3 more days, 3 more days, 3 more days… I tell myself as I wipe up another mess, this time a soggy mashup of cheez-its and milk which has turned into a Play-Doh like goo that seems to harden faster than cement as it seeps into the tile grout. Courtesy of my 11 month old who giggles as she totters away. Meanwhile, the dishes have piled up in the sink, my 5 year old is still in pajamas at noon, and my feet are making a thwap thwap sound against a sticky kitchen floor. I don’t even want to know why or how it got sticky in the first place.
I’m sure you can relate. When my husband is gone, some rules go out the window, and others get more ironclad. But recently I’ve gotten things more under control and have been accomplishing a lot more. I decided to put together some tips that have helped me keep my sanity in the hopes that it will help you, too!
I am the worst at frittering away time on the internet, whether on Facebook, Pinterest, or just reading articles. Sometimes I swear I look up and a couple hours have flown by. But once I sat down and made a schedule, I’ve been getting so much done!
There’s nothing wrong with checking Facebook or going on Pinterest – but I find that if I don’t give myself a time limit, I will waste way too much time.
My schedule is more of an outline than a rigid timeline; I’m pretty flexible (comes with the territory of pilot wife) so it’s not super strict. Basically it looks like this:
Morning: (8-10 am)
Clean up kitchen
Pick up clutter
Afternoon: (12-3 pm)
Take 5 year old to school
Put baby down for nap
Get 1 chore done
Pick up 5 year old
Snack time/play with kids
Evening: (6-9 pm)
Do 1 chore
Wine time/me time/free time/best time of the day!
See? It’s not that complicated of a list. But having an outline as well as some goals to accomplish throughout the day really helps me stay on track. Also, I’m not perfect. There are days where I am super on top of everything and days when I just give up and make a mess right along with the kids. Until the day before my husband comes home (or sometimes the day of) when I turn into a madwoman and clean like crazy because I am a procrastinator at heart. No judgment here.
Make Me Time
Did you see the last thing on my list? Yeah. Sadly that’s usually where Me Time ends up, because let’s face it, kids are our number one priority. But that doesn’t mean you don’t get to take care of yourself. Whether it’s a glass of wine, a good book, or some internet time, you have to make time for yourself a priority. It’s how you recharge your batteries so that you don’t get too drained. And I get it, some days it’s hard to even take a shower when you have littles, let alone have 5 minutes to yourself. But making Me Time a priority is going to give you the energy to tackle the days ahead of you. It’s an investment in yourself, really. A happy mom is much nicer to have around than a frazzled, drained mom. It’s good for everyone.
This goes hand in hand with Me Time. Having girlfriends (or a neighborhood teen, or family member) you trust to watch your kids while you run a few errands (or nap, or shower) is SO helpful. Do you remember what it’s like to take a leisurely stroll through Target, admiring the home goods and picking up random awesome stuff? If it’s been too long to remember actually enjoying shopping, then you need a break. I have traded babysitting with friends before and it’s great! It’s also a nice alternative if you can’t afford to hire someone. Seriously, give yourself permission to be away from the kids. Even an hour or two will make you feel fresh again!
This is probably the most important point I will make. The one that ties all the other points together. If you want order and stability in your home, I’m about to give you the good stuff.
I often hear from people, “Your kids are so well behaved, how do you do it?” or “Parker is so good, you’re so lucky!”
It’s not luck, I assure you. It is a lot of hard work and behind-the-scenes effort that happens to pay off. My kids are definitely not perfect, and neither am I! I make mistakes all the time, and I learn lessons daily. But there are some things I do that I have noticed work well, and produce great results. Parenting is all about keeping what works and throwing out what doesn’t. We’re all just trying to survive, and do the best we can. Not every child responds to the same type of discipline. But the tricks I use don’t depend on any one type of discipline, that’s the beauty of it. How do I know? Because I use them on other people’s kids too – with the same results. And you can, too.
When Scott is gone, I am Mommy and Daddy. I am the one in charge, and I don’t take that lightly. I run a pretty tight ship, and expect good behavior which comes from adhering to rules. If you break the rules, there are consequences. No exceptions.
