started scheduling my weeks just like I did when I was in a career. I even have deadlines. Meals are planned out, F.H.E. is penciled it. When I have a plan and I can see that everything is going to get the attention it needs, it’s much less stressful.
2. Make sure my “work day” ends. When I was first staying home with Lydia I was working until everything that needed to be done was done. As a result I was totally crashing at the end of the day and, of course, I never got everything done. I chose a time when my work day needed to end. For me it is 8:30pm. After that, if it’s possible, I relax, read my scriptures, talk with my husband – whatever I want to do.
3. DATE NIGHT! – I have a belief I hold very close to: I married my husband because I wanted to spend eternity with him. I did not marry him to provide seed so that I could reproduce; that was a secondary thought. I got married so that I could be with this man. I see date nights as totally and absolutely critical to a working marriage. If a marriage is all about the small daily workings of raising children and maintaining a household, it isn’t exactly going to be the passionate relationship we envisioned on our wedding day. (We switch weekends with another couple for free babysitting.)
4. Add some glamour to my life- It’s easy to let things go a little bit when your clothes are constantly covered in ketchup and boogers. My girlfriend recently emailed me a conversation she had with her husband. "Hey honey, I just ate a $100-a-plate dinner and now we’re off to my five-star hotel... how are the kids?" "Oh everyone is fine, I ate hot dogs off the floor, Sadie pooped her pants, and Greta has been crying for three hours straight.” Yeah. Motherhood isn’t the most glamorous profession in the world. On date nights, my husband takes over an hour before the babysitter gets there. I take a long shower and let the “mommy” wash down the drain. I spend lots of time on my hair and makeup and I pick a fantastic outfit (one that I NEVER wear when there’s a sticky-handed toddler on the loose). When I step out for the evening I feel incredible. I guarantee my husband likes it as much as I do. For our date night we usually opt to share an entrée at a fancy restaurant. It costs the same as if we each ordered our own entrée at a run-of-the-mill family restaurant, but is much more romantic.
5. Maintain intimacy in my marriage. I won’t go into major detail here, but I think it’s pretty obvious that if sex isn’t happening, that’s a problem. I recommend (both of you) reading “Mars and Venus in the Bedroom”. It is awesome. And even if you’re good at what you do, a refresher course never hurt anyone.
6. Strengthen bonds with other women – I see other mothers as my co-workers. We just happen to have private offices (our homes). Keeping in touch and getting out together keeps me from feeling so isolated. I love dressing up for a night out with the girls. A few of my friends and I are planning a weekend to Atlanta. We are going to split a hotel room, go to the temple, shop, break our diets and vent. It’s going to fabulous!
7. Enjoy my child – For me, the words I hear more than any others are “Come here Mommy, come here!” My daughter constantly wants me to play, to read to her, to chase her. I do these things throughout the day, but other things have to be done and I sometimes have to tell her “not right now”. I have found that having “Lydia Days” are a fantastic way to focus. Lydia Day is a day I focus totally on doing things that I know Lydia loves to do. Our last Lydia Day was this past Wednesday. My husband went in to work a little late so that he could spend breakfast with Lydia. While they ate, I went outside and set up a little surprise. Lydia has been asking everyday to go pick strawberries like we did a month ago. Unfortunately, strawberry season is over. Instead, I scattered a pint of strawberries throughout our backyard. Lydia was so excited to get to “pick strawberries” and then eat them with mommy on a blanket in the sun. Next we went swimming with friends, then out to hamburgers at her favorite restaurant. I even sat down and watched a new cartoon with her (instead of running off to empty the dishwasher or check my email). She was in heaven. To be honest, so was I. Spending such a concentrated amount of time with her reminds me how fun being a mom can be. A day of no housework isn’t too bad either.
8. Never forget I am a woman, too. Sometimes I get so wrapped up in the idea of being a mother and wife, I forget that I have an entire existence that entails neither of these two titles. I love to read, to dance, to study, to travel. I love to be alone and just breathe. Even if I just escape to my car to listen to a James Taylor CD – I need some down time. I need time away. Often. Not just token time. REAL time away.
9. Focus on my own testimony. If I don’t have some sort of spiritual reserve, I forget real fast why I am doing all of this.
10. Know when I have reached full capacity. I don’t know who started the idea of the “Super Mom”, but if that women exists, I have a feeling I wouldn’t like her very much. Motherhood is hard and I like being around other women who get that. I also realize that I have to say no when I just can’t do anymore. I have to have days when things are just not going to get done, when fast-food is the dinner of choice, when I crash on the floor while my daughter watches whatever Princess DVD is closest. I work 100 hour work weeks. I need to maintain some semblance of sanity.

This is my list. What is on yours?.....




Anonymous said...
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Krisztina said...

Wow, you are amazing! Honestly, very impressive!
I am expecting my first baby this January and I am a bit concerned that my social life will end as I know it. Not that I have been a social butterfly before, but I do enjoy spending time with my fiancee for example, him also being my best friend in the world... and I have to admit that I am worried about losing that special bond with him once the kid will take priority in both of our lives...
I love your list and I have bookmarked it for further reference! Thank you for writing it!!!
ps: I know you don't know me and I don't normally comment, but I just really liked your list (and entire blog)!

LL said...

This is fantastic. I stumbled across your family blog and when I saw that you had written a post about balance, I thought, "Wow, I could really use that right now." I'm not even a mother yet but just trying to balance going to school two hours away, keep my husband happy and my house clean is pretty tough. And then I start getting all kinds of guilt complexes about only reading my scriptures for 10 minutes instead of 30 or not having an impeccably decorated shoebox of an apartment. I love your last item about not really liking the hypothetical perfect woman. I think I'm going to need to repeat that to myself when I start getting worked up. Thanks for sharing your suggestions!

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