“How do you eat an elephant?” 

“One bite at a time.” 

Keeping our home orderly is like a huge, leathery elephant that we are supposed to eat all by ourselves.

And I gotta say, some days it’s downright rotten.

The insurmountable, never-ending list of things that will never be truly finished feels like it’s gonna break our teeth before we can get it chewed well enough to swallow.

As long as people wear clothes, there will be laundry. As long as they eat, there will be meals to cook and dishes to wash.

Then, as if it isn’t enough to try to keep up with the messes generated by the little minions, there’s the elephant of keeping up with ourselves.

I’m all for ditching the shaving — there’s enough feminist in me to say “if you shave for any reason other than that you like to, stop.”

But you still have to occasionally shower. And comb your hair.

Or get it shaved off again.

Either way, it has to be taken care of.

And there’s the super annoying requirement of clothing.

And beauty standards are the biggest life-sucking jerk I’ve ever met.

Another elephant tromps in and flops down. Child training is mentally exhausting and terrifying at the same time.

Raising a kid that knows how to use a toilet and a fork is necessary or you’re going to a dark place with a “neglect” charge.

Beyond that, though, having pleasant children is also your responsibility. Children that show respect to others, that communicate well, that can cope with different scenarios, that have basic survival skills like making a sandwich and putting their toys away.

And if they also act like decent humans and do things like allow others to go first, then you know you’ve really made it.

And then this other elephant steps into the room … he’s alive and kicking and not at all ready to be eaten. He’s called “internet stress.”

This is an elephant that we eat voluntarily.

Another headline about how a kid died from not being buckled right.

What on earth even is dry drowning?

Oh great. “W sitting” is gonna make my kid crippled. No, wait… they debunked that one. I think.

I can’t keep my baby sleeping on her back, she just won’t… is she gonna die of SIDS?

I’m supposed to make special holiday memories? I thought the holidays WERE the memories!

The elephants seem to be distractions. They suck up our time and energy and leave no stomach space left for our marriages and our children.

If we could, we would want nothing more than to be gluttons when it comes to these.

We want to feast non stop on the precious smiles and the play times and the giggles and the date nights and the romantic bowls of shared cereal after the kids are in bed while binging Netflix… but we haven’t got anything left.

We’re tired, and we’re out of room.

I’m not hear to tell you to let go of all the elephants and focus on your kids.

When Jessa Duggar recently overshared the details of her filthy house the response was that she was being lauded on one hand for honesty,  but she was being trashed on the other hand for being unsanitary.

And I gotta say, if her pictures and her explaination for her pictures are her reality, she needs a bit more balanced diet.

Because her reason for her home being out of control was that she was feasting on kid time.

We all want to feast on kid time. And we have had it pounded into us that quality time with our children should be all-consuming. So consuming that the internet goes through waves of debate about whether kids or husband should come first.

Waves of memes about ‘good moms’ having filthy homes and happy kids.

Waves of sentimental poems telling us to let everything burn while we spend time being consumed with our tiny children that are growing too fast.  (Yes, you can and should let everything else go to have that time with them, but it shouldn’t come to that.)

But we have to be responsible with all of our elephants. Not eating the elephants will mean that our kids inherit our leftover elephants before they can start working on their own.

Time doesn’t just erase these things.

If you choose to live in squalor then that will be the norm your children will justify as adults. They won’t even know what it looks like to try and they will start so far behind that by the time they have their own kids they will be giving up altogether.

They need *you* to eat that elephant. One little bite at a time.

If you let yourself be an icky, smelly, unkempt person then they will not believe you when you try to teach them hygiene. That’ll sure backfire when they are 15 and you are trying to take on the new elephant of hormones and gym bags.

Turning off the screens and learning to compartmentalize,  not letting the emotions of the world wide web (note: it’s called a WEB. How much more warning do you need that it’s a TRAP?) seep into your life will show them the control and disconnection required to handle the elephant that is a technology-based existence.

If you don’t eat your elephants, you set your children up for failure. Taking ownership and eating your elephants IS INVESTING QUALITY TIME IN THEM.

Your responsibility to your children goes waaaay beyond reading out loud to them.

Teaching them that fun matters more than responsibility is NOT quality investment. It’s poor parenting.

But the diet has to be balanced. They DO need one-on-one time. They DO need you to set aside the other elephants and dedicate energy to them before you run out of stomach space and stamina.

Don’t get angry or overwhelmed. Because I’m not telling you to live a high standard. I’m telling you to change your way of thinking.

The driving point behind a balanced life is learning to say “no” to perfectionism.

Learn to do everything in snippets. Smaller bites chew easier. A big bite will take twice as long to chew as 4 small bites.

I remember being 4 years old and getting too much turkey in my mouth at Gramma’s Thanksgiving. I sat there and chewed for 10 minutes and ended up going to the bathroom to spit my bite out. I just couldn’t swallow it.

Don’t be 4 year old me.

How To Eat All The Elephants.

The cleaning and cooking elephant should be nibbled at, not treated like a 5-course meal.

