Disney Bound

When you plan a trip for six months, the pressure to get it right can feel overwhelming.

Add in a trip with kids where you’re spending thousands of dollars to what’s supposed to be the happiest place on earth and the fact that you tend to over think everything. And it can start to feel like you’re planning your wedding all over again.

A friend asked me if I felt like my families’ happiness was on my shoulders and it was like she was reading my thoughts. Except she isn’t a fortune teller. She’s just a mom who has planned a Disney trip or two.

I spent the week or two prior to our trip feeling almost frozen. All of the pressure had gotten to me.

The pressure that I had put on myself. My kids have only been to Disney once and they were only four and one. So really they had nothing to compare this trip to. They didn’t know how many or what kind of rides to expect.

The Spiral

Even still I had overwhelming anxiety about our trip. I started having anxiety about my anxiety. This wasn’t really something new to me, but this time it felt like it was never going to pass.

My anxiety had me fooled into thinking that I’d be too anxious to enjoy Disney World.

What has the world come to that moms are spending their time worrying about whether or not their family will have fun on vacation? It’s not that I didn’t have anything else to do. I just couldn’t get these bad thoughts out of my mind.

Thankfully once we set out to drive to Florida, all of that did fade away. It was like Disney was somehow already working it’s magic on me.

Am I the only one who has experienced this roller coaster of emotions? Please tell me I’m not alone.

Stay tuned next week for tips on surviving Disney World with kids.

The Grass Is Always Greener For Moms

Has anyone been watching the Canadian tv series Workin’ Moms on Netflix? I first heard about it a few months ago when some of my friends recommended it.

At that point, I had kind of written it off since I wasn’t technically a “working mom.” I worried I wouldn’t be able to relate, and to be honest, kind of brushed it off as rude that they had their own tv show. Those working moms….

But since we’ve had more time at home lately, I’ve found myself binge-watching a lot of tv shows. Sometimes late at night (or in the wee hours of the morning) when I can’t sleep, I surprisingly get some time to watch tv shows that I know my husband will have no interest in.

As I’m sitting here now writing this, it’s, 5 a.m. and I’m doing just that. I’m noticing that the working moms’ club is definitely not exclusive to only moms who work 9-5 jobs outside of the home. In fact, it was never meant to be that way.

How so, you say? Well, because EVERY mom works.

Some may work part-time, some overtime, some even work multiple jobs. But most of us moms never really stop working! Especially if our kids are still little and really as long as they’re still living at home.

Once they go to college the work doesn’t actually stop. It just becomes “work” around trying to get our grown children to cut the apron strings. The focus of parenting changes to teaching them to support themselves without us physically being there every day.

Our Current Situation

With most schools deciding to go virtual in the Fall, the workload is suddenly feeling like it’s going to be even BIGGER for all of us. Parents are having to make really hard family decisions.

A mom struggling to work and spend time with her kid

Questions moms are thinking about right now:

  • How do I keep our family safe while still being able to provide for their needs?
  • Who will make sure my kids are where they need to be academically if they haven’t seen a teacher face to face in months?
  • Am I qualified to be my child’s teacher on top of everything else I already do?
  • Do I have the time, energy, and patience to teach them?
  • How will I get my “real” job done and make sure they’re still learning?
  • How can I possibly keep my sanity any longer?
  • What will all of this cost?
  • How long is it going to last? How long can we live like this?
  • Will people think I’m selfish if I prioritize what I want instead of what my kids need?
  • Is the risk of sending my kids back to school in person worth it?
  • Should we uproot our whole family and move somewhere else?

Some moms don’t even get to decide anything. The choices have already been made for them! Luckily I have a partner in all of this, but some moms don’t. I can’t even begin to imagine how hard that is for them!

For me, the question is whether or not it’s a good time for me to go back to work.

Outside of a few part-time jobs, I’ve been a stay-at-home-mom for the past 5 years. It feels like I’m being forced to decide if going back to work right now is more important than the safety of my kids.

Then I start to think about not only my family’s physical needs, but also how much they need to be with their friends and how we all need a break from each other. What ends up happening for me, is I just get overwhelmed with all of the unknowns and what-ifs. I usually just put the decisions off and hope they’ll be easier later.

As I listen to other friends of mine trying to navigate making these difficult decisions for their own families, I’m reminded that the grass is always greener.

