How to Thrive with Littles

Here is an honest picture of my life right now. I have a super active two and a half year old and an eight month old who is on the verge of walking. Yes, walking! She loves to pull on on everything, but her favorite thing to pull on up on is my legs. I constantly have an adorable baby clinging to my jeans all day long. Trying to cook earlier this week I was literally circling the island in the kitchen with her following hot on my heels. I just wanted a few minutes of unhindered movement to get things together enough to throw in the oven.

The baby also loves to put everything in her mouth. With my first one this was no problem. We just kept everything picked up. But with a toddler who loves to take things out and leave them everywhere all the time, I am always one step behind her messes, and the baby is simply faster than I am at spotting small, mouth-sized things that look delicious for teething.

Some other things are going on right now, too. My husband and I are on a team working on a Christmas Escape Room experience for our church (which is going to be so awesome). I have so many ideas and so many good intentions, but the reality of how much time I can put into this venture is really limited, and that is frustrating. I try to help with some things from home during nap time, but being there to work with the group (with my two lovely girls) usually results in more mess than help. I also have my first few book signings and events coming up. At this stage of motherhood, I have to move mountains to simply schedule a dentist appointment, so I’m not sure what I was thinking when I booked these.

I love being a mom, and I love my littles more than I can say, but I’ll be honest- this week seems a lot more like surviving than thriving. My parents did a fantastic job of raising me to have wings- to dream big dreams and reach for them with all of the gifts that God has given me. But in this season, God has given me roots. These two beautiful babies can sometimes feel like anchors keeping me from doing a lot of good things.

Women love telling each other that we can have it all. I hate to be the one with a reality check, but this is simply not true! We only have so many hours in a day and we can only multi-task so often without losing perspective. We have to make tough choices everyday. I don’t think these choices are right or wrong. We are choosing between all good things as moms. But we do have to choose.

So how do we make that choice and then be happy with it, even when we acknowledge what we have lost? As a fellow mom in the trenches, I have a few ideas.

  1. Accept the Limitations

This step is the least fun, but the most vital. I consistently get frustrated when I am trying to do something or make something fit that is simply outside of what I can handle in this season. I need to look honestly at what I am doing and accept my limitations. Bringing my two girls with me to a day-long book event (which I will be attempting later this week) is something I should have said no to. While it may be doable, it is not worth the strain that it is going to put on my relationship with my girls and my husband this week. I already know that I will be frustrated with their behavior that day, but I cannot expect them to sit quietly for hours (or even minutes) at this age! What are the things that we are trying to make fit as moms (with really good intentions) that we need to simply accept as possible but not the best choice for my family to thrive.

As usual, Paul seems to hit the nail on the head:

“I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but not everything is constructive. No one should seek their own good, but the good of others. 1 Corinthians 10: 23-24

As long as I cling to my rights and what I think I SHOULD be able to do rather than seeking what is best for the good of my family, and therefore myself, then I am setting myself up for failure and frustration.

This step is hard. It will mean saying no to good things. It will mean postponing great projects and ideas. It will mean letting go of a piece of my identity. But it will also mean freedom! It gives freedom to enjoy this moment, this season, it its unique simplicity and beauty. It creates focus on what I can enjoy and an environment where my family and I can thrive, which brings us to step 2.

2. Acknowledge the Possibilities

While there are lots of things that we won’t be able to do in this season, there are lots of other things that we can do ONLY in the season! This is a unique time in our lives that will not come again. One day we will look back on our years with littles with nostalgia, acknowledging that we did things in this season that we will never be able to duplicate. I don’t want to spend time thinking about what I can’t do and miss out on what I can do!

This list will look different for each mom. For me, writing is something that I can embrace and grow in during this season. After waking to feed the baby in the early morning hours, I have a dark, quiet house all to myself in which to think, and dream, and type away unhindered. It is a beautiful time, and I relish every moment. One day this season will pass, and I want to soak up every moment.

Another thing I can do in this season is play! I have two sweet girls who love to play and we have all day together in which to do it. Before I know it they will be in school, have homework and responsibilities, and the time for play will turn into structured events with deadlines and schedules. Right now, if we want to spend half an hour chasing a lizard in the garden, we can absolutely do that. If we want to spend the whole afternoon putting hair ties in the toy horse’s mane, we can do that too!

While these activities may not seem as important as accomplishing great adult tasks, don’t undervalue them. These moments are the ones that make life worth living. There is a piece of eternity in this simple time. Don’t miss out on the small, everyday wonders that we can experience only through the eyes of a child. This season is precious and temporary!

3. Stay Grounded

Earlier I mentioned that we can’t do it all. I should take this a step further and clarify- without God we can’t do anything! If we start out each day without acknowledging the source of our purpose, our strength, our joy, and our love, then we are giving up our stake in it. We have all of the resources of the creator of the universe to guide us through even the smallest of stressors in our lives, and yet we often try to navigate our way on our own. Start the day in prayer, read the Bible for direction, and pray continually for the grace needed in each moment and for wisdom in making decisions for your family. Without God’s presence in our daily lives, we will always feel like we are hitting a wall.

4. Choose to Be Joyful

Yep. Happiness is a choice, and so is contentment. Once we decide what we will choose to spend our time on, we have to let go of what we cannot do and embrace what we can do wholeheartedly. Jumping from one side of the fence to the other or constantly mourning what we have given up will only lead to a martyr complex with a side of bitterness. Instead of losing only what we have not chosen, we will also lose what we chose!

Choosing to be joyful means:

  • Not feeling guilty when we have to accept a limitation and say no to something good

  • Not holding it against our kids when we have to give something up for them

  • Not wallowing in feelings of being stuck, anchored, or hindered in this season

  • Embracing the full beauty of each moment as it comes

  • Counting our blessings constantly, in the easy and difficult moments

  • Believing that time with these littles is a beautiful gift

If, like me, you are struggling with feeling stuck in this season with littles, I encourage you to sit down and make a list of things you should set aside for a while, things you should take up, and things that you are grateful for in this unique season. You may be surprised to find how amazing this time truly is when you live fully in it.

Keep it up mama, you’re doing great!