Five Tips for Enjoying Life with Toddlers | Marvelous Mundane

They say there are two certainties in life, death and taxes. And in this stage, I can add another: stranger comments. Almost every errand run with my three young, full-of-life boys in tow equals another, “My, your hands are full!” or “Wow, you must be busy!” I can remember only one comment with a noticeable shade of negativity, but I always answer, with three small pairs of ears listening, “OH, but it’s so FUN!”. No, not every moment of my testosterone surrounded life shouts “PARTY!”, but I have fought for the enjoyment in this season. And I’m still fighting for it, every single day, with these ideas as my ammunition.

Shift your idea of success. Whether you struggle with comparison, overachiever-itis, or simply staying upright while juggling the ever-changing balls that make up motherhood, our ideas of success can sabotage the enjoyment tagging along with the toddler years. Your children do not need to eat like the Jones, dress like the Smiths, or talk like the Watsons. And you? You don’t have to morph into some glowing, radiant merging of Martha Stewart meets Miss America meets Mother Teresa. What are the essentials for survival and sanity in your family? Plan wisely, then hold non-essentials loosely. Success is not a followed-through formula but a showing-up-every-day faithfulness to these lives, this family. They need you, the don’t-have-it-all-together mom, to show them how to live and love in a life that never quite follows the fabulous scripts we compose in our heads.

Welcome self-evaluation and discard self-flagellation. Trade your critical self-talk for constructive analysis: When do I find myself getting frustrated? Do I need to tweek my parenting, switch up a routine, or simply accept a season of life different than I had planned? What would simplify my life right now, creating more space for enjoying my family? Play to your family’s strengths instead of building a life around imitation.

Celebrate your family’s uniqueness. Your friend posts pictures of harvest festivals and amusement parks. Your sister and her kids read endless stacks of picture books and spend evenings painting mini-Monets. Your mother-in-law bakes bread and rolls out homemade cookies with your children. Instead of comparing yourself to who you are not, lean into who you are. What hobbies do you have that you and your child can do together? Are you the mom who loves playing games? Spend more time finding games that you all enjoy rather than stressing over the undone art projects. Are you a mom who enjoys the quiet outdoors? Spend your weekends finding local hiking trails with your kids, instead of spending weekends amusement park hopping. You can't be everything. Be you. In our quest to be everything, we spread ourselves so thin we enjoy nothing.

Embrace imagination and make a friend of simplicity. Do you know how many games can be played with a generic ball? Or the fun that can be concocted with empty toilet paper rolls, a roll of tape, and a few marbles? Or the imaginations that come to life over a blank piece of paper? Become a process-enjoyer rather than a perfection-requirer, or a super-stuff-acquirer. Find the complicated joy-killing-bugs in your home and relentlessly squash them. Because, just maybe, we have over-complicated these early childhood years. We have turned parenthood into a game of stressing-out-over-all-the-unaffordable-enrichment-classes-and-missed-museum-visits instead of diving wholeheartedly into a season of wide-eyed wonder, mud-splashed clothes, and wild imaginations.

Include your child in your life. While play is a huge (yet declining; that’s for another day!) part of childhood, there are many opportunities to craft connections in ways that help both of you. Do laundry together, creating imaginary characters to wear the clothes you are folding. Find even the simplest way they can help you make a meal. Give them simple jobs while you clean, such as emptying small trash cans, restocking toilet paper, dusting baseboards, or putting away clean silverware. Tell stories, share memories, and imagine adventures while working together. Instead of rushing to complete a task, live richly in the doing.

Hang in there, Momma! Although this season can both test and tire you more than you imagined, it is brimming with possibilities and purpose.