No matter what your situation is in parenting, there’s always going to be someone else’s life that seems better. It’s so easy from the outside to think others have it easier than we do, but in reality, we all have struggles. We all just carry them differently.

Moms who are jealous of each other

What we choose to share with others isn’t always the real picture. So, I think we as moms have to stick together. I’m sure I’ve said this before, but I’ll keep saying it… It takes a village!

Here are a few ways that we can help each other wade through these waters together.

I’m sure you can think of other ways to help the moms in your own life. I’d love for you to share your ideas in the comments!

6 TIPS TO HELP MOMS MAKE BIG DECISIONS

1. THINK ABOUT YOUR VALUES

What’s most important to you and your family? Make that your priority.

Take a break from social media so you can quiet all of other peoples’ opinions and focus on what really matters to YOUR family.

2. REACH OUT FOR SUPPORT

Whatever your situation is, you are not alone.

Some days it may feel like you’re the only one struggling with something, but I guarantee someone out there is feeling the same way. You just have to look for them!

3. GIVE YOURSELF GRACE

We won’t know all the answers right away and we may never know ALL the answers. Give yourself some grace to make mistakes and just try to put one step in front of the other.

Take it one day at a time right now. We don’t really know for sure what tomorrow’s going to look like anyway. So I suggest making decisions about the future based on how things look right now.

4. STOP JUDGING OTHERS

A friend of mine recently told me about how several years ago her daughter wanted to go further in gymnastics. She couldn’t though because the only thing offered at her gym was practice every day from 4:30-5:30.

And when she asked how working moms did it, she was met with an awkward glare. I think she described the other person as saying something like, “Oh you’re one of those.” Or maybe she just interpreted it that way.

A mom being hypocritical and judging another mom

The point is, every mom’s situation is different and we all are doing the best we can.

Aren’t we supposed to be on the same team anyway? So don’t judge other moms for the decisions they make for their families.

Chances are when you start focusing on yourself, making your own decisions will be a lot easier.

5. DON’T BE TOO SENSITIVE

This may sound like a contradiction, but what I mean is don’t take everything personally. Sometimes what may feel like someone judging your ability to be a mom, isn’t.

It may be your own insecurity. The person you’re feeling that from may even be projecting how they feel like a bad mom on you because they wish they could be more like you!

6. LEAN IN TO HELP

Don’t be afraid to ask for help! You may have never actually taken your next-door neighbor up on their offer to help watch your kids. Now is the time to do it. One day you can return the favor somehow.

Or hire help if you can. It’s ok to pay someone to come clean your house once a month if that will help make your to-do list a little shorter on the weekends.

Do what works for YOU! I’m not pretending to be an expert, but I do want moms to know that they aren’t alone. We have to stick together!

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My Anxious Life

Living with anxiety is not new to me. In fact, I remember the first time I realized I might have it. We were going down the escalator in Macy’s at Lenox Mall. Anyone in Georgia knows that Lenox is the busiest mall in Atlanta. Nothing specific really happened to trigger my anxiety, other than the store being really crowded.

The details are kind of a blur. But I remember feeling this overwhelming sense of panic covering me like a blanket. I started feeling like I was in another place- like I was about to pass out.

It was like I was outside of my body physically, but I fully knew where I was in my head.

mom who looks really anxious and nervous

I remember saying something to my husband about how I didn’t feel right and then I started to get really upset. He looked at me like I was crazy, but once he realized I wasn’t joking he said something that made me snap out of it. I don’t remember what that was either, but I think it had something to do with reminding me to breathe.

It wasn’t until a few years later that I realized I had a mini panic attack that day. I think I’ve always had some form of anxiety, but it’s changed as I’ve gotten older.

As long as I can remember, there have been periods where I’ve had trouble sleeping. As a little girl, everything had to be just right in my room in order for me to fall asleep. My stuffed animals had to be in a specific spot and the bathroom light in the hallway had to be on with the door opened just a crack.

When I was 8 or 9 I would sneak into my parent’s bedroom and fall asleep on the floor in front of their bed. For some reason, I just felt safer there.

Something was different about me.

I had plenty of friends back then, but I was always a little awkward physically. I had frizzy curly hair that I didn’t know I wasn’t supposed to brush out.

It’s a miracle I didn’t get teased by more than
my brothers!!!

My growth spurt hit at 12 or 13 and I shot up taller than a lot of the boys in my grade. Along with that came huge hips and what I then called “thunder thighs.”

