Mom guilt is a real thing and it is rough. Keeping track of schedules, concerts, sports and managing individual personalities is exhausting.
I’m here to tell you that you can actually be a better mom by doing less. Being a minimalist mom, I have learned minimalism goes way beyond downsizing and organizing. It’s all about your mindset and priorities too.
Here are the ways I have learned to be a better mom by doing less.
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You know what makes me smile every time? A kid with a tutu, rain boots, a fireman hat and no sense of fashion. It’s amazing, and it’s what childhood should always be about.
With our oldest daughter I used to stress all the time about her unbrushed hair, shorts to her knees and baggy t-shirts. It just looked sloppy and drove me crazy. Then again, I was dealing with my own self-image issues and felt like I needed to look perfect at all times.
The thing that went really wrong was not that I let her wear those clothes, it was that I cared too much about it. I cared what people would think of her, or what they would think of me as a parent. Not being her biological mother made it way harder. For a period of time I stopped helping her dress and let her choose her own clothes and then got a comment about how she didn’t look “taken care of.”
I certainly didn’t want people to think she was just some, “step child” that was being neglected now that I had a baby of my own! Truthfully, I was trying to step back and let her make her own choices. I was trying to helicopter less and look where it got me…mom shamed.
So I stopped buying her clothes I thought she’d like. No more surprise clothes hauls from mom. She rarely wore what I bought her anyway and then I would get upset about wasted money.
We went shopping and I sat and waited patiently. I let her wander the stores and choose her own outfits. This didn’t mean I loved the baggy shorts all of a sudden. So I would say things like, “If you like them, get them!” (Insert cheesy, plastered smile.)
By letting your child choose their own wardrobe, they begin to figure out who they are and you get to practice being ok with it! Too many parents try to control their child’s every move and their personalities too. (Guilty.)
Something as simple as choosing their own shirt in the morning starts your child’s day off right. It allows them to make their own choices and find their own style. By letting them find out early who they are in life, they are more likely to find success in both their work life and personal life.
There has been so much debate over this one and I just don’t get it personally. I have had chores my entire life and now I’m a resourceful grown up who has learned to take care of the home I live in.
Yes, I’m sure many people take this too far. I’m not saying sit on your but and let your kid’s maintain the home and be your parent. I’m saying guide them through and encourage them to help around the home you all share.
When my kids were young, they would see me wiping down furniture and they would want to help. So I’d wet them down a washcloth and let them clean. This left water drip stains all over my house.
I know, I know this is supposed to be about ways to do less as a mom, not more. Who wants to clean up after their kids “cleaned up?” While it definitely takes some elbow grease from you to get them started, it will pay off in the long run and you will find yourself with a shorter to-do list.
Get a simple chore chart based off your children’s age. At the age of 2 this can be as simple as getting themselves dressed or putting on their own shoes. Dave Ramsey has a great chore chart that we use in our own home. Financial Peace Junior Kit comes with different recommendations for each child’s age, a workbook to help teach them about money management and envelopes to help them separate their money into “save,” “spend,” and “give.”
My biggest pet peeve with this was having to pay my kids to do things I don’t feel should be rewarded. Like making their beds. They should be making their beds without expecting to be compensated. Then I realized, giving a monetary reward was a nice incentive to get to them to make their beds, so I didn’t have to tell them all the time.
Our youngest children are 7 and 8 and each morning they get .10 cents for making their bed. Whoopteedoo! (possible incorrect spelling.)
Doing this gave them motivation to make their beds and that is a habit I definitely want to instill in them at a young age.
I do less chores. My kiddos are loading the dishwasher and maintaining their own bathroom. They put away their clothes…and while it’s not “mom quality” they are learning early to appreciate their things as well as the value of hard work.
Since starting our chore chart, my kids have looked for more ways to make more money! They loved the idea of working more so much they started their own “Poop Patrol” business. We made flyers and handed them out door to door. Now every Friday, they are picking up dog poop in neighbor’s yards.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t dream about my kid’s being 40 years old and still living at home. Getting them in the habit of working and earning money (and feeling pride when they do) is the best way to set them up for success later in life.
I know some of you just danced in your seats. The truth is, the amount of time I spent in the kitchen as a stay at home mom makes me cringe. I used to prepare breakfasts, organize lunches and then cook a dinner from scratch every. single. day. To top it off, there were dishes with almost every meal! Ugh. I totally did the food prep thing wrong in too many ways.
You guessed it: I found more ways to stop cooking every day! This is what I did:
Ahhh less mess. My favorite thing in the whole entire world is less mess. Gone are the days of making perfect, new original masterpieces for each meal. I’m so glad I have welcomed meal prepping and raw veggies with open arms.
If you are terrible at meal prepping, consider letting someone else do it for you! I am a huge fan of the $5 Meal Plan created by a busy mother of 4 and designed to help you eat healthy and stay on budget.
One year my husband and I stood in Black Friday lines to get our oldest (and at the time only) daughter an Xbox Kinect. She had always wanted one so we made sure to get it for her. Guess what? It never got played with. We felt so frustrated that we had wasted our money on something she said she wanted to much.
