Last week I had back to back school conferences with both of my kids’ teachers. I didn’t plan it this way. I didn’t actually realize what I’d done until I got a reminder email from one of them. It turned out to be a blessing in disguise.
You see, the day prior I had one of those days where I felt like a failure as a mom. We had been at a birthday party where there was a piñata. I like piñatas because my kids LOVE piñatas. They go all out crazy anytime there is one.
My oldest takes it one step further than most though. Granted he was literally the 2nd oldest kid at the party and the tallest by at least 4 inches, but he truly let his greedy side show up to this piñata party.
Once the piñata was busted, the chaos ensued and the feeding frenzy began. After what had to have been no more than 2 minutes, my child walked away with about a pound of candy and toy trinkets. There were probably half a dozen other kids crying that they didn’t get a single thing!
Even though the competitive side of me wanted to shake my son’s hand for winning this “piñata game” and getting in there to claim his prizes, the bigger part of me was appalled.
So I did what any right minded mom would do and started grabbing handfuls of his candy to give to the less fortunate smaller kids who didn’t get any. Of course after he realized his loot was cut in half, he wasn’t happy with me and walked away pouting.
When I asked him where his goodie bag was, he said that since I gave most of his candy away he gave the little that was left to his brother and threw the bag away. This only made me feel like I had raised an even bigger brat so we left the party fighting. I complained to my husband that night and he had a talk with him about sharing.
School Conference Day
The next day, I met with my other son’s teacher first. She had only good things to say- that he’s excelling in every subject, he’s a good listener, and is a joy to have in class. She asked what we were doing, because she wanted to do the same thing when she has kids of her own one day.
Then, I met with my oldest son’s teacher and she also had glowing remarks! I already knew he was doing well academically, but it was her comment about his character that really surprised me. To be completely honest I know he’s a good kid, but I didn’t expect her to say that he was one of only a few students she’s ever had who is truly a good person.
I needed to hear these things. It’s not that I don’t think I’m a good mom. I know I’m doing an ok job, but it feels really good to hear from someone else that I’m raising such kind and considerate children. I actually felt a little guilty about getting so mad the day before. But I’ve already told you that I struggle with mom guilt. You can read all about that in my previous post here: https://momlifewithp.com/mom-guilt-how-to-deal-when-it-strikes/.
Hearing Positive Feedback From Strangers
This past weekend we were eating breakfast at a tiny crowded coffee shop in Ashville. The boys were smearing muffins into the seat cushions, standing up in their chairs, and using really loud voices. The table next to us felt so awkwardly close that I had a hard time not eavesdropping on the ladies who were sitting there.
When we were getting ready to leave, one of them looked at me and said, “You’re doing a good job. Your kids are really well behaved.” What?!?! These two? Was she in the same restaurant I was just in? I couldn’t believe she said that, but I thanked her and walked away feeling again like maybe I AM doing something right.
As moms we don’t hear what we’re doing right enough. This job doesn’t come with a yearly performance evaluation where we get a raise if we’re meeting the company’s standards. So to all the teachers out there, tell your students’ parents when they’re getting it right. Tell them as often as you can, not just once a year at the parent/teacher conference.
Husbands, tell your wives they’re good moms. It may seem obvious to you, but she needs to hear it because she doesn’t always believe it. This goes for everyone, if you see a mom in public tell her she’s doing a good job. Even if her kids aren’t being perfect angels. If they’re eating their food and not throwing it at you, she needs to know she’s not screwing it all up.
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Have you ever noticed that when you’re busy your child seems to need your attention more? You’re probably not imagining it! When you aren’t giving your child attention, they might feel like their emotional cup isn’t being filled. Let’s talk about how to fill your child’s cup.
I’ve noticed over the past few weeks that my 5-year-old has been extra needy. I thought once school started it would get easier, but now he’s cranky and challenging me even more when he gets home from school.
I remember learning somewhere in my training to be a therapist that if you’re feeling annoyed by a child, they’re probably needing your attention.
