Families With Grace

Helping Christian moms create homes filled with grace, love & faith

Moms with Grace: Mandy Farmer

Tips for Christian moms with a good dose of encouragement

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The “Moms with Grace” series takes a look at modern Christian moms and how they handle daily life with raising children. You’ll find monthly posts from moms with older kids, younger kids and all those in between. Let real-life moms encourage and uplift you!

Today is the kick-off for the “Moms with Grace” series. Mandy Farmer is the featured Mom with Grace this month. Mandy has a blog, “Mandy and Michele,” for which I have shared guests posts a few times. I am thrilled to share her story with you.

Mandy is a 62-year-old mom to four children ranging from 26 to 48. The oldest two belong to her husband from a previous marriage, but Mandy has raised them completely since they were 9 and 14 and lost both their mom and sister in a car accident.

Her experiences as a mom and stepmom (though she says they never use the term “step”) are uplifting to those of us still in the thick of everyday life with kids. Mandy has survived the young years and is now reaping the benefits in her relationship with her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren!

Please share a little bit about your background. Are you married? If so, for how long? What is your occupation? 

I was born near Canton, Ohio, and raised on the family dairy farm. At the age of 13, we moved, cows and all, to Wisconsin where I graduated from a small high school. I acquired a B.A. in computer science at Asbury University outside of Lexington, KY and went to work in Columbia South Carolina for about five years.  

At that point, my pastor’s wife introduced me to Michael Farmer, a pastor in her hometown of Barnesville, Ga. Michael had recently lost his wife and daughter in a fatal car accident. He had two boys, 9 and 14 at the time. She had been after me for months to go to Georgia with her and meet Michael. I didn’t think I was interested in a pastor with two boys but I finally went…just to get her to quit bothering me about it. 

Four months later, we were married! Now 32 years married!  

Fun note: I said I didn’t want to be a farmer’s wife or a pastor’s wife…I married Pastor Farmer! 

We added another boy and girl to the mix and continue pastoring around Georgia and for six years in Milwaukee, Wis. – my home state. 

I never worked outside the home or church after marriage and my degree quickly became obsolete, but my education was well worth it. 

I jumped full-time into my love of children’s ministry. Homeschooled our two youngest and founded a homeschool co-op. In between that, sometimes I served as Michael’s secretary. 

In 2011, I was struck with chronic pain. This changed a lot. Our daughter was 15. She became chief cook and bottle washer, making most meals, doing the laundry, keeping the house. She also, became my chauffeur! In 2016, we retired and moved to Savannah, Ga., and I began writing.

At first, I wrote about chronic pain and then I moved into writing Bible Studies for our denomination and an online group called Gracefully Truthful. Last year I decided to try to publish a book of devotions. That is still in the works, but in the learning process I wrote a children’s picture book about milk cows: Holly the Holstein Talks About Milk Cows.  I will publish another picture book about a family whose mommy has Fibromyalgia. You can follow me at my writing website to keep abreast of my publishing. 

How have you changed from the beginning of your mom journey until now? 

Another piece of my backstory is that I was number three of six children growing up. My youngest brother was 12 years behind me. My mom had a bookstore, so I did a lot of caring for him. This gave me a great deal of knowledge about childcare. I loved being a mom, and I can hardly wait to have grandchildren. (Our oldest has children and grands, but they have always lived far away.) 

Our children are all grown now. We live in the same city. Two kids are married. They all pop in all the time to check on us. Our oldest has two grown sons and a daughter. And we have six great-grandchildren! 

What are some challenges you’ve faced as a mother? How have you worked to overcome them? 

My initiation into motherhood started right off with a preteen and teenager. One got the chicken pox while Michael and I were on our honeymoon, and the other got them when we arrived home!  

My husband and I sat down with them before we married and talked about things. They wanted me to adopt them but because of moving several times it never happened. Michael told them that I would end up being their mother longer than their biological mother. And we decided they would call me “Mom.”  

Michael said he would always back me up when it came to discipline, and they were not to try to play us against one another. What I said would be “law” and if I dealt out a punishment, only I could change it. We had some of the typical teenager-mom issues. But really not many big issues that all moms don’t have.  

I love them like my own, and they love me the same. As a matter of fact, one of them sends me flowers every year on the anniversary of their mother’s death. The card always reads, “Thanks for being my mom.”

In what ways have you and do you share your faith with your children?

It’s a lifestyle. Everything seems to have something to do with faith in our lives. We have had many discussions around the dinner table. (Dinner table: what an important routine for the family!) 

Being a pastoral family, our kids were saturated in our faith. I wanted to have a family devotion time, but my husband felt that they got so much from being at the church A LOT that he didn’t want to do it. I did get them to have Advent devotions with me most years. We also homeschooled our children, and they received Bible training through that. Our church had children’s and teen’s Bible quizzing, and we were deeply involved in quizzing. 