I wasn’t like the other girls in my grade- the ones that boys paid attention to. Those girls had straight hair and they were super skinny. I know now that the things I was ashamed of back then are what make me who I am.

I’m still working on my self-confidence, but I’m able to recognize that my thighs are strong, and my curly hair makes me unique.

But I also think that feeling so strongly about being different made me nervous. I remember lying awake late at night replaying all the conversations I’d had that day, obsessing over what I said or didn’t say. I’d stay up so late worrying that I couldn’t wake up on time for school the next day.

Once I got closer to graduating, I had more important things to worry about. I stressed over where I was going to college, what I wanted to be, and getting a perfect 4.0.

I know it’s not that abnormal to worry about those things, but I remember the only B I got in high school like it just happened yesterday. I’ll never forget how devastated I was! I think I took the obsessing and worrying a little too far.

Maybe I had anxiety back then and just didn’t know it yet.

What Is Anxiety Anyway?

The American Psychological Association defines anxiety as an emotion characterized by feelings of tension, worried thoughts and physical changes like increased blood pressure.

I can definitely say I’ve been able to check all of those boxes at some point in my life. But now that I’m a mom, living with anxiety has taken on a whole new meaning.

What Anxiety Looks Like For Moms

It’s worrying that I yelled too much last night and I didn’t play enough. And falling asleep wondering if my kids know how much I love them.

It’s hearing a siren and hoping it’s not someone I love. This feels even worse if it happens when my kids are at school!

It’s thinking that my friends don’t like me anymore when I haven’t heard from them in a while. Then it’s checking my phone every 5 minutes to see if they texted me back when I ask them if they want to meet up.

It’s walking into a party praying that I don’t look ridiculously out of style in my jeans that never fit right after I had kids and my sweater from last season.

It’s hoping that my child isn’t being a mean kid on the playground, but being too scared that he is to intervene and find out. And if he is, it’s being too uncertain of my parenting style to know what to do or the right words to say.

It’s worrying that my son’s going to fall off the monkey bars and break his arm again. Or that my other son’s getting too close to the edge and will fall off too. Then he’ll end up needing surgery again and he’ll be so scared because of what he’s already been through.

It’s lying awake at night thinking of all the things I need to do, worrying that I’m going to forget one of them. Then finally getting up to make lunches at midnight or sign my child’s permission slip, because I don’t trust myself to remember.

It’s making my kids hold my hands extra tight in every parking lot and losing my cool when they don’t listen and run off.

It’s worrying that the car in front of me is going to slam on the breaks. Sometimes, when it’s raining really hard and I’m driving in it, it’s worrying that I’m going to start skidding across four lanes of traffic and end up in the median. And if I do end up dying, what will happen to my kids? Who will take care of them? Where will they live? Who will be there to see them graduate and help them plan their future weddings?

Sometimes, it’s not wanting to get out of bed.

All the time, it’s second-guessing myself as a mom. Wondering if I’m doing the right thing. Questioning if I’m feeding my kids the right thing- if I should be giving them more veggies and less candy.

Are these things all normal? Does every mom feel this way sometimes about their kids? I don’t know, but what I do know is that if you’re out there feeling this way, you’re not alone.

There Is Help For Moms Living With Anxiety

Mom feeling freed from her anxiety.

If you’re feeling anxious or worried enough that you feel like it’s stopping you from doing your job as a mom, please reach out for help. Find someone you feel safe talking to. It can make a big difference! Psychology today is a great place to start.

Some other things that help me are:

  • Journaling
  • Deep Breathing
  • Regular Exercise

Check out my previous blog on Self Care For Busy Moms, for more tips on managing anxiety as a mom.

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6 Reasons To Stop Cleaning Your House Before Play Dates

Ok I know what you’re probably thinking. Not another one of those blogs where she tells me to do the opposite of what I really should do- like the one about how to have fun at the playground. Because, why would I tell you to stop cleaning your house?

I’m serious this time though. Let me tell you why.

I’m in a local moms club and we have play groups where groups of us with kids who are close in age meet up once a week. A few months ago, I was at playgroup at a friend’s house. One of the other moms commented on how clean the house was.

She said, “It looks like no kids live here! I really wish other moms wouldn’t clean up so much before we come over. It just makes me feel worse about how messy my house is!”

This is not the first time I’ve heard a mom say that. In fact I remember hearing people say the same thing when I started doing playgroups almost 5 years ago. As much as I agree, it’s so hard for me to do!