So I’ve been trying to let my son help with little tasks and include him in making dinner when I can. Somehow that always seems to backfire though!
Last week for example, he noticed a lemon on the counter and asked if we could make lemonade. I was hesitant because I knew how messy it would be. Then I remembered a few days earlier I had told him that maybe we could make homemade lemonade one day. So I reluctantly agreed.
I let him squeeze the lemon juice into a cup and then pour it into water bottles for he and his brother. He seemed to be having fun but insisted on adding more sugar. I could feel my temperature start to boil as I envisioned the sugar getting all over the floor.
I tried to take a few deep breaths and remember that I was doing this to connect with him. Fortunately, no sugar was spilled, but my son didn’t really like the lemonade because it was too sour!
After we made lemonade we went to Barnes and Noble to pick out a book. Both my sons had earned a free book for completing their summer reading program.
You wouldn’t believe how difficult this little outing was!
They were fighting over who got their shoes on first before we even got out the door. When we got there, my 5-year-old wanted a book that wasn’t on the “free book” list. He repeatedly asked why he couldn’t pick out a different book.
Despite multiple threats to leave with nothing, they eventually decided on their free books and we got back into the car to head home. My 7-year-old accidentally sat in the opposite booster seat that he rode in on the way there and unknowingly drank the rest of his brother’s lemonade.
You would have thought he killed his dog! The waterworks ensued and just when I thought he was over it, the 7-year-old shouted, “Heyyyyy!!!!!!! Charlie!!!!!”
The 5-year-old had poured the little lemonade that he had left onto the 7-year-old’s head. I was livid! I was so over his misbehavior at that point that I invoked the smack down of all punishments- no tech time!
Commence World War 3
Let me just say that the car ride home was way less pleasant than on the ride to the bookstore where both kids were happily drinking their homemade lemonade and dreaming of the new book they’d soon be getting.
Not only that, I then had to deal with the ramifications of taking away the 5-year-old’s screen time while his big brother still got to have his. It felt like more of a punishment on me, then towards him.
I began to think maybe trying to go somewhere as simple as the bookstore in the afternoon on the first week of school was too much? Was I being too harsh?
A few minutes later, my husband came home from work and I was practically in tears. He gave me a break and took the boys out for pizza so that I wouldn’t have to cook and I stayed home to try to relax a little.
My 5-year-old was acting out because he needed his cup filled. He was exhibiting all of the signs listed!
Ways That Children Deal With Having An Empty Cup
They steal from other people’s cups or steal from their happiness- like when my son poured the lemonade on his brother’s head.
Misbehave to get your attention and show that they need a refill. This was definitely happening!
Seem to have bottomless cups, or need constant “topping off.” Do you ever feel like the more attention you give your child, the more they seem to need? It’s because their cup is empty and far from being “full.” So adding a little attention (even when it feels like a lot to you) isn’t enough.
What Empties The Cup?
The cup is a metaphor for emotions, so if a child’s cup is full they are content and happy. What leads to an empty cup will vary for each child. I eventually realized that my son’s cup was probably feeling empty because he was stressed by the start of a new school year.
He was having to make all new friends and adjust to a new routine in a new classroom. It might have even felt a little lonely for him. He was also definitely exhausted from having to get up super early and spend 7 hours in school.
How To Fill Your Child’s Cup
So now that I know his emotional cup is running on empty, here are a few ways I can try to fill it:
1. Encourage Play
It would be so easy to let him watch tv or his iPad when he gets home from school to veg out, but I’ve tried to maintain consistent play dates at least once a week and encourage him to actually play with his toys with his brother.
2. One on One Time
Last week my oldest had a play date at a friend’s house so my youngest and I were able to have some 1:1 time. We went to a splash pad, got ice cream, and went on a play ground for a while. It was challenging for a bit, because his cup was so low that he demanded even more of my attention now that he was getting it.
But I know that it was just what he needed and we did have a good time. Plus, it’s so much easier to manage one of my kids compared to having both of them by myself!