Once they were old enough, they were involved in any special programs we had at church. They enjoyed every minute…well, maybe not every minute. 😊 

Pray for and with your children. After the car accident, going to school was very traumatic for Brian. He was dropped to his school that day and the accident happened on the way to the high school. We ALWAYS prayed with him before he got out of the car. ALWAYS.  

What are some of your favorite parts of motherhood? 

I loved it all. From as long as I can remember, I wanted to be a mom. I was involved in their lives and they in mine. I loved cooking and baking with them from an early age. Also, I taught them music, and we played and sang together often. Homeschooling was wonderful. I was nervous about it at first. But my sister was doing it, and so I tried kindergarten (which wasn’t required) and we enjoyed it. That was the year my daughter was born and it gave Brett and me bonding time. If Mikaela was fussy, she was in a snuggly around me which left my hands free to teach. I think she learned a lot that way, school came easier for her. We considered every year what we would like to do the next year. Every year the kids chose to homeschool. 

How does grace play a role in your daily life? Do you have any tips or advice for how moms can show more grace to their families? 

3 John 1:4 image

Oh, goodness! Grace. Grace is the central theme. There are always mistakes made. On my side and theirs. Apologies and forgiveness are vital in a good family relationship. 

When discipline is necessary, it’s a good time to talk about the forgiveness of God. Be sure to tell your child how much you love them and that discipline is for teaching. Never discipline when you are angry. Always pray with your child after discipline. 

 What are you most proud of as a mom? 

 ”I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.” – 3 John 1:4 (NIV)

All four of my children are serving the Lord in some capacity. Daniel is on the church board and serves in so many basic ways. He does a lot of those things that no one notices – lawn care, general checking on the building, usher. Brian served as a pastor in a small church for about 10 years until his health failed. Brett is the tech guy. He runs the sound and live stream at church. Mikaela and her husband serve as youth ministers and are both on the worship team. 

Do you have any resources that help you be a mom with grace?

You have to have a strong marriage to have a strong family. 

These are some of the parenting books I highly recommend:

Do you have anything else to add that we haven’t talked about? 

Prayer is a big key. Pray for guidance and wisdom. Pray for your children and their future spouses. Be specific as much as you can. Pray more than “Be with my child today.” Ask for wisdom and knowledge and protection. If they are attending public school, pray even harder. 

Make sure your children know that their parents love each other. Yeah, they might get disgusted, but let them see you hugging and kissing occasionally. This makes your child feel safe.  

Tell them you love them every day! Hug them even when your teenager doesn’t want you too. 

Have rules and abide by them. Children need boundaries. Back each other up. 

Connect with other Christian moms for support and encouragement in the private Facebook group, Moms with Grace!

7 Prayers for moms

Prayers to help you and other moms like you!

Every day, I pray for my husband and children. In fact, my usual prayer order is exactly that: husband, children and then me. Truthfully, a lot of times the prayers for myself are almost an afterthought. I get caught up in what my family needs. I don’t think I’m alone. We moms tend to put ourselves last, but when it comes to prayer, we need to make sure we are covered as well.

This list includes seven prayers for moms you can pray for yourself and for the other moms in your life. All moms need prayer. Motherhood challenges you physically, emotionally, spiritually and mentally. I like to say motherhood is neither for the faint of heart nor the weak of composition!

But, I’m thankful for a God who understands and knows that. Our Heavenly Father is right there in the midst of motherhood with us. As much as we love our babies, He loves them – and us! – even more. We can lean on Him during the easy times and the difficult ones.

Prayer for moms: strength and endurance

“being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience.”

Colossians 1:11 (NIV)

Does anybody need more patience than moms? If they do, I haven’t met them! Motherhood is often a test of patience, strength and endurance. It starts from the very beginning when that perfect little human won’t let you sleep or have a minute to yourself.

As our kids get older, we may get to sleep more, but we still spend a significant amount of energy thinking, and perhaps worrying, about them. Motherhood can be draining in every way. All moms need prayers for strength and endurance.

Father, I ask that you strengthen me with all power according to your glorious might so I may have great patience and endurance. Lord, hold me up when I am weak today. Give me strength beyond my own when I’m tired and ready to give up. Help me to keep going until the day is done. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.

Prayer for moms: wisdom and discernment

“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.”

James 1:5 (NIV)

Moms have so many decisions we need to make. There’s big stuff like what school to send our kids to or how to handle discipline. And there are smaller things like what to make for dinner and which movies to allow. All of these decisions take wisdom and discernment, because our decisions impact our children.

Lord, please give me wisdom as I am raising my children. Help me to discern the best choices for them and for our family. Guide me to know what your will is for me as a mom. Father, help me to be the mom my children need to raise them according to your will and plan for their lives. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.

