Good Southern girls are supposed to grow up, graduate from college, marry a nice boy, have a few kids, and live happily ever after in their spacious and spotless Colonial style home; all while wearing a perfect string of pearls around their neck. Well, life for this Long Island girl turned 'Almost' Southern Belle is NOT that simple. Balancing life and motherhood is a mini-saga. Some days it’s a comedy; some days it’s DRAMA. I flip a coin in the mornings to see which episode I am going to live out that day...I think someone has rigged my coin because I am never right. My days always have some little surprise waiting for me around the corner.
It was a little bit of a surprise when I became a full-time step-mom. In the beginning it was going to be 2 weeks in the summer, blah, blah, blah. But like that little coin that I have-the unexpected always pops up. Although I have always been surrounded by children, and very often have kids spending the night working on craft projects; it is still not the same as having your own child every single day. He doesn’t get to leave and go back to his parents when we are done playing. I am his parent. So, immediately my life went from being a Diva-licious Vixen to a Soccer-mom/Rachel Ray wannabe. Every thing that I do every single day is for my son. My life has really changed.
Achieving a sense a balance can be difficult. At first, I was extremely terrified. But fortunately for me, I have a very supportive extended family. This has been the key for me to maintain my sanity. Whenever I am teetering on the edge of destruction, they are there to pick me up before I hit rock bottom. I am fortunate that my family is so close emotionally and geographically. But being an Army wife exposes me to the reality that many women do not have the luxury of having their Moms, Aunts, and Grandmas close by. However, women have an unbreakable bond that no man will ever understand, and sometimes you have to create your own sense of family; especially for single mothers. Single mothers NEED that extra support in order to keep their sanity. Family does not necessarily mean that you are tied together by blood or DNA. Family can be created by loving friends who care and support one another. So, create your own personal circle of trust. Take the time to network with other women who are just like you, and share the same experiences. It is really refreshing, and allows you to have an outlet for those days when you are stressed out.
Meeting with my Mom and my Godmother at least once a week is a MUST! It helps me to decompress, and they always have good advice for me. Their supportive nature and their genuine advice allow me to go back into the Lion’s Den refreshed and ready to go. Those two ladies really inspire me. They are true go-getters, and they make me want to be a better wife and mother. I encourage every woman to have at least one person like this in your life to help you through the perils of motherhood. With role models like them, who needs an Energy drink? Well okay, I did promise to keep it real. I DO need my caffeine, and lots of it. I will blast you into outer space if you dare jump in line while I am trying to get my afternoon latte.
Planning is also a key element. Many busy families give up on planning because they feel as though something will come along and disrupt their original plan.That may be the case, but that doesn’t mean that you should stop trying. A good plan of action will help to get you back on track when things go astray. I try to plan ahead as much as I can. I usually take the time out on Sunday evenings to gather the “courage” I will need for the week, and plan out how things will go. Once I have my plan together, I brief my husband and my son on what their weekly duties will be (shout out to the Army wife in me). Once they are given their ‘assignments’, I usually check back with them halfway through their delegated tasks. My husband is a great resource for helping me keep my life in balance while trying to run a household.
Another good tip that I got from an experienced Grandma is to allow your children to help you. Some mothers have children who simply will not help. Others become so accustomed to doing it by themselves that they don’t allow people to help them. There is no reason why your 10 year old son cannot take out the trash; there is no reason why the two of you cannot make his bed together in order to save time, and teach your kid responsibility at the same time. I try to multi-task in everything I do in order to save time. We go over vocabulary words while I am cooking, he separates his laundry in order for me to start the wash, etc., etc. It’s a win-win situation. He is able to help me save a few minutes per day, and I am slowly allowing him to be more independent. I do not want my son going off to college not knowing how to take care of himself. If he starts now, by the time he is 18, I will not have to worry about him.
Another great time saving tip is to do as much as you can while they are asleep. Certain things are done much more efficiently and much faster when your children are asleep. There is no one to keep coming in distracting you. For example, a really good friend of mine is a single mother of two, and currently enrolled in college. Her action plan is to get dinner started as soon as she is off work, get the kids settled in, and then start her studying once they are in bed. There is no need to attempt to read the same chapter over and over again because little Johnny is asking you questions. In the 2 hours that it took for you to try and finish 5 pages, you could have finished 10 if Johnny was asleep, and you were left undisturbed.
My weekly meetings with my Mom and Godmother have reaffirmed one thing-Moms NEED to take time for themselves. I think that it is so important for both Moms and Dads to spend some time away from one another relaxing. I will not trade my Margarita nights with my Mom for anything in this world. I don’t care how busy you are, everyone can find 2 hours to spend by themselves doing something that pleases them. It is a MUST. You cannot continue to be a good parent if you are stressed out and overwhelmed. Find time to devote to a hobby that you have been neglecting, take a fitness class. If you can’t find the time to go out anywhere, then make your husband and the kids leave for a couple of hours while you take a relaxing bath. Do whatever you need to do to unwind and regroup.
I pretty much get through it all with prayer and a sense of humor. Without those 2 things I would be in a straight jacket banging my head up against the wall. I think I have found the answers to combating all of these little mishaps that come along with balancing life and motherhood, so I will wrap them up for you:
1-Don’t sleep-it will only allow you to be more rested and more energetic. And who needs that? You don’t want to give the little Rugrats a run for their money when they are trying to tear the house down. Let them get a head start by being drained and too tired to run after them.
2-Don’t wash your hair-It will only get messed up when little Julie throws creamed corn at you because she doesn’t like the way it tastes. After all, she has warned you about it, hasn’t she?
3-Don’t wear nice clothes-children would much rather spit up on old, raggedy clothes.
4-Never change your sheets-someone is bound to pee on them anyway
5-Never check their homework-it’s not like they will actually remember to turn in the project that you spent 5 hours helping them to create.
6-And while you’re at it, Never, ever make them a home cooked meal-it will only piss them off because their friend Johnny down the street “always” gets to go to McDonald’s.
Follow these simple steps and I’m sure you’ll have no problem balancing life and motherhood. But whatever you do, don’t forget to pray. You will be amazed at the power of prayer.