I am also super fun; I make picnics to the park, I play games, do artwork and projects, and throw epic parties. So it’s really not exciting to lose out on those activities. I don’t expect perfection, and I allow room for mistakes. I don’t expect my kids to behave all the time; hell, I can’t even behave all the time. They are human, and they are learning. It is my job to teach them what behavior is and is not acceptable. And I do that by enforcing the rules.
Follow-through is key. You HAVE to follow through EVERY time, no ifs ands or buts. If you tell your child something and they don’t do it – what are the consequences? Do they have a reason to listen to you? Or do you let it slide and give them the control? You must. Follow. Through. Every time. I can’t reiterate this enough.
It is a lot of work at first. And children get testy, especially when they know there’s only one of you home. It can be a difficult transition when Dad leaves, and I understand that. However, the rules still stand. Children NEED boundaries to feel safe and secure. If the rules change when Daddy leaves, then what else will change? That is scary as a kid. Rules that shift and change make it feel like the rug is being pulled from beneath you, and then you lose trust in the system altogether. It’s our job to teach them that just because he’s gone doesn’t mean the rules fly out the window. (I’m talking about the real rules – not the, “let’s all eat at the table together” rules. Sometimes those do go out the window.)
So what are the rules? Here are mine:
If I ask you to do something, I expect you to do it.
I don’t tolerate talking back. If there needs to be a discussion, so be it. We can talk about our feelings without attitude or name calling.
No hitting, ever. Not allowed.
Ask permission for things like playing with friends, going outside, or getting a snack.
We say “hello”, “nice to meet you”, and “goodbye” to anyone who comes to our home (or if we’re introduced to someone).
We say “please” and “thank you” or “no thank you”.
Help clean up, and pick up your messes.
Hang your towel after bath time.
Put your own clothes in the hamper.
Put your dishes in the sink after dinner.
The difference between hard rules and soft rules are that hard rules are zero tolerance. If you break one of those rules the consequence will be swift and harsh. There are some times when I will maybe give a warning with hard rules, for instance if I have to repeat myself to get something done. The warning sounds like this, “You‘d better stop, or *insert consequence you have already planned* is going to happen. I’m not asking you again.” Then guess what? You’ve set your child up to make the decision for themselves. If my son continues the behavior, he can bet I’m doing exactly what I said I would. And that is how he learns that I mean what I say. Every time.
Soft rules are rules that adapt with my kids. My son is 5, I don’t expect him to remember to say “please” and “thank you” every time. But I do remind him. And I also have to remind him to pick up his mess and hang up his towel. Those are not things I will punish for. I will say, “Parker, you know the rule, go hang up your towel.” And he does. He just needs a reminder.
You have to be willing to do the hard things sometimes. I have had to leave birthday parties with a sobbing child because he couldn’t share and wasn’t playing nice. I gave him a warning that if he didn’t calm down and start sharing we were going to leave (warning + consequence). He kept it up and so I told him, “Sorry buddy, you didn’t make the right choice, now we’re leaving.” And I put him outside while he was wailing while I grabbed our things, apologized to my friend, and then took him home. Because I had to. That’s what I said I was going to do, and he made the choice. That is how I show my son that I mean what I say. Every time. See a theme?
Those bouts are pretty few and far between for my son. And sometimes it kills me to have to follow through, because it’s not fun for anyone. But it has to be done, or he will walk all over me. Let’s imagine what would have happened if I let him stay after I told him what would happen.
He would have kept making his friends upset for not sharing, he would have lost trust in me for not meaning what I say, he would question who was really in charge and start testing me on other things, and it probably would have been a rotten day. But instead, I nipped it in the bud, and when we got home and he had calmed down, he apologized to me. “It’s ok buddy, but next time you need to listen. You can’t act that way with your friends, and I know you know how to share. You are a great kid Parker, I know you’ll make the right choice next time.”
You have to also let them know that it’s the behavior you didn’t like – not them. I love my son, but that doesn’t mean I always like his behavior or decisions. And my job is to show him how much I love him while I also help guide his behavior when he needs it.
If you tell your kid something is going to happen and then it doesn’t, you have just handed over the power, my friend. And if they can’t believe you when you say you’re taking that toy away, they won’t believe you that it’s really bedtime, either. And they will fight you. Every. Single. Step of the way.
Want your kid to listen to you? Make them listen. Be someone worth listening to. You are in charge, so you need to act like it. Behavior you allow is behavior that will continue. Behavior that you nip in the bud is behavior that will cease.