I remember a few years ago when my son had his first play date without me at a friend’s house. It looked like a cheerio bomb had gone off and there were toys everywhere.

At first I was a little shocked, but then the mom apologized for the state of her home. In my head I was thinking, “Thank you! Thank you for not cleaning up. Thank you for making me feel better about my own house.”

Stop Obsessing Over The Mess

Yesterday, a mom friend and her two kids were coming over for a playdate. All day I was obsessing about what a mess my house was. I started to notice all the piles of board games and coloring books that I needed to go through and reorganize.

stop cleaning your house before play dates because it will just get messy again

Then I realized I was letting myself get too stressed out about cleaning my house for a play date.

I remembered the conversation I had with my friend at playgroup and decided to try to let some of the mess go. Of course I ended up still cleaning up some of it. But I took some of the pressure off myself for my house to be spotless.

The funny thing is, when my friend came over I really don’t think she even noticed the mess. I had planned to apologize to her about how my house was a disaster, but when I looked around it didn’t even look that bad!

The more I think about this, there are so many reasons you shouldn’t clean your house before a play date. Here are just a few:

WHY YOU SHOULD STOP CLEANING YOUR HOUSE BEFORE PLAY DATES

It Makes Others Feel Guilty

If you host a play date at your house and it’s spotless, your friends will probably feel like my mom friend did at play group.

They might wonder how you have it all together and question why they can’t seem to ever keep their own house clean. Outside of their being food all over the floor and bugs everywhere, your friends will feel more comfortable if it’s a little messy!

Someone Has To Break The Cycle

It only takes one person in your circle of friends to not clean their house before the play date to give others permission to do the same. But if you do clean up, then the cycle will keep going and everyone else will feel like they have to. So, be the one to break the cycle.

As hard as it is sometimes, it actually feels pretty liberating to let some of the mess go. Plus, if your friends are going to judge you for the state of your house cleanliness, are they really true friends anyway?

It Takes Away From Your Kids

Always stressing out about cleaning your house takes away from the time that you could be spending with your kids.

No mom has ever looked back on her life and regretted spending too much time with her kids.

As hard as it is to let the mess go in the moment, you will miss out on so many experiences with your family if your constantly cleaning.

It’s Just Going To Get Messy Again

Unfortunately, even if you do clean up, your house is just going to get messy again. A fun play date ends with toys everywhere and dress-up clothes off their hangers. It means that the toys were actually played with.

Kids making a mess on a playdate which is why you should stop cleaning your house before playdates

No One Will Notice Your Mess

We always notice the things we don’t like about ourselves more than others do. The same goes for the things we don’t like about our homes. Chances are no one but you will notice the crayon marking on the wall behind your couch or the crumbs of food under your dining room table.

Yesterday, my friend never batted an eye about the mess in my house. It really wasn’t as bad as I thought anyway.

Too Clean Is Not Realistic

Do you really want your friends wondering if you actually live there because your house is TOO clean? Kids learn by making messes. They wouldn’t have the experience of making cookies with you if you didn’t let them make a mess in the kitchen with the flour.

Kids make a mess when they play too. They have to dump out the whole bin of action figures to find the exact one they are looking for. They need to line up every single hot wheels car to have a car race, or else it just isn’t the same! Let them live!

We might have a slight toy car addiction!

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You’re Doing It Right Momma

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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Why Moms Should Avoid The Comparison Trap

Inside: Why you should stop comparing yourself to all the other moms out there and trying to be someone that you’ll never be. This content may contain affiliate links.

It’s so easy to look at the other moms around you and think, “Gosh she has it all together. Why can’t I get my kids to sleep through the night at 6 weeks?” or “I can’t believe I’ve fed my family fast food 3 nights this week and she cooks delicious organic meals every night! How does she do it? Why can’t I be more like her?”

“Why can’t I manage working full time, keep my house clean, and make my family happy all the time?” Do you realize that no one is able to do that? If any mom makes you think that she can, she is fooling you!

Are you one of those moms that is jealous of your friend who has a baby and then immediately looks like she did before she got pregnant? Is all you can think about why you still haven’t lost the 40 pounds you gained when you got pregnant with your toddler who is now 3. Well guess what….just because she looks like she’s back to her normal pre-pregnancy weight, doesn’t mean she is. Even if she is back to her “pre-pregnancy weight” that doesn’t mean she’s completely happy.

