I have a couple of promises for you, and they are seemingly contradictory. Promise number one, those young years with children are hard. I haven't yet entered into the teenage years of raising children, but in the 11 years I have spent raising children, I have found the first few years are by far the most exhausting. They require a whole lot of sacrifice from you. They are emotionally exhausting. It seems like you rarely get a moment to just be. Add several children in a row living those first few years of life over and you have one frazzled and tired mom.
Here is my contradictory promise. Life only gets busier. Your kids get older and you really have less time on your hands. I think a key difference is you are doing a variety of things from day to day. You have a variety of conversations with your different children of different ages. The days are not so mundane. They are different enough that it somehow seems less exhausting even though you have less time to relax.
We can conclude, from these two promises, that life as a mom is always busy. We can't wait for the magical day when we have more time while being a mom. That is a a fond memory. Time to embrace the reality. But reality doesn't have to be a bad thing! It isn't always easy to be "on" as a mom. We have a lot of tasks and goals we want to meet for our children daily as well as in the "big picture," and sometimes it gets exhausting! Sometimes we wonder if it is worth it to worry about independent play, first time obedience, learning time, and all of the other items on our list. But hard doesn't mean bad. So how do we keep up the motivation to go on and stick with our goals in the face of the craziness life throws at us? Here are five ideas to keep us going.
1-Look to Examples
Look to the examples of other moms around you. I always like to observe people with children older than my own to see what they do and what I like and what I don't. I don't mean this in a judging way--I don't like the "mommy wars" of whose way is better than whose way. We all have our own priorities and goals. We also all have our own personalities. What works for one mom won't work for another. I like to observe what efforts produce the results I am looking for, and what efforts do not. I am looking for what I want for my family and trying to emulate those actions. I tweak them for our family and make them work for us. I talk more about this idea here: Instilling Qualities: Observation.
2-Believe That You Will Miss It Some Day and Live in the Moment
Sometimes when the older women approach you in the store or at church and tell you how much you will miss these years so you better enjoy it, you really just want to hand off your kids and walk away and see how much they really do miss it by the time bedtime rolls around. However, this is the comment I get most often from older women, so I really try to heed that advice to enjoy moments. Not every moment. I don't think we have to enjoy everything every day. But we also don't have to hate it all. When something gets ruined, I try to think about how that mark on that book will always remind me of when so-and-so was young. When my freshly washed window has fingerprints and has been licked (WHY?!?!?), I try to remind myself that I will miss those prints and licks (so they say! Still not sure I buy them missing fingerprints. What the fingerprints represent, sure. The actual fingerprints, I don't think so). I try to enjoy it for what it is because apparently, someday I will miss it. See also Enjoy the Moment.
Along those same lines, I try to live in the moment. I don't like to think, "I can't wait until...[so-and-so is older, so-and-so masters this skill, etc.]. I just try to enjoy where everyone is for what they are at that moment. Think about the things you love about the stage each child is in. Cherish those moments. Try to remind yourself of and focus on those. There will always been things you love and things you don't love about each stage, so you have to just focus on what you enjoy rather than pinning away for what you believe will surely be better in the future. See also It's A Journey, Not A Destination
3-Simplify Where Possible
Simplify your life so you have the time and energy needed to do what is necessary. We can't do it all, and when we try to do more than we can handle, we start to let important things slide. When we are too busy, we get tired, and when we get tired, we find it easier to let the child get her way than to correct her and require obedience. For more on this, see Days of Motherhood. See also Good Sacrifice vs. Foolish Sacrifice. See also Slow the Pace
4-Have Faith the Hard Work Will Pay Off
Day in and day out, you are taking small steps and working hard to make sure your child is being raised in the best way for your child. You remind your child over and over again to do a certain thing (say yes mommy, put shoes away, clean up after self...) and sometimes you wonder why you even bother? And is this much attention to the schedule that important? And why bother with bedtime and naps because life could be a bit less complicated if you weren't worried about those things...
Have faith that your hard work will pay off. It really does! This brings us back to number one. Who are your positive examples? Their hard work paid off! This is something that gets easier with perspective. This is why having a fourth baby is less stressful than the first; you know the hard work pays off at some point. When you need a pep talk, look through my pep talks: Word to the Weary/Pep Talks Index
5-Take Breaks At Times
Sometimes, you need a change in the schedule. Sometimes, you as a mom need a girls night out. You need to take a break from the sharp focus of being a mom so you can see the big wide world, gain some perspective, and realize that everything will be okay. The world keeps spinning and your child refusing to sign at the end of the meal is not the end of the world.
Have time for yourself to develop your talents and to be you as an individual. See Developing Talents.
Sometimes you also need a break from the routine. Take a pajama day. Take a day to watch a movie as a family. Take the day off from your regular routine every once in a while. It will be a fun break, and when you return, everyone will be glad for it.
For more ideas in this area, see 10 Ways to Save Your Sanity.
Remember as you go along and things are hard, these hard times are what make us grow. Just like when you exercise, your muscles strengthen, when you practice managing time and efforts, you get better at it. See Increasing Our Capacity for more on that.