  • Clean your house, but don’t stress about it looking perfect. Just make it sanitary and recognize everyday life as life, not as mess. Minimize belongings instead of maximizing cleaning time if you want more order.
  • Scrub a toilet while the toddler is in the bath tub.
  • Load the dishwasher while dinner is cooking.
  • When you walk out of your bedroom in the morning, carry the laundry pile with you.
  • Make a diaper changing station near the main trash can — our laundry room has diapering supplies so we can change stinky toddlers on the floor and then the filth is immediately removed out the garage.
  • Wipe down the side table with a baby wipe when you start to set your drink down and notice that it’s dusty or dirty.

Cooking:

  • Learn how to make one-pot meals. Skillets and stir-fries, crock pot meals, casseroles.
  • Cook in multiple batches and throw a few meals in the freezer. (Casseroles especially.)
  • Memorize simple meals that can be seasoned without a recipe.
  • Utilize pre-mixed seasonings.

Self Care Requires A Little Bit of Discipline But Is Very Rewarding.

Take a shower, for goodness sake. It’s not that hard, and I have twins. I went through 18 months of 4-minute showers. Step into the shower. Shampoo your hair. Condition your hair. Scrub down with a loofa. Rinse the conditioner out. Get out of the shower.

What about shaving?

Shave your legs from the knees down in the sink next time you go pee. It takes 30 seconds per leg. You can use hand soap.

Dry shave your pits. Did you know you can do that? Old deodorant acts as a moisturizer that lets you dry shave. You’re welcome. (I dry shave every day. While I brush my teeth. I live dangerously, ya’ll.) (Hubby just said “ewwww. What the?” And I replied with “I’ve been doing this daily for 4 years and you had no idea. So don’t even ewww at me.”)

If your hair doesn’t towel dry or air dry then either get a short haircut that you can take care of or twist it into a messy bun each morning.   Or do hat day. I do hat day a lot.

Put on clothes. Real clothes. If that means a pretty top and leggings, fine. If it means jeans and a t-shirt, fine. But take 3 mintues to get out of the clothes you slept in and into something that was made to be worn during the day.

You can pretend to be put together if you smell clean and your hair is contained and not flaking or greasy.

Don’t worry about full face makeup — just try to keep your face clean and occasionally put on some waterproof mascara.

A spot of triple antibiotic cream on any blemishes before bed at night will keep them healing in minimum time.

And guess what? Your self-esteem will soar.

Remember, this is survival time. Let the perfectionism go and find the basics that will let you feel good without stress!

Train Your Kids In The Reasons WHY We Behave Instead Of Bickering Over Individual Behaviors.

Before fighting with your children over the way they are acting, make sure that every day includes time spent practicing things like:

  • sitting still
  • being silent
  • staying inside of a pre-set boundary
  • reviewing good manners
  • folding hands
  • coming as soon as they are called

Setting 5-minute timers for little disciplines at odd times throughout the day will keep your child responding to the rules and boundaries they already know.

Once they have basic self-control you can begin to teach them the practical applications.

Teaching discipline and respectful action require us to say “Why did you do that? What is a better way to do that next time? Why is it important to not behave how you did?”

Praising selfless actions reinforces morality.

Modeling good manners causes ripple effects in the lives of your kids.

Clarify your message to your child for better responses:

  • make eye contact when giving a command.
  • don’t say “okay?” or “please?” at the end of a command unless you are okay with them NOT doing it.
  • have consistent times of day when things like meals and sleep are expected.

 

Put the internet elephant in a cage.

Putting limits on what time of day I allow myself to have the internet speaking into my life makes all the difference in the success or failure of my day.

Because this elephant is actually more of a rival lioness. It wants to steal your actual elephants away from you. 

When I’m disciplined in this area my screen time looks like:

I don’t look at my phone until after kids are clothed and have had breakfast and are released from the table. (I don’t use my phone at the table unless I’m breaking my own rules.)

I set a 30 minute timer for checking in on social media.

During our school day I do not check social media, but do respond to messages.

In the afternoon I give myself another 30 minute socialize timer.

After dinner while the kids are having crazy play time, I allow myself to veg.

Before bed I check things again, then plug my phone in in the bathroom to not be touched again until after breakfast the next day.

When you spend your small minutes nibbling at all your elephants you will find that your world is improved and your kids learn a realistic approach to every day responsibilities.

The elephants will still be there tomorrow. But that’s ok. Because you keep on taking on those responsibilities. You wash the next load. You wipe the next nose. You correct the next tantrum.

Remember. One little task at a time. It might feel like you’re running in circles, but in a few years these elephants won’t look so big anymore.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Joanna is a mommy to 4 littles: a 1st grader, 3 year old twins, and a baby girl born in 2016.

6 COMMENTS

  1. Oh I love this, ESPECIALLY putting the “internet elephant” in a cage. I really related to the whole terror over all the internet-fear articles (dry drowning! W sitting! SIDS! WE’RE ALL GONNA DIE!”) and how it can make us a worse parent–and more anxious–instead of a better one. Thanks for writing this!

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