Years later, I’ve had the epiphany of why she never played it and why she wanted it in the first place. Whenever we would play it, we were with a group of people. My husband and I would join in, the kids would play and we would all laugh together. We were together. That’s what it meant to her. It meant togetherness and fun and laughter. We totally missed the point. She didn’t want to play it by herself. She wanted to play it with us. I wish we would have caught on sooner.
When Christmas is just around the corner, first of all, make sure you’ve saved up for it and second of all, don’t even look at the toy ads! Instead, browse Groupon (make sure you use your Ibotta app to save even more) for local events you can do as a family.
Find different ways to spend time together as a family before everyone is grown up and out of the house. Time together is never time wasted. But, you can easily waste a lot of cash on un-used toys.
Sign me up for less toy clutter any day. If I never stepped on a discarded Lego ever again it would be too soon.
Not only will you save yourself the extra clutter and clean up, but you will have built up something for your kids that is totally irreplaceable: memories. Once you have left this earth, do you think your kids will think back on the toys you bought them for Christmas when they were 7 or will they remember the Christmas when everyone went sledding together at midnight then drank some hot cocoa?
Create memories while you can. Leave the toys to someone else. AKA Grandma and Grandpa.
This is probably the hardest one of them all. No one wants to see their children suffer. It’s never enjoyable to know they are struggling, but it is important that you let them sometimes.
Let them fail that science project they didn’t complete. Step back when they get into an argument on the playground. Watch them get frustrated when a project isn’t going their way. Sit back and observe and be right there to support them and talk them through it when the time comes.
I’m not saying your children are completely on their own. They need your guidance, but they don’t need constant hovering. Allowing them to fail when they are younger will allow them to bounce back better when they are adults. I loved the way it was put in a recent article that I read:
“Depriving children of problem solving practice and spontaneous exploration while directing their every move can lead to mental health problems. Research indicates that young people with overinvolved parents report higher levels of depression/anxiety, decreased satisfaction with their lives and poor social and coping skill.” – Carrie Barron M.D. Psychology Today article: “Hands-off Parenting For Resilient, Resourceful Children.”
I let my kids fight and I jokingly call it “The Hunger Games.” Sometimes that’s how it feels…like they are battling to the death. If fists start flying, I definitely step in because my son has a bit of a temper on him.
I’m not saying I totally remove myself and ignore their cries for help. What I do is observe from a distance. In fact, I like hearing what they do to handle themselves. It gives them a chance to stand on their own and makes me feel proud when they do it well. This method has also saved me from the, “Mommy, mommy” tattletale approach. Yes, there is a time to tell an adult…but not any time something goes wrong.
I break up fewer fights, which I sure appreciate but I also find my children compromising more often and using their own voices rather than looking for me to be their voice for them.
It takes patience and time and of course guidance, but it slowly allows you more and more freedom and comfort in knowing that they will be ok without you. That is the goal after all.
Play with your kids! Absolutely you should play with them. Be silly, jump around, color, read, do puzzles, play games and then sometimes…don’t.
I get the most joy from my kids when I leave them alone. Totally alone. The mornings are usually the time I choose to stay in my bed getting some blogging done before the day begins. Since my son is usually up with the sun, this means he spends an hour or so completely unsupervised in the living room. The result is usually some crazy, new invention he’s made from our recycling bin boxes and bottles.
He has created Ghostbuster backpacks with attached ghost sucking guns, time machines, robots and space ships. I am proud every single time.
Let your kids get bored. It’s not your job to entertain 24/7. When they are bored, offer some suggestions and then tell them to find something to do (that isn’t in front of a screen.)
These are the times that their imaginations really get to work and you may just discover some serious hidden talent. Even in your older kids.
Recently our 17-year-old got herself grounded and for a good, long period of time. I downloaded an app to limit her phone time and everything. Do you know what happened? Art. Crazy amounts of artwork. She started sketching and writing and painting. These are things she already knew she loved but never made the time to do them because she could usually occupy herself with Snapchat or Instagram (ugh.)
That’s what will happen. Your kids will have no choice but to creatively fill their time. They may just find themselves in the process.
Lastly Mama, and I know you’ve heard it before, you must take care of yourself. Chances are you are putting everyone before you, but really you could be doing a lot of damage in the process.
If you are nurturing your children’s creativity, but letting your own slip away, you are telling them that it’s ok to let their talents go to waste.
When you put them down for a nap, but don’t take a much needed one yourself they’ll learn to run themselves into the ground.
Reading Dr. Seuss all day but never opening a book of your own? I think you see where I’m going with this.
Stop working. Just stop it right now. Put away the smartphone, stop cleaning the house and just allow yourself to be in total peace.
It’s so important to take care of yourself the way you want them to take care of themselves someday. Refresh, pamper and treat yourself a little bit every day. Even if that just means a 20-minute bubble bath or not cleaning any more after 8 pm. Paint your nails, get a message, drink a glass of wine. Whatever can help you refresh and unwind.
My mom had a magnet when I was little that said, “When Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.” As a kid I felt like this meant it was my job to always keep my mom happy. Really, this should have been a reminder to her.
When moms are struggling, the whole family really does. So quit it already!