Being a wife and mother is tough. The modern world demands so much out of us that it can seem that we’re constantly rushing between appointments, obligations and events we just don’t have time for. And, at the end of it all, we still need to carve out quality family time that brings everyone back together. With a flurry of activity constantly swirling around us, our lives can seem overwhelming.
And that’s when the trouble starts. We get snippy with our spouse, or with the kids. Even the dog is annoying. If we don’t catch ourselves soon, it spreads to the rest of the family. Everyone becomes surlier and we’re left with no communication, too much to do, and not enough time to it all.
There’s no cure-all for all the challenges of marriage and motherhood, since everything is constantly in motion and changing. Kids grow up, jobs change, we move. But amidst all this wonderful messiness, we shouldn’t have to live in a constant state of heightened stress and unhappiness. Our home life should be a source of inspiration and strength—so here are three decisions you can make to be a better wife and mom.
You don’t have to do it all
Whether you’re a full-time mom or work a 9 – 5, the tendency is to want to do everything. Maternal instinct takes over, and soon we’re driving the kids to recitals, cooking the family meals, signing up for intramural sports, helping with homework and taking out the trash. None of these tasks, on its own, is particularly time-consuming or daunting; all together, however, they fall upon our heads like an avalanche. We can’t breathe, and we get crushed.
Being a supermom is an admirable goal—but it often leads to burnout and stress. And, strangely, by trying to do everything, we often miss the really important stuff. Maybe our family doesn’t need us to take out the trash or cook—at least not every night. Perhaps they just need a smile or a high five for a job well done.
But it’s hard to do these things when we’re hyper-focused, exhausted and scampering about from task to task.
Making the decision to shorten your to-do list is one of the best choices you can make. Many tasks can be delegated or even removed. Start a car pool; pick up some healthy items off McDonald’s new menu one night a week. Get the kids (or the husband) to take out the trash. Doing less will allow you to focus more time on what really matters.
Honesty doesn’t mean criticism
In any relationship, whether it be with your children or husband, it’s easy to conflate criticism and honesty. While criticism can often come from a place of truth, it also stems from a place of selfishness. Our goal in criticizing is not in the spirit of honesty; it is to rant or make the other person feel bad. Overt criticism has more in common with lying—it’s hurtful and causes mistrust—than it does with truth.
True honesty means withholding harsh criticisms that will make the other individual defensive. Praise the good things and gently suggest changes that could be beneficial for the whole family. This doesn’t mean being overly sugary or praising poor performance. It simply means taking a less aggressive, more subtle tact to achieve our end goal.
Making the decision to stem open criticism and instead show your honesty in a more compassionate, gentle way will benefit the entire family. Your kids and husband will notice and return in kind (and if they don’t, you can gently nudge them to), making everyone happier, more productive and more fun to be around.
Take a night out to see old friends
Too often it can seem that the only people we see are our husband and kids (and maybe our boss). While we cherish our families, too much time spent with even a wonderful group of people can make us go stir crazy. With a never-ending to-do list, though, taking a night off for ourselves can be a tall order—particularly for new mothers.
It’s still worth trying to fit into our schedule, though, because a few hours away can leave us refreshed and ready to tackle the next hectic week. It doesn’t have to be anything crazy—simply going out to dinner with a couple we haven’t seen in a while can do wonders for our spirit. Scientists have determined that seeing and talking with old friends has tremendous effects on our happiness. We’ve shared significant life experiences and time with these people that make us feel safe, happy and at ease in their presence. But sometimes our new family lives can set us adrift, away from these people.
Making the decision to schedule some time with friends might be tricky, but the psychological and health benefits are well worth the hassle. Even if it’s just for an hour, touching base with those you haven’t seen for some time will give you extra energy to grapple with the week’s upcoming challenges.
And one thing is certain: there will never be any shortage of those in a wife and mother’s life!
This article originally appeared at BMWK and is sponsored by McDonalds.