Prayers for moms: rest and peace

“In peace I will lie down and sleep,
    for you alone, Lord,
    make me dwell in safety.”

Psalm 4:8 (NIV)

Even when our babies start sleeping through the night, it’s hard for us mamas to get a good night’s sleep. Somehow we stay alert even in our sleep to hear if they need us. Then add in the worries of motherhood, and we really struggle to get good rest.

Moms long for peace in a world of chaos and stress. I love this verse for its reminder that I can relax and rest knowing God is in control. I imagine myself tucked safely and snuggly in His arms. On difficult nights, I pray for His peace and rest. I even ask Him to help me sleep well but wake up if someone needs me.

Heavenly Father, I ask you to give me peace to lie down and sleep. Lord, remind me you are always in control and keeping my family and me safe. Grant me your peace that passes all understanding. Hold me close and let me rest fully in you. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.

Prayers for moms: protection and safety

“Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land.”

Job 1:10 (NIV)

This verse is actually Satan talking to God about how God is protecting Job and his family. What I love is the idea of a hedge of protection. It’s easy to feel unsure and unsafe in the world. When we have children, I think we become aware of the dangers even more.

Father, I ask that you place a hedge of protection around me and around my family. Protect us in every way, Lord: physically, emotionally and spiritually. Remind me of your presence when I feel afraid. Let me rest in your protection and safety. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.

Prayers for moms: emotional and mental health

“When anxiety was great within me,
    your consolation brought me joy.”

Psalm 94:19 (NIV)

When you are consumed with taking care of everyone else, like we moms are, your emotional and mental health can suffer. If you already had struggles before having children that compounds even more.

I’ve struggled with anxiety for years, but I didn’t have a name for it until more recent years. I’ve learned anxiety and faith can co-exist. And I have also learned God is with me every step of the way. I need His help every day.

Lord, when I have anxiety great within, I ask that you console me and bring me joy. Strengthen me mentally and emotionally. Give my mind rest. Help me show my children what good mental healthcare looks like. Father, give me courage to seek help when I need it. Heal me from past hurt and trauma. Remind me always of your goodness and presence in my life. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.

Prayers for moms: relationships with others

“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.”

1 Thessalonians 5:11 (NIV)

Moms’ lives are filled with relationships. From our husbands to our children to our co-workers to our extended family to our friends, we are surrounded by relationships. Prioritizing the relationships most important to us matters. Learning how to navigate and mange those relationships is important.

Heavenly Father, thank you for the loved ones you’ve surrounded me with. Help me to encourage and build them up. Show me how to best communicate with my husband and with my children to strengthen and grow our relationships. Please help my relationships with other people to be healthy and good for me. If someone is hurting my walk with you, help me to realize that and give me wisdom to address it. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.

Prayers for moms: spiritual growth

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”

John 15:5 (NIV)

In order to make everything work and be the moms, wives and people God created us to be, we need to stay connected to Him. Growing spiritually is important, even when as a mom finding ways to connect with God in the midst of raising a family can be challenging.

Growing spiritually needs to remain a priority, perhaps even more so as moms. I want to have a strong faith and relationship with God for myself but also so I can pass that along to my children. Modeling what faith truly looks like to my children is important to me.

Lord, I ask that you help me to remain in you and to bear much fruit. I know apart from you I can do nothing. Open my heart and mind to hear you. Help me to know you more completely. Father, remind me to connect with you during my busiest times. I want to spend time with you. Show me ways I can make that happen. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.

6 Skills you need to become a mompreneur

What mompreneurs should know

Thanks to Sarah Bull from EconomyMom.com for sharing this guest post about becoming a mompreneur with Families with Grace! Sarah is a single mom of two, an entrepreneur and a penny pincher. She created her blog to share what she’s learned about growing a home-based business and making money online all while raising two awesome kids. Through her site, she hopes to inspire readers, especially fellow moms, to take their earning destinies into their own hands using her career and money-making advice. Be prepared to be inspired!

As a stay-at-home mom, you might not work a nine-to-five, but you certainly spend the day working. Household chores and childcare are enough to fill your time, but perhaps you have an entrepreneurial itch and you want to start your own business. If you aspire to join the ranks of successful mompreneurs, these six essential skills can help you succeed.

1. Business initiative

The most important skill of all is a sense of initiative. Even if you have a stellar business idea and a fully fleshed-out plan, you’re the only person who can make that plan a reality. Mompreneurs need to have the confidence and determination to start your business — and keep it going when challenges inevitably arise.

6 Skills you need to be a mompreneur Pinterest image 1

2. Ability to plan ahead

Planning ahead is another vital skill that entrepreneurs — and parents — must have, and you can plan ahead for your business by starting a limited liability company. An LLC can minimize the amount of taxes that you owe and protect your personal assets, and it may also reduce the volume of paperwork you have to complete.