3. Love and Affection
I’ve always tried to tell my kids I love them, but I’m working on making a more conscious effort to say it more often.
4. Connection and Friendship
My son got to have several of his school friends over this weekend for his birthday and I’ve seen a huge difference in his behavior. It’s probably a combination of all of these things, but I know that being the center of attention helped fill his cup.
5. Doing What They Love To Do
How often do you let your child choose the activity for a family outing, without influencing their decision at all? This is a hard one, but can really help fill their cup and will be worth it in the long run!
If you think your child’s cup may be empty, think about whether they may be experiencing stress, loneliness, or fatigue. Then you can implement some of these strategies to fill their cup back up. Let me know which ones work for you!
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Engaging in self care can be so hard when you’re a busy mom. We get so busy taking care of our kids, that we often forget to take care of ourselves. But if we don’t, stress builds up and our families suffer!
Self care for busy moms means remembering to feed ourselves, getting enough sleep and loving ourselves despite our mistakes and flaws.
How many times have you heard a new mom say they forgot to eat lunch?
I struggle with this myself, but one thing that has helped me is to make a list of activities that are instant mood lifters. That way when I do have time to myself I don’t end up wasting it trying to figure out what to do. Or I don’t waste it by doing chores around the house instead of taking time to relax.
When I was a child therapist, I often used I used the metaphor of the oxygen mask with parents. When you fly on an airplane they tell you during the safety announcement that if you’re traveling with small children you should put on your own oxygen mask and then help your children put theirs on. That’s because if you don’t, you will pass out and won’t be able to help your kids.
Here are 8 SELF-CARE TIPS for busy moms:
I love to run and always feel better after I do. Running increases the endorphins that boost seratonin in your brain. Serotonin is known as the “don’t worry be happy” neurotransmitter.
Sometimes exercise can even be more effective than medication at increasing seratonin levels. If I don’t feel like running, I still put my running shoes on and go for a walk.
2. Write In A Journal
Writing can be very therapeutic for me, when I actually slow down enough to do it. This is a big part of why I enjoy blogging.
When I journal, I try to just write whatever comes to my mind and not worry about if it even makes sense. My journaling is for me and not for anyone else to read. This can be a really powerful self care tool for moms who feel isolated much of the time.
3. Deep Breathing
Our brains need oxygen to function properly. Most of us don’t get enough oxygen to keep stress at bay by the breath that we take day to day.
There are some great relaxation apps out there, but my current favorite is the Breathe app on my Apple Watch. It guides me through a deep breathing exercise for one minute, and vibrates when I should exhale. The best part is that my watch reminds me to do the exercise every day so I don’t forget.
Yoga has so many health benefits, but the biggest one for me is how it forces me to unplug from technology and focus on my breathing.
I really enjoy taking a yoga class at my gym that’s an hour long since sometimes it takes me a while to clear my head. The instructor has a very soothing voice. She uses guided meditation along with relaxing music to help you center and ground yourself.
5. Get Some Vitamin D
Our bodies need vitamin D to produce that “happy” chemical serotonin that I mentioned before. Low levels of vitamin D have been linked to Seasonal Affective Disorder, a mood disorder featuring depressive symptoms that occurs during the dark times of the year where there is little sunshine.
We can get vitamin D naturally though sunlight, but for most people that’s not enough. I take vitamin D at least October- March, but recently have been taking it year round and it’s really helped me.
Talk to your doctor if you’re concerned about your vitamin level and they can run bloodwork to see if it’s low.
6. Read A Book
There’s nothing like a great book to take you away to another place for a while. I check out books digitally for free from my local library using an app called Libby.
As a former therapist, I am a big proponent of seeking therapy when you need it. Unfortunately there is a stigma surrounding mental health and too many people suffer in silence.
A mental health therapist can be a good resource for helping you talk through challenging seasons in your life. They can also keep you accountable to make sure you are engaging in self care. Psychology Today is a great resource for finding counselors in your area.