Maybe she’s starving herself and working out while her baby is napping, but then she snaps at her family because she’s not taking time to rest when the baby sleeps. She might even be thinking that she wishes she could be more like you, because you always seem to have the most patience with your kids.

Despite the pounds on the scale, it’s really irrelevant.

Each of our bodies is different and we can’t make them into something they’re not. I was in a fitness class the other day and the instructor made a point to say that we shouldn’t compare our bodies and our “progress” to the person next to us. We can all do the exact same work out and eat the exact same thing all day and still look completely different.

.

God made us the way we are SO that we would all be different. Can you imagine how boring our world would be if we all looked the same?

A few years ago, I attended a small group study led by Sandra Stanley on her book The Comparison Trap. It’s a 28-day devotional where she explores what the Bible says about how God made you the way that you are.

One of the devotionals studies Ephesians 2: 10 It says, “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” What that means is the good things that God’s picked for me aren’t the same for you. Instead of saying, “Why not me?” remember that God has something else planned for you, something that’s even better for you based on the gifts, skills, and temperament that he gave you.

God knew exactly what he was doing when he made you. If you try to be someone else you’re always going to come up short. You’re going to exhaust yourself spinning your wheels trying to be someone that you weren’t created to be.

The Family Looking Up Blog interviews Sara Payne, about what she believes are 3 ways that moms can avoid the comparison trap.

Sara points out that often when we are comparing ourselves to others, we’re comparing our weaknesses to their strengths. And that’s just not fair for either person! She challenges moms to celebrate other moms successes and to look at them as being allies not enemies.

Unfortunately for moms today, with social media constantly at our fingertips, it’s so easy to get caught up in the comparison trap. But that doesn’t mean we have to stay there. We just have to make a conscious effort to get ourselves out of it.

I got this sticker from The Comparison Trap study that says, “You’re fine because you’re mine.” I put it on my mirror in my bathroom so that I would see it everyday.

A sticker that says "You're fine because you're mine."

There might be days that go by, where I just wash my face and brush my teeth without and even acknowledging that it’s there. But on the days that I do see it, it’s a good reminder for me that God made me the way I am and that he made me this way on purpose.

What’s something you can do to help yourself avoid getting stuck in the comparison trap?

How To Fill Your Child’s Emotional Cup

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!

Making Lemonade

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.

Child who looks angry and needs their cup filled

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.

When I have free time, I often find myself looking at Pinterest so that’s what I was doing when I stumbled across this picture. It all started to make more sense! You can find the downloadable pdf here: https://upbility.net/blogs/news/the-emotional-cup#comments.

How to fill your child's emotional cup, what empties the cup, and ways children deal with an empty cup.

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

  1. They steal from other people’s cups or steal from their happiness- like when my son poured the lemonade on his brother’s head.
  2. Misbehave to get your attention and show that they need a refill. This was definitely happening!
  3. 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!

5 tips for filling your child's emotional cup with mom reading to child

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Momma, Stop Putting Too Much Pressure On Yourself

I’ve been trying to come up with the perfect blog post and I realized that maybe I should share about my experience, because maybe there’s someone else out there that needs to hear this.

I’ve always been kind of a perfectionist. When I was in high school I had straight As (except for ONE B in AP Biology) and when I went to college I remember getting my first C. I was devastated and obviously will never forget it! Yet I still got my Masters degree and had plenty of success getting jobs when I graduated.

Blogging is a lot harder than it seems and some days I wonder if it’s too much for a perfectionist like me. You have to not only write good content but also figure out how to drive traffic to your blog. That means posting on social media.

So I’ve been trying to grow a following and post consistently in my facebook group and on Instagram. I’ve been trying to learn how to use Pinterest for marketing and there’s also Twitter, but I haven’t even begun to really use that! I have a goal in my head to post a certain number of times a day on each of these platforms and it adds up to a lot!

I also put pressure on myself to try to keep the house clean, make sure there aren’t dirty dishes in the sink, keep up with the laundry, cook healthy dinners, and give my kids attention when they get home from school.

On top of that, I also want to be involved at my kids’ school. So I joined the PTA and this year I agreed to take on the role of treasurer. I’ve been feeling guilty about not keeping the records up to date and having our available balance on the top of my head to tell the President when she asks me. She doesn’t even expect that from me. I put that pressure all on myself!