Another great way to plan for your business’s future is by going back to school for a degree in Information Technology. And if you’re open to online learning platforms, you should consider this option which allows you to learn at your own pace as well as gain skills like networking and data management that are vital to modern businesses.

3. Knowledge of digital records

Successful mompreneurs need to know how to run a business efficiently — and maintaining digital records is a huge part of that. Digitizing paper files will save space, and it also allows you to save documents on your tablet or phone in a PDF format.

Keep important documents readily available when you’re on the go. PDFs are great because they can be accessed on a mobile device even if you can’t connect to WiFi. They’re also great for sharing documents without worrying about editing permissions.

4. Social media marketing savvy

Social media is a vital tool for connecting with your target customers and marketing to them directly. In order to take advantage of this potential, you need to learn how social media algorithms work. You also need an eye for aesthetics if you plan on creating marketing graphics to use on social media.

According to statistics, members of Facebook spend an average of 19.6 hours on the site each month. Using a Facebook ad maker can simplify the process of marketing to these users. It’s easy to edit a template with your own photos, fonts and other details. Download it immediately once your design is done.

5. Marketing smarts

Social media isn’t the only marketing tool you need to master. You should also familiarize yourself with local print advertising opportunities and other marketing channels that may be effective.

6. Balance between work and kids

Achieving work-life balance is a skill some people spend their whole life chasing. If you plan to be a stay-at-home mom and a small business owner, though, you need to master it sooner rather than later. You can start by clearly designating your time and splitting it between your business and your kids.

Moms make great business owners

Moms are some of the hardest-working people on the planet. If you’re ready to start making a profit from your work, starting a business could be the right path. Your business will benefit from forming an LLC, going back to school and devising a solid social media marketing scheme. Being a mompreneur can be your path to the successful work-life balance you want.

Families With Grace invites you to join in the journey to create a home filled with grace, love and faith. Questions? We’d love to hear from you!

How Christian moms can teach their children about God

7 Simple ways Christian moms can help grow their children’s faith

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For us Christian moms, finding ways to teach our children about God is important. More than anything, I want to help my children learn about and know God in a personal way. I love them so completely and fully. Yet, I also know I can’t be there for them every moment. It’s neither possible nor feasible. But, God can. And He knows what the future holds for them. He loves them even more than I do.

While we want to be intentional as Christian moms to teach our children about God, we also need to find the best ways to do so. Long theological lectures aren’t going to convince a 6-year-old that she needs to ask God into her heart. Trite, vague answers aren’t going to convince a 16-year-old that he needs to follow God.

7 Simple ways Christian moms can teach their children about God

It’s certainly a precarious balance and one that my husband and I continue to work on as we are raising our kiddos. Just as I want to teach my children how to take care of themselves physically, I also want to teach them how to take care of themselves spiritually.

I’m still learning and growing on my journey as a Christian mom, but over the past 13 years of motherhood, I have found a few things that work for us.


Praying for our children is important. Praying for ourselves as Christian moms is equally important. I pray daily that I’ll be the kind of my mom my children need to raise them according to God’s will and plan for their lives. I also pray in the moment. When my kiddos are asking me questions about God, the Bible or anything faith-related, I silently pray things like, “God, give me the right words.”

Faith questions are difficult and even with kids who are only 9 and 13, we’ve already been asked some deep questions. Turning to God to help us answer is my first stop. I’ve been surprised by answers that have come to me as a result and discussions I’ve been able to have with my children. And I know that wouldn’t have happened without God’s help.

Praying with our children is also incredibly important. Each evening before bedtime, our family has prayer time together. This has a been a great time to teach our kids what praying to God can be like. We talk about prayer requests and remind them they can talk to God just like they do anyone else. They don’t need to recite memorized prayers but can really talk to Him.

Be honest.

In order to keep lines of communication wide open, I think honesty with our kids is important. My husband and I have a policy with our children that if they ask us a question, we will answer them honestly. We have adhered to that policy while also keeping their ages in mind. This is true with faith. If our kids ask us something we don’t know, we’re honest about that. We’ve told them that if we don’t know the answer, we will help them find it. We’ll turn to the Bible and our pastor to get a good answer for them.

We are also honest that some topics are debated in Christian circles. So we share our own experiences and interpretations as well as some differing views. But, we also always get back to the fact that no matter what disagreements there are, the most important thing is knowing Jesus died for our sins and wants a relationship with us.

Talk about your faith.

This might seem like a no-brainer to us Christian moms, but I think it can be easier to talk to our kids in more abstract ways about God and less about how He is working in and through our own lives. I have shared stories with my kids that happened recently and in the past of how God has helped me through situations or ways I’ve seen Him work.