I’ve written several posts about how I’ve dealt with my own depression and anxiety. Here are a few that you might find helpful if you’re struggling:
These are some of my top choices for self care that help me make sure I’m getting enough oxygen. I’m always working on growing this list. I’d love for you to share your favorite self-care tips for busy moms in the comments!
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Over the years, I’ve learned a lot about taking road trips with kids. I’ll never forget the first time we took my now 9-year-old to Chattanooga for the night.
He was probably 6-months-old at the time, or whatever age it is you start teething. My husband and I wanted to get away for the weekend and Chattanooga is only a few hours from where we live.
So we found a reasonable rate for a hotel, not far from all of the restaurants and shops in the downtown area. We packed all the supplies we thought we’d need- formula, extra outfits, diapers, even extra crib sheets. We thought we had everything. So we set out for Tennessee, full of hope and a sense of adventure.
Things Don’t Always Go As Planned
An hour and a half in and we were ready to turn around and go back home. The baby cried most of the way there! We somehow came to the conclusion that he must be teething. So we found an exit with a baby store where we thought we could find something that might help.
It just so happened that there were restaurants right next to the store. We decided a little snack and maybe an adult beverage would help our moods, and it did. I don’t remember much else about that trip except that we got some sort of natural remedy for teething, some baby toys and teethers, and a sleep sack because we realized we forgot to pack one.
Since our family loves to travel, there have been many more trips and forgotten baby supplies along the way.
I’d like to think that we’ve become better packers, but in reality I think I’ve just gotten better at planning. I’ve also lowered my standards for the perfect vacation. More importantly, I know now that most everywhere we go will have a Target or Walmart nearby.
I’m going to share with you my tips for surviving road trips with kids so that you don’t make the same mistakes that I have!
10 TIPS FOR SURVIVING ROAD TRIPS WITH KIDS:
1. Start Planning Early:
I am a planner by nature, so my mind is at ease when I know where we’re going at least a few months in advance. I also always like to make packing lists for what we’ll need to bring. When we go on road trips, we usually find a house to rent on VRBO. Most of them list any baby or kid items they already have in the house. Then I can try to borrow or buy what we might need that they don’t have.
If you’re renting a house, make sure to find out what appliances they have ahead of time. Then you can bring your own coffee if they have a coffee maker. If they have a washing machine, you can make sure to bring laundry detergent.
2. Plan Stops Along The Way:
We usually go to the beach in Florida every summer, and it’s about an 8 hour drive (without kids). The past few times, we have stopped about an hour away from our destination at a grocery store to stock up on what we’ll need for the week. Not only does this break up the driving a little, but we can usually save a little money this way. The grocery stores near the beach usually jack their prices up. Plus, the stores at the beach are always so crowded you can barely walk, especially when it’s Spring Break or the middle of Summer.
This is where planning comes in handy and I have my trusty list of the essentials for a week of vacation with kids. We always bring a big cooler so we can buy the cold items we need. Since most places we stay at the beach have full kitchens, we tend to try to plan at least a few meals to cook there so we don’t have to fight the crowds at the restaurants every night. Eating in a few nights is another way we save a little money too.
3. Talk To Your Friends:
The beauty of technology is that you have instant access to your friends who live all over the world. More than likely, someone you know has taken their kids where you’re going before. We always like to be adventurous when we travel and try new places that we stumble upon, but it definitely helps to have a few ideas tucked away just in case you get stuck. Plus there are some restaurants or attractions you might really want to go to that might require a reservation ahead of time.
You never know, if it’s Spring Break, some of your friends might be traveling to the same area and you can plan to meet up. It can be great to meet up with other friends with kids when you’re in a different place and get a little taste of home. Plus, if your kids are like mine, they love having other kids to play with, so its instant entertainment for them.
