So often in my practice, I see women who are struggling with a loss of identity now that they're a mom. I also see many parents--both moms and dads--who feel like it just isn't feasible for them to continue certain activities. That it would be impossible for them to enjoy it, to focus, or do it the way they want to with a little one tagging along. It can feel very literally like a monkey on your back while you're trying to do your thing. Or, like you can't just lose yourself in the activity because you have this other person to tend to.
I also frequently hear about moms who are struggling to get their usual daily or weekly tasks done. This happens for many understandable reasons: Maybe they're struggling with feeling confident caring for their baby in public, or maybe their little one gets carsick or is going through a temper-tantrum phase. But often you can find a workaround to get the job done. And, if it's a task you can just say, "heck with this!" to, then even better! (If this is your current struggle, check out these related posts: 7 Calming Tips for Tantrums & Meltdowns, How to Deal When Your Baby Hates the Car, and New Momma Worries, Part 1: What's Normal & How to Get Past Your Anxieties.)
While in some ways all those things might be true hurdles, there's no reason why you should have to give up any healthy activity that you love doing. (Sorry, if happy hours are your chosen activity, you might have to compromise a little more on that one!) And, of course, for the important stuff, we sometimes have to power through to make it work. We all do have to eat, after all.
So, with all this in mind, I've gathered some thoughts around making your chores, habits, and hobbies more baby- and child-friendly. And guess what? If your little one is still an infant, then you’ve got it easy in this case: simply strap your baby into her carrier or lay them next to you while you do your thing. Starting early is the best way for it to feel natural having them along. For toddlers and children, you might have to get more creative, but trust me, the payoffs are so worth it.
Here are my Top 6 Tips for Creating a Kid-Friendly Lifestyle:
1. Create a daily routine (or something like it).
Do a brain dump of everything you do in a day and everything that needs to get done. What can you eliminate without your home or world falling apart? Is a set schedule realistic for you? Where can you be more flexible? What’s better done while your littles are napping or at school or daycare? (Make sure you’re prioritizing your own needs, for sleep especially!)
2. Make chores fun.
Whatever absolutely has to get done in your day, find ways to incorporate your kids in the activity. Let the task take a little bit longer (or less perfectly) than it would if it were just you doing it by yourself. If your little is an infant, try singing or talking to her about what you're doing. If your little is a bit older, bubble play while washing dishes can be great (albeit, wet!) fun. Let your slightly older child practice something simple like folding washcloths or matching socks while you fold laundry. Or, let them wash their tricycle while you wash your car. And, if you don't mind the mess, let them dig in the dirt or water plants while you garden. You can even incorporate your kids while grocery shopping, by letting your baby touch different textures of vegetables (of stuff you're actually buying, preferably!), or letting your child point out the packages with certain colors or letters on them, or letting your older child add up prices.
3. Sneak exercise into your day.
Exercise is often a to-do that many of us crave, especially if you're wanting to get back in shape after pregnancy, but often goes on the back-burner when we have more urgent things to do. But, this isn't just about vanity. Exercise plays a huge part in our mental wellbeing as well. The big thing to keep in mind is that exercise doesn't have to look like 30 intense minutes in the gym or a 5-mile run. It can also be playing with your kids, impromptu dance parties while you're making dinner, or cleaning your bathroom while the kids are in the tub.
4. Let them join in on your fave hobbies.
A parent's sense of identity often gets called into question when life suddenly evolves around the family, especially after a new baby enters the picture. Keeping up with your favorite activities (as best as you can) is one of the best ways to beat stress and stay connected to who you are as a person, not just a parent. So, if you feel most at home when baking in the kitchen, let them mix batter or prep some homemade playdough for them to use while you knead bread dough. Kids love to add toppings to pizzas--that's another way to involve them in food prep. If you love sending cards to people, why not let your kids sign too? Or, they can make their own cards. (If your little one is a baby, you can use non-toxic paint on their hand to make a hand print "signature". Yes, this is messy, but your recipients will LOVE it.) If you love sports, why not take them to a game? They might not remember it later or have the attention span to follow the game, but I bet they’ll love the lights and going up and down the steps through the stands! If you enjoy shooting hoops, going on hikes or practicing yoga, let them see you do it and let them participate. This is important for their self esteem, their perceptions of health and self-care, as well as forming healthy habits. This of course does mean they may climb on you while you’re in down dog or get upset if they can’t shoot a ball that is almost as big as they are, but this is part of the learning process. You might only get a couple sun salutations in or you might have to cut your hike a bit short, but they’ll develop resiliency and persistence, maybe get a little fresh air and vitamin D (if you’re outside), and more importantly, they’ll bond with you and you'll get a little time in doing what you love.
5. Join a kid or baby-friendly class.
In this modern parenting life, it seems like people are finding ways to make all kinds of interests baby and kid friendly. All it takes is a quick Google search! If walking/jogging is your thing, you can find a Stroller Strides group. If you like yoga or zumba, you can find mommy (or daddy!) and me classes. (Herself Moms is one of my personal favorites in the Sacramento area.) Love dance, playing instruments, acting, or painting? See what you can find on Meetup.com. Some cities even offer public programs to encourage families to exercise or play outdoors, so you might be able to find affordable options for classes, workshops, camping trips and more.
6. Forgive yourself.
There will be days (or entire weeks or seasons) when you can’t squeeze everything in. Days when you’ll lose your patience with your little ones for not keeping up or letting you do your thing. Days when you just don’t have time for your littles to “help”. Days when you just have to toss your list and take a nap or chuck it all for a girls or guys night out. Let yourself off the hook a little, then start fresh when you’re ready.