You don’t have to get a 20-minute testimony to your children, but taking a minute to point out how God answered your prayer is powerful. It helps our kids realize God is still working and impacting lives today. And it shows them what a daily walk with God looks like. My hope is that it also helps them be able to see Him at work more easily in their own lives.

Listen to Christian music.

Christian music is another subtle way Christian moms can help teach their kiddos about God. I love music and have it on in the car, while I’m working and often in the kitchen as well. My kids notice it in the car the most. Without necessarily realizing it, Christian music lets them soak up the message and promise God’s love and faithfulness.

Christian radio is a great source, but I also love having my own playlist with a wide variety of Christian music. You can find the Families with Grace Playlist on Spotify with nearly 11 hours of contemporary Christian music. I keep adding to it, because it’s the playlist I listen to most often myself!

Get into God’s Word together.

Spending time together in God’s Word is important. I know my own faith walk is strongest when I’m in God’s Word. You can do this in a variety of ways. Of course, you can read the Bible together. Here are some of our favorites:

“The Jesus Storybook Bible” by Sally Lloyd-Jones is our favorite from when our kids were younger. It’s perfect for preschoolers through early elementary, but it also speaks to my heart just as much as it does to the kiddos!

The Jesus Storybook Bible is great for Christian moms to use for their preschool through early elementary children.

“The Action Bible: God’s Redemptive Story” is a comic book style Bible. It is perfect for more visual kiddos or those who love graphic novels. This Bible works really well for my 9-year-old who is dyslexic and prefers the shorter lines of text in graphic novels.

A comic book style illustrated Bible can be a great option for children who enjoy graphic novels.

“Hands-On Bible” is a great option for third grade to fifth graders. It’s the New Living Translation, but it also has lots of additional content designed to engage kiddos as they are reading.

The Hands-On Bible is a great option for upper elementary kiddos.

“NIV True Images: The Bible for Teen Girls” is the Bible my daughter is currently using and enjoying. She’s now 13, but she got this Bible when she was 12. It’s an NIV Bible with various pull-outs of text targeted to teen girls to help them go deeper.

The True Images Bible for Teen Girls is a

Because my son is only 9, I don’t have a favorite for teen boys or a gender neutral version. However, this “NIV Bible for Teen Guys” looks really similar to what my daughter has, just geared more for males. There is also the gender neutral “NIV Teen Study Bible.”

Along with reading the Bible together, take time to talk about what you’ve read. Mention relevant Bible lessons when your kiddos are struggling with something. For example, if one of my kids is afraid and stressed out at bedtime, I often remind them of my favorite Bible verse from Isaiah 41:10 (NIV), “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” I have shared with both of my kiddos stories of how this verse has gotten me through various situations in life.

Try a devotion book.

This goes right along with being in God’s word together. There are a couple of ways this can work. You can read through a devotion book together as a family or read through a book separately and discuss it. Even if this isn’t something you do every day, give it a try.

We always go through a family devotion book together at Christmastime. We use “A Family Christmas,” which is a series of two five-minute Christmas devotion books for busy families I wrote because I couldn’t find one I liked very much for our family. “A Family Christmas Volume One” is ideal for families with preschool through early elementary children. “A Family Christmas Volume Two” works well for families with upper elementary through teens.

"A Family Christmas" devotion book volume 1 is ideal for families with children in preschool through early elementary.
A Family Christmas devotion book, volume 2, is ideal for families with upper elementary through teenage kiddos.

Try a journal and devotion book combo that get you into and talking about God’s Word through writing. My daughter and I published a faith-based mother and daughter shared journal last year called “Connecting with Grace.” It’s great for moms and daughters to get to know each other even better and share about everything from boys to school to faith and more.

Connecting with grace is a faith-based mother and daughter shared journal.

Another great option for moms and daughters is a devotion book from Stacey Pardoe and her tween daughter Bekah. “Girl to Girl” has 60 mother and daughter devotions designed to help moms and daughters deepen their faith and grow their relationships.

Girl to Girl is a devotion book for Christian moms and daughters to use together.

Go to church.

I know there can be many feelings around going to church. Unfortunately, some Christians don’t show the love of God as they are supposed to. But, being at church is important. The Bible tells us to meet together with fellow believers. Find a Bible-believing and preaching church for your entire family to get involved and grow in your spiritual walks together.

My husband and I pour so much into our children; however, having other Christians who pour into them as well is important. They hear other perspectives besides our own. And sometimes kiddos listen better to people other than their parents.

The power of smiling

Plus 10 quotes about the power of smiling

The first part of this post is one I wrote back in 2014 when my kids were very small. Eight years later, I still understand the power of smiling and do my best to use that power wisely — just like my own mama has!

My mom has a beautiful smile that comes easily. When I was growing up, I even had friends remark about how it seemed like my mom was always smiling. Truthfully, there were times in my grumpy adolescence where it annoyed me. But then again, there were times in my adolescence when everything annoyed me no matter what. (Man, I dread that stage with my kiddos.)