4. Snacks, snacks, and more snacks:
You can never have too many snacks. When my kids were babies, we had these Munchkin 2 Piece Snack Catchers. They are great because they have two handles that are easy for little hands to hold while they’re learning gross motor skills. They also have soft flexible flaps that keep snacks from dumping out, while still giving them access to get their snack without any help! They’re perfect for dry snacks like cereal or these Happy Baby Organic puffs or yogurt melts.
I always try to pack at least a few healthy snacks since I know that it’s inevitable that we’ll give in to the plea for candy at one of our many pit stops. It makes me feel better to know that I’m at least trying to encourage some non-sugary foods. I usually let my kids help pick out some snacks to pack so that they can’t complain about their options. Although, I’ll admit this doesn’t guarantee a whine free trip.
OUR FAVORITE SNACKS FOR ROAD TRIPS WITH KIDS
Homemade trail mix- We like to do raisins, Cheerios, and M & Ms.
Lollipops- What kid doesn’t love candy? Lollipops tend to keep them quiet a little longer! If you want something a little healthier these Yum Earth sugar free lollipops are pretty good. My kids approve of them and they don’t even realize that they’re sugar free!
Try to stick with dry non sticky snacks to avoid more mess than necessary.
5. Check The Weather
Obviously the weather man isn’t always right, but it helps to know ahead of time whether or not you need to pack long sleeves and pants or shorts. Especially since kids grow so fast and you may need to get a few things ahead of the season if it will be warmer or colder where you’re going.
I always try to pack at least one jacket or pair of shorts for each person just in case there is unseasonable weather that wasn’t predicted when we get there. Again, most towns have a Walmart or Target if you get desperate. Heck you can even order Amazon and have it delivered to you at your destination!
I also recommend packing a small bag with a change of clothes and making sure it’s not buried at the bottom of your car in case of emergencies while you’re on the road. Nothing is worse than having to dig through suitcases at the rest stop when someone has a potty accident. If you’re anything like us, we pack our car to the brim. Sometimes moving one suitcase can cause everything to tumble out like dominos all over the parking lot!
6. Take A Field Trip To The Library:
I’m so blessed to have two kids who love to read and nothing is better on a long car ride than a new book. Our library allows us to check out an insane amount of books at once, which comes in handy now that my oldest is flying through chapter books.
Just make sure you keep up with them so you don’t end up having to pay the library for lost books! I also like to remind my kids that library books are only borrowed and we have to take good care of them, so that they’ll let us keep checking out more. This helps them learn how to treat books so that they last longer and teaches them responsibility.
7. Bring Travel Games and Accessories:
The possibilities are endless on this one. Melissa and Doug has some great books with activities for the car like Water Wow and Color Blast. My 6-year-old also loves to play with Wikki Sticks. They’re a little wax stick that your child can mold into whatever shape they want and they leave no mess. Plus they’re reusable and you can even get a book that your child can stick them to and practice their shapes, letters, or numbers. They’re great for motor skill development too!
My kids also love sticker books, coloring books, mazes, and word searches.
You can even get a little lap tray like this one that has a compartment for storing small toys like little cars or legos. Some have a pillow on the other side that makes them comfier to hold.
8. Pack A Travel Potty:
Even if your kids are past the stage of potty training, a travel potty can come in handy for those long stretches of road trips with kids where the exits are few and far between. Don’t forget to pack lots of wipes, napkins, and some sort of disposable bag to store your trash for those unavoidable messes along the way.
9. Download Movies:
Let’s face it, there are times when you’ll be desperate and you’ll have to turn on a movie for your kids. If you’re going on a long trip a 2 hour movie can go a long way. Netflix allows you to download movies to your device ahead of time so that you can just press play when you’re ready to watch.
If you have a built-in tv in your car, even better. Most libraries have DVDs that you can check out, but just pay attention to the due date. Ours only gives us a week for DVDs, but I can renew them online for another week if we’ll be gone longer than a week.
My kids usually get tired of movies after a while, so definitely don’t rely on this alone to entertain your kids.
