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Of course I love my children to the moon and back, and I would never trade the life I have with them in it, but that doesn't mean that it's all peaches and cream around here. There have been many seasons during this journey when more often than not, it feels like hard, hard work. Parenting is exhausting and often thankless, and it's most certainly not glamorous.
And much as I've always tried to be realistic, I have to admit that I've had plenty of moments when I've thought, "This isn't what I thought it would be like."
But during a particularly challenging season recently I learned a new parenting mantra that sort of rocked my world. This parenting mantra was made up of three very simple words that formed a phrase that couldn't have been more obvious, but still somehow managed to elude me.
Those three words that rocked my parenting to the core were: Lower your expectations.
I began realizing that most of my parenting frustrations came down to the simple fact that my expectations were too high. I was getting frustrated with my kids over things that, when I actually stopped to think about it, were really just normal things that kids do. I got annoyed because they weren't eating the dinner I had just cooked them or the fact that they jumped in a mud puddle right after I changed their clothes for church. I got frustrated when they were whiny and clingy and when they just weren't listening very well. I tried applying this new mindset to my children and realized that it changed my whole outlook. Lower your expectations.
If we ate mac and cheese for dinner it really wasn't going to be the end of the world.
And so I did. When my kids refused the balanced dinner I made for them, choosing just to eat the pasta noodles, I was way less upset about it. I reminded myself that kids get messy and it's just life, and suddenly I was a little less indignant over a muddy dress. Those whiny, clingy kids caused me to start looking for the root of the problem. Maybe I had just been too busy and not giving them enough attention. Maybe they just needed five uninterrupted minutes of mama snuggles to set everything right again in their little worlds.
I also started applying this mentality to my frustrations about myself as a mother. I found I was often getting frustrated with myself for not doing this, that or the other parenting thing, but I realized that those things weren't really essentials. Instead I'm just putting extra pressure on myself. My kids would survive just fine if they watched a little bit of TV in the afternoon instead of doing a craft project together, and if we ate mac and cheese for dinner it really wasn't going to be the end of the world.
This is not to say that it's a bad thing to push ourselves and be encouraged to do better in areas where we struggle so we can be the best possible parents we can be. But sometimes I've found that when I learn to let go of my expectations and just be present as a parent, I am so much happier for it and my kids are too!
Give it a try. Lower your expectations and see how your outlook changes. Maybe you'll start to notice all the great things like I did; they'll be a wonderful bonus in your day.