Above all, children need to trust that you love them, and trust that you mean what you say. When they know that discipline comes from a loving place, it makes them feel secure. And guess what? They stop testing you so much when they know what to expect. When everyone knows the rules and what happens if they are broken, there is security. And peace for all!
It is hard, but I can tell you that it’s sooooo worth it. It actually makes your life so much easier. Once your kids learn the rules – and learn that the rules must be followed or there are consequences, you would be amazed at how well they do. Kids are smart, we know this. That’s why we have to stay one step ahead.
Get Sleep/Establish Bedtime
Sleep is important. Like, seriously important. I turn into a horrible ogre without it. I know that, so I make sure that I get enough. I established sleep schedules with both my kids at an early age. They were both different; my son was a laid back baby who slept pretty well from the get-go. He would wake up to eat and then go back to sleep. Until I realized he actually didn’t need to be up at 3 am anymore and so I cut out that feeding. Which was then sabotaged by my husband who got up out of habit to feed him and almost ruined my routine (hahaha that’s a whole other blog post ).
The sooner you can establish bedtime routines the better. And yes, I do realize that is SO much easier said than done. Babies can have colic, acid reflux (omg heartbreaking), and a myriad of other issues. There is no one-size-fits-all for sleep schedules. You just have to do the best you can. However you decide to manage it, getting your kids to bed is one of the biggest sanity savers there is.
There are a couple things that I think can help (outside of the problems listed), and they incorporate what we’ve already gone over.
- Establish a routine
This goes hand in hand with keeping a schedule. Establishing a routine helps your kids know what to expect, and this gives them a sense of security and control. Our routine is: dinnertime, playtime, bath time, get into jammies, brush teeth (for my 5 year old), story time, and bedtime. Once bedtime comes, that’s it. There’s no getting out of bed, asking for toys, etc. It is bedtime. Like I said before – if your kids don’t believe you that it’s bedtime, then it isn’t. If you keep giving in to their demands, they are going to keep on making them. They don’t care how tired you are, that you need some me time, or that your favorite show is about to start. They want to test you. So what are you going to do about it? You’re going to mean what you say. When it’s time for bed – it’s time for bed.
- Keep bedtime at around the same time every night
This isn’t only good for kids; it’s good for us, too. Once our bodies learn that it’s time to go to bed, we naturally start to get sleepy around that time. Same with your kids. Once you establish a routine and you also keep it at the same time, it’s like magic. And when I say “around the same time”, that means there’s room for flexibility. You’re not always going to be able to put your kids to bed at 8:30, so the odd late bedtime isn’t going to hurt anyone. All you can do is try.
I am bad at putting myself to bed. So I recently got an app on my phone called To Bed – it gives me a notification when I have 30 minutes before bedtime, and another one when it’s bedtime so that I can wrap up what I’m doing and get ready for bed. It’s been working out great! I really need that reminder, and since sleeping is super important to me I make it a priority.
Cut Yourself Some Slack
I know you all have the same voice in the back of your head that I do, the one that tells you you’re not doing a good enough job, the one that worries you that you’re not a good mom, or that everyone else has it all together and you should too.
You need to tell her to shut the hell up.
We all worry about our kids, and whether we’re doing good enough. I’m telling you that if you even care enough that you are reading this post and taking notes that you are a caring mom. You are doing a great job already! Is there room for improvement? Of course! There’s always something we can work at. But don’t stress out about the little things, and give yourself some grace. Being a wife and mom is so hard, and when you add an absent spouse it makes things at least ten times harder. You are never alone, and you are never a failure. Failure is when you give up trying, and accept defeat. I know you’re not going to give up right? Right. We’re in this together.
So grab some wine or call a girlfriend and vent when things are crazy. It’ll be ok. You’ve got this.
Vent on Pilot Wives
I have come to love the Pilot Wives group on Facebook. There is a great support system and tons of good advice to be shared. Yes, sometimes there is drama, but at least it’s entertaining. The best part is being able to commiserate with a group of women who know exactly what you are going through. Whether it’s marriage advice, kid advice, or if you just need a laugh, you’ll find a group of women ready to support you through it. So use that resource to your advantage and vent away! I have made some great friendships on there, and continue to do so.
Do you have any advice of your own? Add it to the comments section, I would love to hear from you!
The Flight Wife