The Trick That's Helping Me Find More Joy in ParentingLauren Hartmann
I’m not gonna lie … some days parenting sucks.
There are days when my toddler is one big bundle of tantrums and sass and my baby is super fussy and glued to me all day long. There are days when I wonder what I’ve gotten myself into and just want to curl up under the covers and cry. And then there are moments of overwhelming sweetness that remind me why I wanted to be a parent in the first place.
Most days are filled with a little bit of everything, some highs and some lows, but when all is said and done, it’s really just about how I choose to look at it. Do I want to be a “Glass-Half-Empty” or “Glass-Half-Full” kind of parent?
In that spirit, I decided to try a little exercise in perspective. I documented a day in the life — first from a “Glass-Half-Empty” point of view and then from “Glass-Half-Full”:
7:30 AM: I wake to the sounds of my toddler screaming, “Mommy! I need a dress on! Come take my pajamas off!” By the time I get her dressed, the baby is awake and alerted me to that fact by leaking through his diaper all over my bed. Time to wash the sheets, one of the lovely benefits of co-sleeping. I change the baby, throw the sheets in the dryer, make oatmeal for my daughter and eggs for myself and just as I’m about to sit down to eat, little brother is crying and ready to eat again. Cold eggs… again.
10:30 AM: I am sitting on the bathroom floor in my pajamas. My hair is a hot mess and yesterday’s mascara is smudged beneath my eyes as I precariously balance my constantly nursing infant against my boob while trying to negotiate with my potty training 2-year-old who is currently holding her poop hostage for more bribery.
12:15 PM: I make it to the ninth circle of hell, otherwise known as the grocery store, with two children in tow. It’s nearly nap time and I’m awkwardly trying to wrangle my toddler into the shopping cart as her baby brother is crying in his carrier. Everyone is pretty much on the edge of complete and total meltdown — myself included. I hate it here, but we were out of milk… and pretty much everything else. Strangers give me the stink eye as my daughter flails in the checkout line because I won’t buy her apple juice.
2:30 PM: I finally settle down to get some work done while my daughter “naps” (I use that term very loosely, since her naps these days pretty much consist of her playing and banging on walls, but at least she stays in her room… mostly… sometimes… ). Just as I’m getting into a post, I realize I haven’t eaten since those cold eggs at breakfast, so I try to whip up something at least semi-healthy. By the time I sit back down to write, the baby is grumpy and wanting to nurse again. Balancing him on a nursing pillow between me and my computer, I’m able to squeeze in about 30 minutes of distracted writing before my daughter “wakes up.”
4 PM: Toddler only slept for about 20 minutes, so she wakes up in a fog and is angry at the world. Hell hath no fury like an overtired toddler. She proceeds to melt into a heap on the kitchen floor at least 18,000 times over the most ridiculous things… like a dress that isn’t twirly enough or a sticky spot on her hand, while I attempt to make the easiest dinner I can think of. My baby is laying on the counter while I prep our meal, because God forbid if I should look at anyone other than him. He won’t be having any of that.
5:30 PM: Husband is home. He’s tired, I’m tired. We barely have time to connect because someone always needs something. Dinner consists of overcooked asparagus and a new recipe that totally flopped. The toddler eats exactly less than three percent of the food on her plate because it’s not ice cream. The other 97 percent winds up on the floor for me to clean up later.
6:45 PM: Will this day ever end? I sure could use a drink.
8 PM: It’s finally bedtime! Praise the Lord! Oh wait… that means actually having to get a toddler ready for bed, which is akin to wrangling an alligator covered in Crisco… especially the teeth brushing. Twenty minutes later, she’s in bed along with every toy in the entire house. I end up singing at least twelve songs while patting her back and simultaneously nursing an infant in the dark. I never realized how good moms were at multi-tasking.
9:15 PM: I wash a few dishes and fall onto the couch. I’m exhausted, but this is the only time of day when I get to relax and be by myself (OK, aside from the baby who is still attached to my boob) and I don’t want to squander it on sleep. So instead I usually just zone out on a TV show with my husband for an hour.
7:30 AM: I wake up and soak in the sweet smell of the infant cuddled next to me in bed. I hear my toddler stirring down the hall, and as I open her door, I’m greeted by her sweet little voice asking me to “come snuggle” her. We snuggle in her bed for maybe two minutes before the baby wakes up, but those two minutes are oh-so-sweet. I get the kids dressed and giggle with my toddler while she shows me her best twirl in the mirror. Getting breakfast ready is a bit of a shuffle in between nursing and cooking, but when I do sit down, my breakfast of bacon and eggs (made right from our backyard coop!) is pretty delicious… even if it’s a little cold.
10:30 AM: My toddler is working so hard on this potty training thing and even though we’ve had our set-backs, she just told me she had to go all on her own without any reminding. Of course, it gets a little tricky helping her when I’m nursing a baby, but we make it through and it’s fun to see how proud she is of her accomplishments. I can’t believe how big she’s getting!
12:15 PM: We make it to the grocery store and I pause to feel thankful that I have a car to get us here, and the money to buy quality, nutritious foods for my family. Sure, we have a meltdown in the checkout line, but my toddler is just trying to figure out her emotions and learn about the world. It’s hard, but also gives me an opportunity to seize teachable moments.
2:30 PM: I finally settle down to get some work done while my daughter has quiet rest time in her room. She doesn’t always sleep, but at least she stays in her room for a little bit so I can be productive. I’m thankful I have a job that’s flexible and allows me to work from home so I can be with my children. I’m also thankful that I can be home to nurse my baby. He’s a really frequent nurser and I can’t imagine having to go to work and pump for all his needs! I’m glad he’s healthy and gaining weight like a champ.
4 PM: Toddler doesn’t actually sleep very often during her nap these days, but today she actually slept for twenty minutes. She wasn’t totally rested and woke up a bit grumpy, but it gave us an excuse to take a break and cuddle up together with an episode of Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood. After that, I start prepping dinner with the baby right near me — in a wrap, laying on the counter — basically wherever he can see my face. Sometimes it’s hard when he’s so attached to me, but other times I’m reminded how sweet it is to be someone’s entire world. In his eyes, the sun rises and sets with me and the smiles he shoots while I chop veggies melt my heart.
5:30 PM: Husband is home and we’re all happy to see him. Thankful that he has a job and goes to work to provide for us every day.
6:45 PM: This day has been long, but there have definitely been some sweet moments.
8 PM: It’s bedtime and after getting my toddler ready and helping her brush her teeth, it’s time for tuck in. Tonight she’s feeling extra lovey and wants me to stay and lay by her and sing more songs. I oblige, because who knows how long she’ll want me around like this, and as I lay there in the dark nursing the baby while singing to her, I think about how my life feels complete. As I leave her room, she says, “Mama, I love you so, so, so much.” These are the moments that I will treasure in my mama heart forever.
9:15 PM: I wash a few dishes and fall onto the couch. I’m tired, but it’s the good kind of tired… the kind that comes after a day of hard, but worthwhile work. I enjoy a show with my husband before we head to bed.
10:15 PM: Bed time. I snuggle up next to my husband with the baby right next to me. I am happy and content. Life is good.
Some days are hard, but truly, it’s all about how you frame it. Even in the midst of the tantrums and mealtime failures and spit-up stained t-shirts, there is beauty to be found — sweet and simple moments when your child says “I love you” or flashes you a toothless grin.
I challenge you to give this a try and see if you don’t have a new appreciation for your day. Be a “Glass-Half-Full” parent! Life is too short to look at the world through a negative lens.