Like every other human under extreme stress, moms have their goddess days and their awful days. Use every crutch you can find to make life easier, so your kids see the face of a happy, helpful, and attentive mom. While some mom-tricks move those little geniuses toward independence, others buy you time to get something done or catch a quick nap.
Brilliant Tricks for Awesome Moms
Whether it's a mealtime saver or a behavior management strategy, you might find yourself going, "Why didn't I think of that?" Rest assured; you would have if you weren't so busy and tired. Borrow some strategies from the legions of moms who came before you and lived to tell the tale.
1. Mealtime Trick
Drop a few child-safe toys in an empty tissue box and let the fussy baby fish those toys out while you prep her meal. Add enrichment by varying shapes and textures, a small silk cloth, a seldom-used binkie, a baby spoon, a squeezable teething ring. Make sure your tot can pull out each item without too much struggle; otherwise you'll have a frustrated baby. Of course, you should always use items your intrepid explorer can't choke on. She'll be occupied, albeit briefly, and you won't add salt four times to your favorite healthy recipe in-between loud wails and non-stop high chair tray-banging.
2. Stealth Smoothies
Sneak more green veggies into the family diet with snack or breakfast smoothies. Bananas past their prime, cut in chunks and frozen, are the base for a thick, fruity drink. Add mixed berries or slices of pineapple, mango or pear, coconut milk, and chopped kale, spinach or chard to the blender. Just liquefy the concoction, pour it into a Mason jar or sippy cup, give it a dash of colorful dessert sprinkles and stick a straw in the middle. Hide the remaining kale or other greens before calling the anti-veggie brigade to the table.
3. Eat the Frog
"If it's your job to eat a frog, it's best to do it first thing in the morning. And If it's your job to eat two frogs, it's best to eat the biggest one first." Mark Twain wasn't a mom, but he understood mom motivation. When your day is crammed with stuff you don't want to do, clear the to-do list with tough love and these old tricks:
- Put the ugly and unpleasant tasks at the top of the list and do them first. You'll feel relieved enough to cross off a few of the simpler tasks as well, once the obligatory ogres are vanquished.
- Make your list and put the absolute worst two tasks at the top. Your natural procrastinator will take over and tackle everything on the "easy" list, and you'll get a lot done.
- Give yourself a gold star chart, just like the kids get. Each day, as you tick off your exercise routine, your hated household chore, or your healthy-eating meals, award yourself a star. At regular intervals, you get a reward, right along with your high-achieving offspring. Hint: Anything kid-free or involving chocolate makes a suitable reward. Model perseverance, and keep that motivation high!
4. Timeout Tent
Calm a tantrum-throwing toddler with a timeout tent. A mini-pop-up tent with a pillow and a favorite stuffy and blankie is a safe space for an out-of-control tiny person to pull himself together. You can keep an eye on the self-soother in his nearby cocoon as he settles down without distraction.
5. Brand Your Babies
Order temporary tattoos with your cell number for your toddling wanderers if you are going somewhere large and crowded, like an amusement park or the mall. Apply the removable tattoos to a visible hand, arm or leg. The tattoos say: If I am lost, please contact XXX-123-4567. (There's no name that can be used to lure your kid.) Tottoos company makes the tats to order, and they have another version for children with serious allergies. The medical alert Tottoos come with the medical alert symbol and up to three lines of custom text.
6. Productivity Hack
Imagine this scenario: you are busily trying to get something done. You're almost finished, and you cannot be interrupted, when your interuptus maximus decides it's time to start whining for something. To top it off the phone rings, and it's a telemarketer. What do you do? Hand the phone to your toddler and get back to work. Problem solved.
8. (Sort-of) Peaceful Morning Hack
Eliminate the morning crazies with "get-ready" buckets for every school-age kid. Stuff one bucket per child with a laminated checklist and a dry marker, toothbrush and toothpaste, hairbrush and hair ties or ribbons, clean socks and underwear, winter lip balm, summer sunblock, and other grooming supplies. The list of to-dos might read:
- Get dressed
- Eat breakfast
- Take vitamins
- Wash face
- Brush teeth/hair
- Put homework in backpack
- Get your lunchbox
Restock the buckets as needed, and sanity will triumph over chaos
7. Friendlier Fridge
Dispense with the lock on the refrigerator and trick the little darlings into healthier snacking, but don't smirk about it where anyone can see you. Cut up raw vegetables, small containers of hummus, honey-flavored yogurt or peanut butter, whole grain crackers, cheese cubes, and fruit kebabs (berries and chunks of fresh fruit on a skewer) and place them in see-through keepers on a low, kid-height shelf in the fridge. Let the hungry hordes find snacks after school or during playdates. You can be secure in the knowledge that they are developing a sense of independence, good snacking habits and don't-keep-bugging-mom-for-cookies behavior while you go about your day.
10. Sanitize the Germ Magnets
The Legos and Duplos get heavy use, and there's no telling what's clinging to them. Don't risk insanity scrubbing away at tiny plastic blocks with an old toothbrush. Instead, fill a laundry bag, (the kind that's used for delicates), with the Lego collection and stick it in the washer about once a month. The toys will be new, shiny and germ-free after one cycle. Allow the Legos to air-dry; it goes without saying that you do not want to put them in the dryer.
9. Hijack Bedtime Back
Create a bedtime ritual. If you don't, your kids will and theirs will involve extra water, another trip to the bathroom, missing blankies, random questions about life and death, and sudden inexplicable pains that require immediate attention. Also, things that go bump in the night, have terrible fangs and gobble up small children will emerge from the closet and under the bed. Take the time to be mindful, with complete attention to a bedtime story, tucking-in and a nightly monster spray. Decorate an old spray bottle and write Monster Spray on it with a paint marker. Soak a cotton ball in relaxing lavender scented oil and tuck it in the bottle. A few squirts under the bed before lights out should guarantee sweet dreams. Leave the bottle bedside - just in case.
Breathe Now, Wine Later
In the heat of battle, the best way to find the calm center is to take three deep breaths. When your temper starts to fray, the breathing trick is a mini-mom-timeout that sends a hit of oxygen to your tired brain and slows that flood of cortisol that threatens to overwhelm you. Your beautiful children will drive you mad sometimes, but that's just kids doing their thing. Your thing is to keep a steady course throughout the day, eliminate stress wherever you can, and celebrate the love and laughter you find along the way. Indulge in red wine in winter, white in summer, and try not to leave the dishes in the sink.