My mom’s smile was always there. It still is. I didn’t give it a second thought as a kid. Now as a mom myself, I’ve been thinking about the power of a smile in the lives of my children. When I smile at them, they smile back. When I smile at them, I’m communicating happiness. And when I smile at them, I’m letting them know they aren’t a bother or a burden. That is exactly what I want them to know.

Smiling through the work of motherhood

My children aren’t a bother or a burden. Changing countless diapers throughout the day, wiping noses, making food, playing pretend games, reading books, driving to preschool and back, giving baths, removing fuzz from baby mouths and so much more isn’t a burden. Well, it shouldn’t be. Sometimes I get caught up in myself. Sometimes I get caught up in what I’d really like to be doing like napping, reading a grown-up book or watching a show not on Disney Junior. Other times, I get caught up in the chores I’d like to be able to do in peace from unloading the dishwasher without the baby trying to help or finishing the laundry (which is in the garage) without worrying what the baby is getting into inside. Then I get grumpy. I start to think of my motherhood tasks of burdensome. I stop smiling.

That’s not the kind of mom I want to be. I don’t want to be sighing every time my children ask me for something with words or actions. I don’t want to be rolling my eyes all the time that they need one more thing in my already busy day. Certainly, I don’t want to huff around the house irritated because I’m not getting done what I wanted to get done. I want to be the happy, smiling mom who makes her kids feel secure that they can ask for help when they need it because she will always be there. The power of smiling is great and I want to wield it wisely. I want my children to know the treasures they are to me. I want to honor the role of motherhood that God has blessed me with.

And so I smile. I don’t know if this is why my mom smiled. I think partly she inherited her easy smile and gentle attitude from my grandpa who was such a loving, kind-hearted man with a terrific smile. And I think partly she enjoyed being a mom. I see the light that sparks in her even now when she’s with her grandchildren. She gets excited to give them baths or change their diapers. I’m not at that level, yet, and probably won’t be until I’m a grandma myself.

But, I do want to be the smiling mom for my children. I have learned that smiling, even when I don’t always feel like it, often lifts my spirits. That’s the power of smiling. Sometimes being the smiling mom on the outside allows me to become the smiling mom on the inside. You know on those days when everybody has needed something all day and you were up multiple times the night before with different kiddos at different times for different reasons. That’s when I need the power of smiling to lift my spirits and remind me that this really is a blessed task I have been given. And that it is a task I will one day miss.

For now I’m just going to keep smiling, even and maybe especially at times I don’t really feel like it. Maybe one day my kids’ friends will comment about it. They’ll probably roll their eyes, but that’s OK. In spite of themselves, they’ll at least know how loved they are.

Quotes about the power of smiling

“The world always looks brighter from behind a smile.” — Unknown

“Let us always meet each other with smile, for the smile is the beginning of love.” — Mother Teresa

“A warm smile is the universal language of kindness.” – William Arthur Ward

¨Use your smile to change the world but don’t let the world change your smile.¨ — Unknown

¨A smile is a curve that sets everything straight.¨- Phyllis Diller

¨If we are not able to smile, then the world will not have peace.¨- Thich Nhat Hanh

“You don’t have to be happy to smile.” — Daniel Willey

¨What sunshine is to flowers, smiles are to humanity. These are but trifles, to be sure; but scattered along life’s pathway, the good they do is inconceivable.¨- Joseph Addison

¨I have many problems in life. But my lips don’t know that. They always smile.¨- Charlie Chaplin

“Smiling doesn’t necessarily mean you’re happy. Sometimes it just means you’re strong.” — Unknown

Finding myself again after having a baby

Motherhood changes everything, even your identity

I originally wrote these words in May of 2013 when my son was 4 months old and my daughter was 3 years old. Having a baby changes everything and finding myself again after having a baby was challenging. Even now that my kids are 9 and 12, I still have trouble with loses my unique identity in the busyness of motherhood.

When my daughter was born 3-1/2 years ago, I remember once the fog lifted a bit, I wondered when or if I’d ever feel like myself again. In a way, I mourned the Stacey I once was. I didn’t know if I’d ever feel anything like her again. I was both OK with that and sad about that. But I had to wonder whether if finding myself again would ever happen.

I remember the first day I returned to my home office to work for a couple of hours while my mom watched my baby girl. Even though my breast pump came with me and I did a pumping session whilst typing away, I felt for those couple of hours like the me I used to be and it was glorious. 

During her lifetime, I’ve found a way to sort of balance it all out. I’ve gotten breaks and chances to be a journalist. I’ve gotten breaks and chances to be a wife. And I’ve gotten breaks and chances to be more than a mom. Because, if all of us moms are honest, sometimes we need to be someone other than mommy. Sometimes we need to be more than a kleenex, jungle gym, dairy cow, bottom wiper, clothes changer, laundry doer and food maker. Sometimes we need to be a woman. We need moments to just be silent. And we need to have a moment to think in peace.

