Raising a family can sometimes feel like a tough slog. Late nights and early mornings can make for long hours. We can get lost in the details and lose sight of the reason we wanted to get married and/or have children in the first place. Being a mom can feel lonely, aggravating and just plain hard. Sometimes, the temptation to run away can seem almost overwhelming.
There are things we can do as parents to help run our homes, create systems for maintaining all the things that are needed, and still raise happy, healthy children.
First, set goals. A good goal is a SMART goal. SMART is a common acronym describing that goals are specific, measurable, actionable, realistic and timed.
- A specific goal is one that is about one particular thing. Rather than saying “Start meal planning,” try stating “Create a weekly dinner plan.”
- A measurable goal doesn’t just say what you want to accomplish, but how much. It isn’t just “Create a weekly dinner plan.” but “Create 4 differently weekly dinner plans, to rotate each month.”
- An actionable goal is one that tells exactly how the goal will be achieved. So “Create 4 different weekly dinner plans to rotate each month.” becomes “Create 4 different weekly dinner plans to rotate each month by using theme nights.”
- A realistic goal is one that is actually achievable, and not just wishful thinking. Our goal of 4 weekly dinner menus needs to be checked against past track records to see if it’s possible to do, especially in light of:
- A timed goal has a time limit. A goal without a deadline is just a wish or a dream. Saying “someday” doesn’t make things happen, but saying “Create 4 different weekly dinner plans to rotate each month by using theme nights by Valentine’s Day,” does. Now you have motivation.
Second, create a plan of action steps towards your goal. Action steps are small, pinpointed things you can do in concrete periods of time. For our SMART goal of “Create 4 different weekly dinner plans to rotate each month by using theme nights by Valentine’s Day,” actions steps could be things like: create a list of our top-10 favorite dinners; sign up for a recipe newsletter; join a Facebook meal planning group; figure out 5 dinner themes like Mexican or soup night; or any combination of the above.
Action steps are what turn goals into reality. It isn’t enough to just set a goal, but you have to actually do something regularly to achieve it. A plan of action gives you frequent, consistent tasks you can do towards the goal. Nothing creates momentum better than knowing exactly what and when you need to do something, and then being able to check it off the to-do list.
Third, track your behaviour — and the results you get. Just taking action towards your goals will get you no where if that action isn’t creating the right outcome. Just joining a Facebook group or signing up for a recipe newsletter isn’t going to create a menu plan if you don’t have a place or system to save those meal ideas. What isn’t working? What is working? Tracking your behaviour and results will help you fine tune your actionable plan, and keep the momentum going. Nothing spurs us on like seeing success!
Fourth, remember to take breaks. Breaks are so tempting to forgo, especially when you start seeing some momentum happening. It seems counter-intuitive to stop when things are happening. But taking a break is essential to keeping up your momentum. If you work constantly without a break, you’ll burn out. You’ll become tired, bored and eventually that momentum slows and stops.
You can take different kinds of breaks. Try a mini-break during a long session of working. Just 10 minutes to drink water (or coffee?), stretch, take a deep breath, before diving in again can improve concentration and creativity. After a few days or a week of long sessions, try taking a longer break. Give yourself a day off to enjoy nature, go shopping, catch up with friends, or just relax with a movie or good book. And if you’ve been working hard for months, you need to take a vacation! Studies show that vacations make us happier, more creative, healthier, more focused, and even smarter.
The trick is to not take too long a break or too short a break. Too long and you’ll find it hard to pick up where you left off. Too short, and well.. it doesn’t really feel like a break, and you’ll get no benefit at all. Keeping momentum means taking time off, but just enough — not too much or too little.
Fifth, find the joy in your family. Think back to when you first met your partner or got that positive pregnancy test. What do you enjoy most about the people you live with? The truth is, if you hate it, you won’t be a good parent or partner, your home won’t be what you want it to be, and you’ll be miserable. If something isn’t working for you, maybe it’s time to take a good long hard look at your family situation and see what needs to be changed. Maybe it’s just some bad habits that you’ve let slide (like kids not doing chores?) or maybe there’s a serious issue going on (like an abusive relationship — you do not have to stay in a relationship that is hurting you or your children!!). Talk to someone about how you’re feeling — your doctor, your pastor, your mother, a therapist (or you can email me!)
Sixth, reward yourself. Those goals and action steps that you set for yourself make perfect opportunities to create momentum through a reward. We love to work for a visible, tangible prize! For our goal of 4 different weekly dinner plans, when that first one is finished, my reward is a nice dinner out. For the 2nd, I plan on taking time off (see step number 5!), ordering takeout and reading a good novel. A 3rd, and I will reward myself with gourmet coffee. When I finish number 4, I plan on getting a cleaner to clean my house, at least just once! Rewards are great motivators, and seeing that success that comes with achieving goals — and winning the prize — builds huge momentum!
Finally, make mistakes. Try some new things. Look for ways to improve the efficiency of your process or to improve your mindset and productivity. Even though just like trying different strategies in a chess or video game can sometimes mean you’ll lose faster (oops!), trying new strategies in your home can mean you’ll lose out on things that worked before. But it will always be a learning experience, and you’ll be better for that. And maybe that themed dinner night will be the perfect way to create meal plans. You won’t know until you try. Momentum is built by trying out new things, and experimenting. The successes will spur you on, the failures will simply motivate you to try again, and the novelty will keep you coming back for more.
Being an mom can be a frustrating, irritating, annoying process. It can be hard to find all the hours in the day to do everything you want to do for your family, and still get enough sleep, food and time for yourself and your personal goals in your life. But setting goals, creating actionable plans, tracking the results, taking breaks, finding the joy again, rewarding yourself and experimenting can all help keep you going. Build the momentum in your home, and you’ll build up your family.