My younger brother and I were close in age – 17 months apart to be exact. We had an amazing childhood together. I loved that we were always in the same stages of life together. We could always relate and that has now made us close as adults.
When I had kids of my own, I envisioned something similar for them. While my second daughter came as a bit of surprise, I was so excited that they would be close in age and would reap all of the same benefits my brother and I did growing up.
And then reality set in…
My mom must have been superwoman. Two children close in age meant that I had two babies, then two toddlers, and now two preschoolers. Now that they are a bit older, they are starting to become best friends, but this wasn’t always the case. When my second was born, my then 18-month old baby girl inherited a newborn sister who did nothing but cries and demands every second of my attention. Saying that it was difficult is an extreme understatement.
I kept hearing the wisdom of those around me, “Enjoy them now while they’re this little. You won’t get these years back!” But I found myself to be too exhausted to find the joy in it all. I was simply surviving each day.
Is it possible to experience joy when you’re overwhelmed and exhausted with little ones?
Yes. I believe it is. My kids are older now and a bit less exhausting, but I still remember the day that I made the conscious choice to change my mindset. I was going to choose joy. I was going to make the daily choice to enjoy my toddlers and appreciate these years rather than exist in survival mode. It wasn’t easy at first, and I definitely had both good and bad days.
But here’s what I’ve learned so far…
- Stay organized. – For me personally, this step was much needed. I thrive on having a routine. Don’t get me wrong, it’s very flexible; but it’s a routine nonetheless. And do you know what I discovered? My girls loved having a routine too. They enjoyed a bit of structure to their days. I also made a point to have the house picked up before bedtime. This one small adjustment made our mornings so much more enjoyable!
- It’s okay to ignore the dishes. – On the flip-side of staying organized, I learned early on to set priorities and boundaries. I clean my house, yes. But being a mom is far more important than making sure every household chore is done for the day. There will always be more dishes, but I’m investing in the futures of my girls each and every day. At the end of my life, I’m going to care far more about what I passed on to my children than whether or not the laundry was folded on time.
- Involve them in the day-to-day tasks. – Chores have come into play now that my girls are older. And believe it or not, they love them! (We’ll see how long it lasts…) If I have to fold the laundry or organize their closet, I involve them in the process. Yes, it takes longer, but it’s so much more fun!
- Create fun. – As a homeschooling, stay-at-home mom, our days tend to look the same. We have a few weekly activities – Bible study, ballet, miscellaneous errands – but nothing too exciting. So I decided it was time to create some fun in our house. We have family movie nights complete with popcorn and special treats. I make an event out of baking cookies or playing outside in the snow. We make plans, put them on the calendar, and count down the days!
When push comes to shove, rekindling your joy with little ones is a daily choice. Mommy-hood is hard, but it’s completely worth it.
When you’re exhausted with little ones, never forget that the joy of the Lord is your strength.
Children are a gift from the Lord; they are a reward from him. – Psalm 127:3 (NLT)
Alyssa J Howard is a wife and stay-at-home mom to two young girls. She lives with her family in the Pacific Northwest where she loves to bake, run, drink coffee, and play with her little ones. Alyssa first fell in love with writing while earning her Master of Arts degree in theological studies through Liberty Theological Seminary, and she has been writing about Jesus and the Christian life for the past two years at Living by the Light of the King. You can also find her on Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter.