Being home all day with my kids is a blessing. I know that, and I appreciate it.
But that doesn’t change the fact that I’m home all day with my kids.
Today, I was nursing my newborn girl Charlie on the living room couch when I realized my toddler was awful quiet.
I heard a rustle in the dining room, so while still nursing, I awkwardly pushed off the couch to have a look.
And when I rounded the corner, I chuckled at myself.
Because Bailey was just sitting at the kids’ art table, scribbling away.
“Are you drawing, honey?” I asked.
She stopped and stared at me. “Yeah,” she said.
I turned to head back to the living room, shaking my head and feeling silly for worrying.
Why did she stop what she was doing?
I whipped back around and hurried to where Bailey was sitting. In her hand?
A blue Sharpie.
On the art table. The nice dining room chair. Her arms. Her belly. All over her hands. HER FACE.
She looked up at me, and she suddenly got very, very still. Which is saying something for her.
So yes, I’m lucky to be home with my kids. But that doesn’t mean my first reaction was to skip off, tra-la-la-ing to retrieve the rubbing alcohol. (Which, in case you find yourself in a similar situation one day, worked on the toddler’s skin but not the wood table or chair.)
After I scrubbed her arms and hands and belly and face until she resembled a sunburned Strawberry Shortcake, I went to rescue baby Charlie from the bouncy seat on the bathroom counter.
And I guess she must’ve been feeling left out of all the fun we were having.
When I lifted her out of her seat, a glob of mustard yellow dropped to the counter. I held her away from my body and peered around to her back. An impressive out-the-back-and-both-leg-holes variety of blowout.
So yes, I feel immense gratitude for my life. But that doesn’t mean I laid the baby gently on the changing table, then fist-pumped the air in anticipation of the awesome task ahead.
After I changed the baby’s diaper and wiped her down and cleaned the bathroom counter and got her dressed again, it dawned on me that I hadn’t seen Bailey in a while.
I walked out of the bathroom into the bedroom and saw her standing on the arm of the rocking chair. All the better to reach into the top drawer of the dresser.
And I started walking faster because I realized what we keep in that top drawer of the dresser.
As I got closer, I saw the wrappers on the floor under the open dresser drawer.
“Oh, God,” I said.
She’d unwrapped every single one and let the wrappers fall. And in her hands?
The things themselves. All clumped together in her innocent little hands.
So yes, I’m happy for the gift of seeing my girls all day every day. But that doesn’t mean I cheerfully hummed a Mary Poppins tune as I pried the clump from her hands and held her up to the bathroom sink where I washed her hands for 27 minutes.
What You Might Not Expect
This all happened before 10 am.
I did not text my husband a play-by-play of the morning.
I did not call him to share a laundry list of grievances.
I did not take a photo of each epic mess and send it to him.
Because there’s nothing he could do to help.
It’s not like he can reach through the phone to scrub permanent marker, baby poo, and condom slime.
And he can’t leave work on a moment’s notice to come home and stay with the kids so I can lock myself in the upstairs bathroom with a bag of Dove chocolate and a box of wine. (Yes, we’re classy boxed wine folk.)
Here’s What Complaining Does Accomplish
Complaining about every little (or big) hiccup gives me a skewed perspective of my day.
Complaining puts my focus squarely on the problem. Not the solution.
And complaining to my husband Ty makes him feel powerless.
His wife is about to throw Tickle Me Elmo off a cliff, and he can’t do a thing to help her.
Ty never actually told me all this. But I know.
I know because after Bailey was born and I still had a desk job, Ty stayed home with Bailey one afternoon a week.
On those afternoons, I peppered him with questions. Is she napping okay? Did she take the bottle I left? Is she being fussy? Is he getting any work done?
And of course, as is the case when you try to get work done while watching kids, the answers were usually: No, no, yes, no.
I wanted to help. But I was stuck at work.
And my husband at home with a fussy, non-sleeping baby was all I could think about, so I wasn’t even being super productive at work.
I Made a Pact With Myself
When I left my corporate job to become a full-time blogger – as “full-time” as you can be while wrangling a toddler and a newborn – I vowed not to complain to my husband about all the little bumps in the road. I needed to stop complaining in order to be a happy mom.
It took me a while to tell him about my pact, and when I did, he wasn’t actually a fan of it.
He wants me to tell him about those everyday frustrations. He wants to know if I’m on the brink of moving to Canada to start a new life as a Mountie.
So I promised if I’m really at my breaking point, I will tell him. And he will get away from work if he can and come give me a break.
For everything else, I don’t text. I don’t call.
If I happen to feel a burning desire to share a frustrating story before I see him in person, I try to focus on a solution, not the problem. Or I wait until I can laugh about it.
Complaining in the moment doesn’t do anyone any good. And it definitely doesn’t make me a happy mother.
Happy Moms Don’t Do This Either
The moment my husband walks through the door after work, I can barely contain myself.
I’m ready to unload all the crappy parts of my day.
But again, I hold back.
When I haven’t seen my husband all day, the last thing I want to do is get all worked up into a froth of anger as my first interaction with him.
And the same goes for him. We both avoid unloading our frustrations first thing when we see each other. Complaining right off the bat infiltrates the tone of our whole evening together.
Instead, we greet each other with a hug. And not just any kind of hug.
We share the funny parts of our days, we play a quick game of chase with the kids, or we have an impromptu dance party in the kitchen.
Only then do we take a deep breath and share those daily annoyances.
And here’s the best part: After a hug and a few giggles, those frustrations transform into just another opportunity to share a laugh. Happy mom, happy family.
On those days, it’s hard to stop from complaining, and I’m not perfect. As my husband reminds me almost daily: Ideals are a vision, not a reality. When I slip up, I forgive myself and get my mindset back on track.
This morning, I have to admit that I did text my husband.
The first: Do you think it’s okay to use rubbing alcohol to clean the kids’ art table? I focused on the solution, not the problem. Score!
And the second: I think Bailey’s telling us she’s ready for another sibling. I’ll explain later.
How to Find Happiness in the Chaos of Parenting
After my family welcomed our third little one into the mix, we became a family of five with a second-grader, a toddler, and a newborn. Even though I could have used more sleep and way more coffee, we were happy. Then my husband’s paternity leave ended, and I was at home with the kids all day. As time wore on, my patience became razor thin. And one day, I just broke.
The shame burns my cheeks just thinking of that day, even now. But thanks to that experience, I realized I had to make a change. I threw myself into researching how to find happiness in the chaos of parenting. Something beyond “make time for you” and “exercise more.” Because when you’re overwhelmed and at your breaking point, you don’t need the “experts” telling you more stuff to do on top of everything else.
That’s how I discovered the secrets: 10 secrets every parent should know about being happy. After hearing from hundreds of parents in the same boat as me, I knew I needed to share what I discovered. And so I wrote a book: Happy You, Happy Family.
Click here to download a free excerpt and start your journey towards finding more happiness as a parent.
Because the truth is that happiness won’t come from a big promotion at work, or from winning the lottery, or from your kids all learning to put their toys away when they’re done playing. Because eventually, you just get used to all that stuff.
True, lasting happiness comes from a conscious effort by you to put the right habits in place.
Download my FREE cheat sheet: 16 Miracle Phrases to Help You Reconnect With Your Child
How do you stay positive when the kids drive you crazy? Share in a comment below!