This is a second post in a series intended to help mothers survive the upcoming winter at home during the pandemic. This post is focused on how to feel fulfilled in motherhood so that we aren’t so bored at home this winter. In the first post we talked about how being centered on Christ is foundational to having joy in motherhood.
I mentioned in my last post that I have realized the essence of motherhood is not just being with our kids. When our entire focus is on our children’s physical needs and desires day in and day out, it is a recipe for boredom and stagnation. Today I’m sharing what has helped me. I hope this will help other mothers avoid boredom and feel fulfilled in motherhood.
I’ve found that the mornings are essential to help me connect with God and prepare for the day. But there have also been times when evenings/middle of the night has worked for me (like when we have a new baby–whenever there’s some silence and I’m awake is a good time).
There are endless activities that can fit in this category. It has taken me some trial and error and some prayer to discover what really helps me. Do whatever feels good to you. Exercise, prayer, meditation, reading, creativity, hygiene, etc. For me it always involves time with God, creativity, and getting dressed. After I have those things taken care of, the day can bring on anything, and I have a cup to draw from.
Last year I added a light therapy lamp to my mornings and it really helped with my energy levels and happiness. I highly recommend light therapy if you live in an area where the sun does not come out in the wintertime.
Analyze Your Family Rhythm
The next thing I would recommend to feel fulfilled in motherhood is to make sure our plans and goals for the day fit within the family’s natural rhythm. By noticing the rhythms of our family I’ve discovered: if I spend the morning focused on my kids, then the afternoon is better; I need to get a snack ready at 4 o’clock; and Mondays are less scheduled days.
A few years ago I tried to schedule activities on Mondays, but I discovered that my introverted kids were overwhelmed by the weekend social activities and irregular schedule. So on Mondays, I do household tasks with minimal kid assistance. I let them have the space to process their experiences.
From breakfast until lunch, I put my phone away and focus on being with my kids. Being present has a valuable impact on feeling fulfilled. Mothers always have something or other on the to-do list and it’s easy to look around and be distracted from those little people. Spending the morning setting other concerns aside has given me so much joy.
But once the afternoon rolls around the kids take a back seat. It has taken some training, but they know that after lunch they need to fend for themselves. When they were little I used to pick up a book and ignore them to the extent possible. If they came to ask me for something, I just said, “Mommy’s having quiet time.” I really believe this has been good training for their independence. They still feel connected to me because I spent the whole morning focused on them, but they know that I have needs, too, and they’ve learned to respect that.
Obviously days have their ups and downs and the flow is not so scheduled every day, but when we follow this rhythm in our days, we are all much happier.
Feel Fulfilled through Goals
Now, what should we do with those little kids in the morning? I have spent so much time the last few remembering what it is like to have only kids preschool and under at home. I want this post to be helpful to moms who are in the place I was a few years ago. And I remember feeling stagnant when everything was on a preschool level (or below!) all the time.
I remember days of letting the day come at me, and I felt so drained. One thing that helped me feel fulfilled was setting goals. Having goals helps me to stay present and engaged, which is an entirely more joyful way to mother. Action is powerful. And goals give us action.
When setting goals I focus on things I have power over. Setting a goal that my child will stop hitting by the end of the week is not a good idea, because their will is essential to the success of that goal, and I have no control over their will. So I set goals that don’t require them to do anything.
These are some of the goals that I set: have a role play to teach the kids about honesty; listen to the kids today and find out what they are most interested in learning; or take the kids to a park with a difficult climbing accessory so they can try something hard–encourage whatever effort they make. Whatever will help me stay engaged and give me something to focus on that is measurable to myself is a good goal. These goals help me fulfilled in motherhood because it’s all about my experience as a mother instead of the kids’ progress.
But these goals definitely help their progress. And I think they produce better results than a goal focused on their will, because it helps me be a better role model for them.
At the end of the day when the house is a mess again and everyone is hungry again, I have the experience of reaching these motherhood goals to help me feel fulfilled. Essentially it comes down to encouraging my kids and myself to become like the Savior, by inviting him into our lives.
For Those Super Rough Days
Now, there are days when even these goals will go awry. There are days when everything will go awry.
Nothing has helped me more than Linda Eyre’s advice to expect disasters every day. We are mothers of small children. Small children do unexpected things all the time. We cannot expect our days to be smooth sailing. Mentally preparing myself for disasters has been so helpful to my mental health. I highly recommend Linda’s book, “A Joyful Mother of Children.” It’s free online, and well worth the read. You will have to create a login to access it. Find it here.
I’ll be back with more ideas to help us all survive this COVID winter. But until then, I hope these ideas help you feel fulfilled in motherhood. Please feel free to join the discussion on Instagram or on Facebook.