Hello parents looking to laugh more as a family! Welcome to myself: my kids are "leaders of tomorrow," which is a nicer way of saying they're "spirited," which is a polite term for "precocious," which is a gentle substitute for "they drive me #$%$ bonkers when I'm trying to cook dinner!!!"
They are extremely outgoing and love initiating new activities. I, on the other hand, have a shorter attention span since becoming a mom, and it stops me from simultaneously enjoying my kids AND accomplishing other things at the same time. One of my 2012 resolutions was to reframe my family time so that the stressful parts of parenting could become the greatest part of my day.
Below is a list of seven things the hubby and I initiated that have turned our "please, for the love of Jebediah, chill out!!!" attitude into genuine laughter and a [slightly] more relaxed atmosphere.
1. The Digital Photo Frame: My father gave me this for Christmas, complete with hundreds of pictures of me & my lil' family: at a picnic, swimming, canoeing, etc. The frame sits on our dinner table, and a new picture flashes up every two minutes. It spawns amazing conversations with our kids, as they ask questions about when they were born, where we've been, why was mommy's hair so yucky when we went camping... there's a ton of belly laughs during dinner, and it revives great memories for my hubby and I.
2. Sunday Night Group Dinner: My husband and I high five each other every Sunday night: "another weekend survived." Come Sunday afternoon we were torn between using our last bit of energy being healthy (shopping and prepping a meal for hours) or spend quality time with our kids. So at the start of this year, we began a new Sunday tradition: we gather up ourselves, and any other snoozy families around, and request a giant table at Swiss Chalet. We've dined with 16 people before -- kids having a great time playing games and colouring, adults unwinding with a little wine. It's quick, easy, and relaxed.
3. Evening & Weekend No-Phone Plan: No email, no text messages, and only answering the phone if we think it's important. Studies show it takes about a few minutes to get refocused after you've been interrupted by a phone call. Trust me, for us entertainment types, this requires an insane amount of discipline, but yielded the greatest payoff! Now when I'm with my kids, I'm focused on them. They don't act out as much to get attention, and I don't stress about a weekday gig on a Saturday afternoon.
4. Group [of three] Exercise: I used to ignore exercise on the weekends, and just think "I'll get around to it when the kids are in school on Monday." But I actually like working out with my kids, and surprisingly, my three-year-old son loves "burpees." I put on fun music like Bieber, or the Lion King soundtrack, or the kids band The Monkey Bunch, and do burpees with my son. Then my daughter leads a 10-minute dance and yoga class (I'm the only student). We follow that up with weights: me doing plank and squats with my kids crawling all over me.
Any workout is better than no workout......right?
5. Eat Real Food: If your kids' energy and/or moods swing, try cutting out processed food. Sounds too simple to be true, but a new study published in Lancet Journal says a diet free of processed foods significantly reduces the symptoms of ADHD in 78 per cent of 4-8 year old children. We've all seen kids crash and burn after a sugar high, but now we can extend the culprits to processed food in general. Eating whole foods will help regulate your kids energy so there are fewer tantrums (from adults and kids alike).
6. Twenty Minutes of One-on-One: After checking with my "mom friends" on their parenting musts, an overwhelming number of them responded with "the 20 minute quota." That means, whether you have one child or several, each child gets 20 minutes a day of private, one-on- one play time with mom. Your child picks the activity: a puzzle, shooting hoops, inventing a comic strip, listening to tunes, a treasure hunt etc. Those without kids might say "only 20!?" but after laundry, pick ups, drop offs, meals, and full family time, 20 minutes of one on one alone time with each child is an achievable goal, and will go a long way to developing your kids confidence.
7. Compartmentalize Your Money Worries: As a Wellness Coach, the most common stress I hear about from new moms is anxiety over future earnings and employment. A common example is moms who are at the start of their mat leave worrying about what job they'll have in a year, or stressing that they haven't started RESPs when they can barely pay the mortgage. All the worry in the world won't make a dent in your savings; a better perspective is to mark down the date when it will officially be useful to get pro-active about choosing your next job or starting a savings plan for your little'uns education.
You do not need to solve these problems when your baby is two weeks old. Ask yourself "Is this worry getting me anywhere?" If the answer is "no," then come up with a plan of action for down the road when your financial status changes from community-mom or mom-with-daycare-bills, to working-mom-of-kids-in-school. In the mean time, save $$ like I do by tricking your youngsters into thinking the toy car you just pulled out of your neighbors trash is an amazing birthday present!
These seven changes have made the biggest difference to our stress. We don't have the same anxiety on the weekends anymore. We're really enjoying our time with the kids, and spending more of it playing with them, as opposed to disciplining them. Visit us unannounced and you'll see it's not perfect, but at least we're laughing about our imperfections now. If you have ideas, please share them -- we're all in this together, folks!