Losing myself again with a second baby

I knew I’d deal with these feelings again when I had a second baby. And I have. I love my son just as completely as I love my daughter, even when he’s being high maintenance as he sometimes is. I love him even now when he’s kicking me in the arm while I’m trying to type this blog post as my daughter is distracted working on a bracelet (and never you mind that they’re both still in their pajamas and it’s almost 11 a.m.). I’m now getting just enough sleep and have been in this mom-of-a-baby phase long enough that I’ve started on the journey of finding myself again. Or trying to.

Last week I had a chance to be in the car by myself for a few minutes while my children were at my parents’ house before our birthday celebration. It was just a few minutes. I realized I could not only listen to the music of my choosing but I could turn it up. I could sing along at the top of my lungs and not have to try and have an ongoing conversation with a constantly chatting 3-year-old. For those few minutes I realized that I was still me. And I also realized the old, old Stacey is gone. I am now Mom Stacey. Somehow I’m OK with it.

Finding myself in a new way

Though being a mom drains me sometimes. Though it sucks my energy and occasionally makes me want to run away screaming, it also makes me who I am now. And it makes me happy. I’d be lying if I told you I was happy every single moment of motherhood. I’m not. But at my very core, being a mother is now who I am.

Being with my children can also re-energize me. Looking at their faces and meeting their needs sometimes keeps me going and moving on days when I otherwise would want to just crawl into bed and pull the covers over my head. When I act strong and calm for them when I’m frustrated, I actually feel stronger and calmer. It turns out that if you fake it long enough, it rubs off on you. I want them to see me smile. So, I keep smiling even when I don’t feel like it. And I end up being happier in the end. It could have to do with their sweet smiles back at me.

This time around, I know there is no going back. I’ll never be the Stacey I was before having children. Being a mom changes you forever. And I will forever be their mother, no matter what. This time around I’m not longing for that old Stacey. I do still sometimes crave alone time. I do still need time alone with my husband. But, I also realize that when we are all together I feel the happiest and most complete. This is my family. We’re continuing the journey my husband and I started when we got married.

Just as I adjusted to the title and role of wife, I have now adjusted to the title and role of mother. It is my identity. It won’t ever be my complete identity, but it’s a big part of me. Right now Mommy is 95 percent of who I am and what I do. But there’s still 5 percent reserved for just Stacey. That percentage will wax and wane in the years to come, I’m sure. I’m sure I’ll have times of finding myself all over again. That’s how life works. For now, I’m fully embracing my role as mother. Now it makes me who I am.

Summer planning tips you can use

8 Easy ways to plan a fun and organized summer for your family

Plus a free printable summer bucket list!

Summer break can be such a high-pressure and stressful time. We know we have limited summers with our kids, but life doesn’t stop just because it’s summer. Balancing mom guilt and summer break is a very real struggle! Through the years I’ve learned that a bit of summer planning helps my family be intentional about spending time together so I don’t feel quite as guilty when I have to spend time at work.

I’ve shared before about how to make summer break easier and how to make summer plans during a pandemic. This year, I’m sharing my best summer planning tips that my family really uses!

1. Make a list of summer family goals.

I tend to like my downtime to include a mix of relaxing and productivity. My husband and kiddos are pretty similar, so part of our summer planning is writing down summer family goals. For example, this year some of our family goals include redecorating the loft in our house, trying new restaurants in our city and hanging some artwork we’ve been needing to hang forever.

Our list of family summer goals

2. Make a list of summer individual goals.

Along those same lines, we also like to come up with individual goals for the summer. We each come up with things we’d like to personally accomplish over the summer and write them down. Last year my daughter had a goal to learn to cook more, and she did. This year, both kids have a goal to learn how to type better and organize their bookcases. My son has set a goal of reading three graphic novels on his own this summer. And my daughter has set a goal for writing a novel. My husband and I set goals as well like organizing our bathroom closet. He also has some books to sort out, and I need to organize my office space. These are just a few of our individual goals. Writing them down helps us remember them and doing it as a family helps keep us accountable.

Our list of individual summer goals

3. Make a summer bucket list for your family.

But summer isn’t all about being productive. Summer planning also has to include some fun. Our favorite way to organize fun is with a summer bucket list. I love this for a couple of reasons. First, sitting down with our kids at the beginning of summer to come up with ideas of what they want to do helps my husband and I prioritize those things. Second, when my kids invariably start bemoaning that we haven’t done anything fun all break, we can show them the list with all the items we’ve done so far marked off!

Sometimes coming up with ideas can be a challenge, so I’ve put together a free summer bucket list printable full of ideas to get you started. They are all low or no-cost ideas that are great for making family memories together. Keep your summer bucket list simple!