10. Lower Your Expectations:
I know I mentioned this already, but you can’t expect road trips with kids to go as planned and for everything to be perfect. I’m not saying you can’t still have a good time, but don’t expect to come home feeling like you’ve been to the spa for a weekend.
Once I finally realized this, I was able to enjoy our vacations more- though most of the time I feel like I need a vacation after a vacation with my family. If you can, build in a little time to recharge the day after you get back from your trip before you have to go back to work. Even if it’s just a few hours to get caught up on laundry and listen to music on your headphones while you do it.
Let us know in the comments what you’ve learned from traveling with kids that you wish someone had shared with you. Happy Trails to you!
Our Favorite Things To Pack On Road Trips With Kids
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I always thought being a stay-at-home-mom was the easiest job you could ever have.
I remember talking to a friend who had two kids who didn’t work outside the home. Anytime I’d ask how she was doing, she’d say how busy she was. Then she’d go into all the things she was doing with her kids- running them around town, trying to cook her family healthy dinners, helping them with their homework, and then at some point I’d tune out.
I’d think to myself,
“How could she be so busy? She has the life any mom would dream of!”
Then after I had my 2nd kid, I decided that going to work full-time and having to pay to put two in daycare just didn’t make sense anymore. Kuddos to those out there that do it. I’m not judging you!
It just didn’t work for our family. I wasn’t feeling rewarded enough in my corporate job for it to be worth it for me. So we decided to take our 2 year old at the time out of day care and that I would stay home with our 2 boys.
Never in my life have I had a harder job before.
I’ve had some pretty tough jobs. Like when I worked as a counselor in inner city Atlanta. I went into peoples homes and taught parents ways to deal with their child’s behavioral issues while fearing for my safety as I heard gunshots outside.
I also worked at a psych hospital where I saw people in full blown psychosis. My job was to convince them to stay in the hospital for a few days so that a doctor could adjust their medication. But first I had to get them past the fact that they thought Jesus was going to come save them from the fires of satan that they felt burning inside of them.
Neither of these jobs were as hard as being a stay-at-home-mom.
Being a mom is a hard job period.
Whether you work full time outside the home, work part-time, or you’re a full time stay-at-home mom. It’s just hard. I’ve done all 3 and I have to say that now I get why my friend was always so busy and exhausted.
The days are long.
As a stay-at-home mom, sometimes it feels like you wake up in the morning and all you can think about is how much longer it is until your husband comes home from work so you can get some relief. Then you realize that it’s only 10 am. The fact that your kids are already on their second breakfast and their fourteenth fight, makes it feel like the day’s never going to end.
The highlight of your day is when you get to see your mom friends at the playground. Even though you won’t get to actually complete a sentence in your conversations.
At the end of the day, I’m so glad that I had the opportunity to quit my job and be at home with my boys while they were little. I wouldn’t take that time back for anything and I hope that one day they’ll appreciate it too.
Now that both of my kids are in school full time, I’ve gone back to work part-time. It’s been a good balance for me, because I still get afternoons with my boys. Right now I have Fridays off and I can spend them doing whatever I want.
Self-care is important!
Usually for me that means going to the gym, running errands, catching up on laundry, and volunteering at my kids’ school. But sometimes I actually do things that help me feel recharged. Sometimes I go to lunch with friends, do yoga, spend time writing, or just relax doing nothing.
I wouldn’t be able to survive mommy-hood if I didn’t take time to take care of myself and accept help from others.
I really struggled with this at first, but I’ve gotten better and now I know that it’s a must. Sometimes it means asking my mom to babysit so my husband and I can have a date night. Sometimes it’s as simple as letting my husband cook dinner (or order pizza) so I can have a night off.
I have to allow myself a break so that I can be a better mom when I’m back in it. Even if it means letting the laundry pile turn into more of a mountain and the dishes overflow in the sink so that I can go get a massage on my day off.
I hope you find what helps you recharge and that you’ll ask for help when you need it. I also hope that I can give you some tips to make being a mom a little easier.
Let me know in the comments what your favorite ways to take care of yourself are.