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I remember it like it was yesterday, even if it was several years ago.   I was in my van, about to go home from a too-long grocery trip.

I had a hungry baby buckled in, a toddler beside him and I had given myself an hour & a half to go home, feed the baby, unload the groceries and head back to preschool in time for pickup.

I had chosen to do “lunch bunch” that day (the kids stay an extra hour to have lunch with friends).

A close up of cereal in a bowl with text below it.

That’s when I got the call “Becky?  Did you forget to send in Jack’s lunch today?”

Yep… I had.   OH MAN!

I thought about my options here:
1- Go back home and pack him a lunch.  (this would take the longest)
2- Stop at McDonalds (would the other classmates be jealous?)
3- Stop at a grocery store & grab some sort of Lunchable (that wouldn’t keep him full for longer than that extra hour).

I opted for number three.  It was the wrong choice.   I had to take the other kids into the store, while the baby’s cries got louder & louder.   His brother was hungry, too, and wanted to eat lunch.

When I finally had everyone back in the car with a lunch for our preschooler, I started to go… and it started to rain.   I drove too fast for a mom with two kids in the car, but between the stress of forgetting lunch for the first time (it would happen several more times over the following years & I would learn that it is NOT a big deal), a new mom with a hungry, nursing baby, and a toddler yelling about being hungry and wanting to go home… it was all that I could do.

Wait for it…


I couldn’t believe it.  I was being pulled over.   I just melted.

I cried, my toddler cried, my newborn cried.

Now I would be 30 minutes late for lunch because of this…

Thankfully, the officer was very understanding that day and just said “Ma’am, drive slower next time.  You were just over the speed limit, but in the rain, we need to be extra cautious, especially with those precious cargo.”    (Yep- that was all that it took for my guilt level to sky-rocket).

Well… here I sit, 6 years later.

Lunches forgotten: maybe 5
Speeding Tickets since that day: 0
Stressful days as a new mom:   Too many to count.
Lessons learned:  infinite
Smiles: Even more infinite

Motherhood is that way, you know.  It is a roller-coaster and you are just staying on for the ride.  You determine how it goes: stressful, fun, exciting, scary… Let it be a time of fun.  A time of joy.  A time of taking chances.

Did you know that the most common email that I get is from mothers feeling overwhelmed?   I open at least two emails a day from an overwhelmed mother, asking for advice.

Most of us do those simple things to take care of ourselves when we feel burnt out, but what can we really do to stop it in its tracks?

1). Be the one in charge

Think about it- who is in charge in your home: you or your kids?
It seems that when our kids need us, we do whatever we can to make them happy.   You need to be the leader and your kids need you to be the leader.    Tell them what you expect… and then expect it.  Your children will rise to the occasion.

“I need you to clean up these toys in your room.  When they are clean, you can come find me and we will play.”      or  “You need to clean up the dishes after you are finished eating.”    This isn’t a request… you need them to do it and they will because you expect it and children love to make us proud.    We use words like OK to make everything a suggestion… today, just leave the “OK?” out of it.

Related: The word you should never use in parenting.

2. Start an allowance… and take it away. 

This month, we started an allowance.  It isn’t your traditional allowance (you can read about it here).  We give our kids money for chores and the chores change daily, based on what needs to be done in the house.   Does a room need to be dusted?  Do clothes need to be folded?   Does a room need to be picked up?   Mickey and I look around the house in the morning and then we make their chore charts.  They each get a certain number of chores and they are paid on Sunday.

The kicker?   IF I have to do one of their ‘responsibilities’, like making their bed, putting away their clothes, cleaning up a dish for them… they are to pay ME.
I explained it like this:  I pay you to help me, so you can pay me to help you.   However… if we all take care of our things as we go, you will earn your allowance for doing the ‘extra things’  and I will not get it for doing things for you.


3. Don’t do it for them! 

I know that it is easier to do things for our kids.   Messy bed?  We can make it in 10 seconds.   Shoes left out?  We can put them away in 5 seconds.    Dishwasher needs to be emptied?  2 minutes flat.

For our kids to do these chores, it takes them much longer.   It is more work for us and it is more work for them.   We have to ask & remind them.  We have to supervise & teach them.  We sometimes have to do it again when they aren’t looking.     THAT IS OK.  You are shaping their character & their future.
Don’t do it for them.

On the plus side: they will soon be able to help without YOUR help and that will make your life so much easier!

4. Finally….

Take time for you!
I used to go to a women’s bible group every week.  I went to a Mothers of Preschoolers group.   I met with parents at our son’s school.   I work out every morning and the kids go to the childcare room.  I do these things for me.

We need a break.  We just can’t be “on” 24/7.   Find something that is for you.   There are many groups that offer free childcare if you want to meet with other moms, workout or pray.   Find what is going to be your thing and make a habit of it.

These four things have helped to calm the chaos in our home.  Having set consequences in place and setting expectations for your kids will certainly be a game-changer in your home.  Your children will respond more positively and will listen without you nagging them.   Do these things for you, for your spouse and for your children.   You will all be happier because of them.

You are welcome to sign up for my free Cleaning & Decluttering Series here.

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Hi there!

I’m Becky, a former elementary school teacher turned certified child development therapist and blogger. I work at home with my husband and together we are raising (and partially homeschooling) our four children in the Carolinas. I love diet coke, ice cream, and spending time with my family.

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