I’ve also been trying to work out, because exercise makes me feel better and releases stress, but I have to find time to fit it in. If I go to the gym, that takes up a big chunk of my day, causing me to feel more pressure to fit in the other things on my to-do list in a shorter time period.

Today I went for a walk, and I kept thinking that I needed to run because I wasn’t going to burn enough calories if I walked the whole time. I was meeting a friend for lunch so I only had a limited amount of time and I could run further than I could walk in that time.

So I was running for 1 minute intervals and then walking until I felt like I could run more. After about 20 minutes of doing this, I had the thought that I should stop putting so much pressure on myself, even in my work out. I decided to walk and just try to enjoy the moment.

When I allowed myself to walk the whole way instead of trying so hard to keep up with my run/walk/run intervals, that’s when my thoughts cleared and I started to have ideas for what I could write about. I finally thought of the answer to the parenting question that was posted in my facebook group.

The reality is, I can’t be perfect at all of these things! No one can be perfect at everything. If I keep putting pressure on myself to be perfect at all of them, I’ll end up burning out and not being very good at anything. But once I took some of the pressure off myself, I was able to do one of the things I wanted to do.

Wonder Woman is my favorite super hero, partly because I want to be like her. She has super human strength and can do anything. But I have to remember that she’s not real. She’s a comic book character. It’s not realistic for me to conquer everything and to be perfect at all of it. The perfect mom doesn’t exist!!!

When Life Throws You Lemons, It’s Ok To Not Make The Lemonade

You know that saying, “When life throws you lemons, you make lemonade?” Recently, I felt like I’d had a bucket of lemons thrown at me and this time I did’t want to be Positive Patty about my situation.

It wasn’t working overtime 3 weekends in a row in April that killed me. It wasn’t even the fact that my husband traveled 3 out of 4 weeks in May that set me over the edge.

I survived the 1st grade field trip to the Puppetry Arts Center; kudos to the teachers that take care of my kids every day. I met with both of my kids’ teachers to hear about their progress this year and helped plan the 1st grade end of the year party.

I attended the pre-k party and two awards ceremonies. Plus I toted my kids to swim practice for an hour and 45 minutes after school every day the last two weeks of school.

Then I even made dinner, put them to bed, did the dishes and laundry. All the while by myself as my husband was out of town. 

The first day of summer break started with my kids waking up at 5 a.m. and fighting non-stop.

I soon started to question my decision to go back to being a stay-at-home mom for the summer.

Then we spent the entire weekend at the pool. We got to catch up with friends and get some natural vitamin D. My son and I both were even doing back dives off the diving board.

Things were looking up.

The next day was the first “official day of Summer” (the day after Memorial Day) and my 4 year old broke his arm jumping on the bed.

Because of the severity of the break, he couldn’t get a waterproof cast. So my dreams of spending the summer at the pool with my friends went out the window faster than I can say, “Yay Summer, ” (insert eye roll).

breaking an arm is when life throws you lemons

Don’t get me wrong, I know it could be worse. I know I should be grateful  this didn’t happen during the last week of school madness.

I should be grateful it didn’t happen when my hubby was out of town. And that even though his arm is broken in two places and the bone was bent, at least the bones were still intact.

At least he still has one good arm, and he didn’t have to have surgery to put pins in, but it still sucks!

And I’m giving myself permission right now to have a little pity party that life has thrown me a bucket of lemons and to be mad about our current situation.

Tomorrow I will put my happy face back on for my boy and tell him it’s going to be ok. I’ll find something fun for us to do that doesn’t involve water or being outside in the heat. Something that doesn’t involve running, climbing or jumping.

I’ll give him an extra hug and tell him how much I love him.  That I’m here to help him navigate the challenges of playing legos, going potty, and eating ice cream with his left hand.

I’m also going to give myself grace to be ok with a little extra tech time this summer.

The grace to be a little jealous when everyone’s social media feed is covered in pool photos and we have to miss all the neighborhood pool parties.

Sometimes, when life throws you lemons, it’s ok to throw them out with the trash. You don’t always have to make lemonade.

I’m not in control.

Part of me thinks maybe God just wanted to remind me that he’s in control and I am not.

I think I jinxed myself when I had a little mommy meltdown on that first Friday school was out.

I had a “come to Jesus” meeting with my kids about how they were going to treat each other. We discussed that they were going to have to earn tech time with good behavior and doing school work.

