Parenting: It's Never Easy but It Can Be Done
I grew up in a large family in a large farm that belongs to my maternal grandmother. Time with my parents or anyone older than 10 years old was divided between the chickens, the pigs, the cows, the rice fields and the children. Weekends were devoted to simple pleasures of going to the supermarket which was miles away, the church or downtown. My parents were devout Catholics who made all seven of us follow strict schedules in prayer, studies and daily duties, in that order. Everything seemed to be simple because everything was fun. On how my mother coped with the demands of housekeeping, rearing, accounting, managing and being a wife is amazing.
Today, that I have a family of my own, I still maintain the principle of simple living and that was how I got through the most difficult periods of family life and motherhood. As the world grew complicated and fast-paced the harder it is to grow children and no matter how I tried to hold back their innocence everything just keeps moving forward. There is no hard-driven rule on how to raise kids, each family has its own culture. What might work for one might not work for the other. But there are a few fundamentals that I know works for all.
Stick to it and be consistent. Let the children know how the day will run, wake up time, bath time, eating time, sleeping time, TV time, play time, prayer time. Whether you are a housewife, a single or a working mother, adherence to schedules is a requirement to be able to keep your sanity because it slowly becomes a habit to children, so even without you prompting everything proceeds as scheduled, no matter what arises. Children's body clocks are amazing and very trainable to follow routines. Without an alarm, they wake up at exactly 7am and are usually sleepy by 7pm. All energy drained. Knowing this gives you the upper hand to schedule your "alone time" around their very demanding time.
“Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference.” ― Winston Churchill
No tantrums in both private and public places, good manners is non-negotiable, be considerate of other people’s feelings, learn to listen, say-it-don’t-cry-it are just the basics. Rules hone attitude. There will be times when it will be really challenging to implement rules especially with young children but do not give up; it is always a war of willpower with them. Their time will come when they can implement their own set of rules, but for now, it is your turf so you govern. Learning to say “No” will give you less headache not only now but in the years to come. And when they are older and more exposed to the intricacies of the world, saying “No” will be one of their best defenses.
“Desires dictate our priorities, priorities shape our choices, and choices determine our actions.” ― Dallin H. Oaks
Writing down what needed to be accomplished according to importance in a day will save you a lot of wasted energy. Make adjustments if it’s necessary and only if it is. If given two options, buying a diaper because you ran out and entertaining a surprise visit from your boss who happened to be in the neighborhood, which would you rather have at the moment, a crying baby in discomfort or a boss who feels unwelcomed? Certainly you cannot explain to a one-year old so you have to excuse yourself from your surprise guest, kindly, of course. And hopefully explaining things rationally to them that maybe it's not the right time for a cup of coffee. Set priorities according to importance and not urgency. If you need to wake up an hour early to get everything accomplished then do it because you know that it’ll give you a more relaxed evening later. If everything on your list did not get accomplished because something more important came up, don’t stress yourself, it can the first order of the day tomorrow.
Independence and Responsibility
“To find yourself, think for yourself.” ― Socrates
I have seen many children make a scene if their parents do not cater to their every need; this is the worst thing every parent wants to be caught in. Teaching your child how to be independent will give you more time to do other things. Let him learn how to eat on his own, set him up together with the family during meals and he will learn his table manners by observing how everybody acts. It might be a bit messy at first but it will be worth it because you won’t have to run around the house, cajoling them with a spoon in your hands, spilling everything before it reaches their mouth. I wouldn’t ever want to be tired that way. On your set schedule for bath time, let them prepare their own clothes, guiding them on what to wear (pajamas for bedtime and clothes for church) then teach them how to take a bath by themselves and then before you know it they are doing it on their own. Show them how to pour their own water from the pitcher when they want to drink, or to make their own beds after waking up, or how to clean their bedroom. The more menial tasks you do for them, the more they will let you do it when it should be the other way around. It teaches them responsibility and accountability and becomes the groundwork for their later years. When it comes to tasks, you are there to help them and not do it for them.
Setting time for yourself
“Love yourself first and everything else falls into line. You really have to love yourself to get anything done in this world.” - Lucille Ball
You are the most important character in your family, everyone else moves around you so it is easy to get lost in the clamor of daily life, catering to everyone’s needs and demands, and eventually forget who you are. So give yourself the same valuable time as you give to the rest of them. Set a time for yourself, a time for your thoughts, for your passion, for your endeavors and you will not go around blindfolded not knowing where to go. I wake up an hour early before others; I take this time for prayer, for meditation, for some reading and to enjoy the solitude before the whole house awakens and grab me in all directions. Unless an emergency occurs, never compromise this date with yourself. In due time, they will learn to respect your time alone.
Being a parent, whether in a marriage or as a single person, is one of life’s best gifts, so it is to be enjoyed and cherished. You will make mistakes, a lot of them, there will be trials and errors but as long as you know the ground rules, you will be fine.