Disclaimer: I cannot claim to be an expert on thriving as a mom. I know there are situations and circumstances that would make parenting littles significantly harder than it was (is) for me. I also know that with each season comes different challenges and that this post can’t guarantee “thriving” in your context. However, I have found that with some intentionality as a mama, seasons of hardship and difficulty can be alleviated so that we don’t have to settle with simply surviving. Heck, you might even find yourself happy.
My family grew from a family of two to a family of five within 22 months. When our oldest was about nine months old, we started the process for domestic infant adoption and got pregnant during the process. So in November 2017, we found ourselves with three tiny humans under the age of two: a 21-month-old, a four-month-old, and a newborn.
“I don’t know how you do it!” I heard some variation of this comment nearly every Sunday as I rolled into church with my infant-filled double stroller and toddler riding on the handlebar (probably unsafe, now that I think about it).
Looking back on when my children were younger, there were definitely days (sometimes weeks) when I felt like I was drowning. Heck, there are still days I wonder whether I’m seeing straight. But on the whole, #3under3 was a season I felt like I was able to thrive and not just survive: as a human, as a wife, and as a mom.
With that said, I came up with the top four ways to move from surviving to thriving with #3under3:
1. Set realistic expectations
Having realistic expectations of your day-to-day shenanigans as a mom of young children is so key to not feeling like an epic failure at the end of each day. On the one hand, there are things that are in your control: planning for your child’s well-being, keeping said child alive, etc. On the other hand, keeping small children alive often means cleaning up the same mess for the 50th time, repeating yourself a billion times, and probably getting pooped on at some point in your day.
Expectations aren’t bad, but it’s disappointing when they are not met. If you are regularly frustrated because you aren’t the “perfect” supermom who makes a five-course dinner for your spouse (while you have multiple children in diapers who screamed through nap time that day), it might be time to take a look at whether you’re being realistic for your season of life.
2. Gain self-awareness
Regardless of your personality, self-awareness is crucial if you want to transition from surviving to thriving.
For instance, I’m a recovering control freak, so structure is a must-have for my sanity. We prioritize sleep routines (read how sleep training saved another Albuquerque mama or find some tips for sleep training) and try to aim for 3-6 scheduled outings a week.
You might read that and think, “Nope. Not for me.” And that’s okay! The key here is to learn how you are wired (and while you’re at it, how your children are wired). Structure your days & weeks accordingly, and adjust as needed.
If you are curious about where to start, check out Enneagram, DISC, and Myers-Briggs. (There are free tests for each one online!)
3. Find a hobby
You might be drowning in spit-up and behind on chores. You could probably clean something. Do you even remember the last time you did your hair? But Mama, you are a human first before you are a mom.
It is easy to feel trapped in a productivity mindset, especially with young children and a never-ending to-do list. When you live where you work, it takes discipline to rest. But rest is so important!
Rest for a mom of littles doesn’t always equate to sleep. Being physically exhausted becomes your new norm, so there’s no better time to learn to find a different type of rest–rest for your soul.
For example, in the last few months, I’ve started blogging and baking. Before my family moved to Albuquerque, I did hand lettering, taught fitness classes, and served on the worship team at church. The hobbies in my life change with each season, but each hobby is something I do simply because I enjoy it.
So find a hobby and find some rest for your mama heart!
4. Make a friend
We moved away from family when I was 38 weeks pregnant with our oldest. We moved further away from family with #3under3.
Finding friends isn’t easy, but sometimes you just need to get creative. Whether it’s joining a local mama community on Facebook or perhaps plugging into a church or club, put yourself out there!
Making mom friends takes time, effort, and energy you might not think you have. But as someone who recently moved to the area, it makes all the difference in the world.
Here’s to thriving, not just surviving, as a mama of littles! Let me know what you think after trying these tips!
Originally published March 2020.
The opinions expressed in this post are those of the author. They do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of ABQ Mom, its executive team, other contributors to the site, its sponsors or partners, or any organizations the aforementioned might be affiliated with.