Then 5 minutes later they were hitting each other, and I screamed, “I feel like I have no control!”

Yep, that’s what I get for trying to control my kids and make them sit quietly in the car.

The reality is that kids will be kids and all I can do is try to do the best I can.

Although this summer may not be what I had pictured in my mind, it will be ok. I’ll make the best of it. The cast is only temporary and this too shall pass.

Plus, luckily I have my village of moms to help me get through it.

Using Art To Talk When Kids Lose A Pet

Losing a pet is something you never want to deal with, but unfortunately it’s part of having them. When you add kids into the mix, this can be even harder. Finding the words to talk to your kids when you’re dealing with your own grief can feel overwhelming! But this art activity can make it easier for kids to share their feelings without having to push them to talk. 

When we had to say goodbye to our dog Andre after having him for almost 14 years, I learned how to do this the hard way. Even as a former child therapist, I had no idea how to talk to my kids about death. I’d never had to do it before. Plus I didn’t want to say anything that would upset them more. We had talked about our loved ones who are in heaven, but they all passed away before they were born.

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My mom is a retired elementary art teacher and although I’m not as talented as her, I do have a love for art. When we don’t have the words to talk about how we’re feeling, we can use art to express ourselves and uncover emotions that we didn’t even know existed. Young children haven’t developed the words to express how they’re feeling and art is a great way to help them do that!

Using “Color Your Heart” to Process Losing A Pet

Color Your Heart is an activity that I used often in my play therapy practice. What I love about this activity is that it’s super simple and doesn’t require any artistic talent. It also helps you name your emotions, which is a great way to help kids develop empathy. Here’s how to do it:  

Step 1: Lay The Groundwork

First, I asked my boys if they wanted to do an activity with me. Sometimes they’re really excited about doing crafty activities and sometimes it’s a struggle to get them onboard. Luckily this time they were interested and it didn’t take much convincing. 

Step 2: Gather Your Supplies 

Next, I got out a few sheets of blank paper and some crayons. On each sheet of paper I drew a large heart and a few small boxes to the side.

Step 3: Name Your Feelings

I started with my youngest because I knew that he was likely to copy whatever his brother said, and I wanted to get genuine answers from him. I asked him to tell me which feelings he had in his heart. 

Then I told him to color in the box with the color that he thought went with that feeling. I let him know that he could choose any color he wanted for each feeling. First, he said he was happy and excited. And then he said, “Is it ok if I put one that’s not nice?”

I told him that we could write down any feelings that he was having and it didn’t matter what kind they were. So then he named worried, mad, and sad. It was important for him to get permission to express negative feelings too. People are often afraid to share these emotions, but keeping them inside is unhealthy. The earlier we can teach kids that it’s ok to have them, the better they’ll be at coping with them. 

Step 4: Color It In

Once he was done listing the feelings in his heart, I asked him to color it in with the colors that showed how he was feeling.

Since he chose green for excited, he would color in a little bit of green if he was feeling a little bit excited and a lot of green if he was feeling really excited.

Step 5: Process The Feelings

As he was coloring my son started to tell me about why he chose the feelings that he did. If he didn’t, I could have given him a little encouragement to share by saying things like, “You put a lot of red! Can you tell me about that?” or “Do you want to tell me about the colors you put in your heart?” 

blog heart activity2I also had my older son do this. He had an easier time sharing why he chose the feelings that he put in his heart. I expected that though since he’s almost 3 years older! 

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I’m really glad that I did this activity with my boys. They both ended up telling me unprompted that they put sad in their hearts, because they were sad about our dog dying.

It gave them an easy way to get the feelings out that they were keeping bottled up. They also began to ask questions later that day about death and dying. I think this activity opened the door for them to talk about things they normally wouldn’t have. They both shared about experiences they had at school that day that I otherwise wouldn’t have known about.

Adults can do this activity too!

Just because we grow up and learn how to express our feelings doesn’t mean it’s always easy. Using art to express ourselves can be a really powerful thing. I encourage you to try art therapy yourself! You can find some easy art activities on Pinterest that don’t require a lot of supplies.

If you’re interested in learning more about how to use art to express yourself, there is a great book called Visual Journaling, by Barbara Ganim that can help you get started. This book includes simple art activities that teach help you use images instead of words to dig deeper into the part of your brain where your feelings are stored. It can help adults manage stress and anger, which is something we all need at times! 

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