Our summer bucket list took two pages this year!

4. Organize your kids’ summer activities.

Part of summer planning means figuring out the activities your kids are going to be doing and when. I have a monthly overview I use along with printouts of calendars for June, July and August that help me organize my kids’ activities to make sure that we aren’t overscheduled. My in-laws like to have each of my kiddos over individually for about a week each summer. Seeing their schedule organized helps me best plan those times as well as when it would be good for us to take a family vacation, whether that’s for a week or just a weekend. It also keeps me from overlapping activities and making our schedule too busy.

Our monthly overview for June, July and August
Our June, July and August activity calendars
Using the monthly planning page and calendars makes trip planning easier.

5. Plan for downtime.

Remember that you don’t have to fill every minute of your kids’ summer break with activities. Right along with no overscheduling, you want to build in time for your kids to just have downtime. It’s OK to let them figure out what to do on their own (within reason, of course). One of our requirements this summer is that our kids spend at least three to four hours each week intentionally doing things together just the two of them. So we made a list of boredom busters to give them ideas of what to do together from reading a book to doing a craft to playing with the dog and so much more. In fact, they were so on board with the boredom busters’ list that they immediately started an activity together after we finished working on it.

Our page of boredom busters, including outdoor and indoor scavenger hunts

6. Have a daily routine, even if it’s a loose one.

I’m a fan of regular routines and schedules. In fact, routines really do make my family happier. Routines give kids a sense of stability. They know what to expect, and that’s less stressful for them. While I do loosen up a bit during the summer (bedtime usually moves back a half hour), we do stick with many routines for bedtime and mealtimes. Of course there are times that shifts around for special activities. However, maintaining our general daily routine helps us all.

7. Remember lots of fun activities are free!

Part of my summer planning includes figuring out a budget for summer activities. I try to be as fair as possible between my two kiddos and how much money we spend on their activities. And sometimes we have to choose between a couple of activities not only for time constraints but also for budget reasons. Through the years, though, we have found there are many free activities we can do together during summer break that are super fun. We really do often make the best memories in the small moments. Our local library offers a great variety of free summer programs and there are so many other free activities if you just look for them. Definitely do so!

Our activity budget helps us plan our costs for summer activities.

8. Don’t forget to enjoy your kids.

No matter what you’re planning this summer, make sure to embrace feeling like a kid again yourself sometimes. Last summer, for example, we had a family yes day and I felt like a kid myself during a water balloon fight we had. I squealed and giggled with the kiddos and we had a blast. Plan some low-key, easy, fun activities that will let you relax and enjoy spending time with your kiddos. Summer perfect for making good family memories!

Make your summer planning even easier

If you’re interested in copies of the lists I’ve mentioned in this post and show in the YouTube video below, you can find my entire Summer Planner Mega Bundle in the Families with Grace Etsy store. Use the coupon code FWGFAN to get an additional 10% off your purchase! The Summer Planner Mega Bundle includes all of the following:

  • Summer family goals
  • Summer individual goals
  • 2 Summer bucket lists (one prefilled and one blank)
  • Summer trip planner
  • 2 reading trackers
  • 1 reading log
  • 3 chore charts
  • Weekly overview
  • Monthly overview
  • June calendar
  • July calendar
  • August calendar
  • Summer activity budget planner
  • Books to read list
  • Indoor scavenger hunt
  • Outdoor scavenger hunt
  • Summer boredom buster list
  • Rewards coupons for kids
  • Journal page
  • Notes page

Being a grace-filled parent

What being a grace-filled parent looks like

When I learned I was pregnant with my first child, I was excited. I was also overwhelmed and nervous. Some people are just naturally great with all kids. (In fact, that same first child of mine is that way!) I was never that way. I was not sure what motherhood would actually be like, but I was excited to be part of it. Not once did I think about how grumpy I’d be with my baby. Instead, I planned to be a grace-filled parent. I planned to be calm, have a sense of humor and show lots of love.

The reality of parenthood sets in quickly. Those first few months were exhausting and an adjustment beyond anything I could ever have prepared for. Parenthood is a total upheaval of life. Added to the exhaustion is stress and pressure and it’s a perfect mix for cranky parents. But none of us what to be those cranky parents. We desire to be a grace-filled parent who is patient, caring and loving.

I’ve never been a perfect parent, just as I’m not a perfect person. I have stories about my behavior that make me cringe and feel ashamed. However, I’ve also worked (and had God work in me!) to become a more grace-filled parent. I’ve learned through my years as a mom that my kids need grace from me as much as I need grace from them. Today I’m sharing 10 lessons I’ve learned about how to be a more grace-filled parent.

1. Listen to your children.

From the time they are babies, our kids are using their voices to tell us what is going on with them. True, they start out with crying that can be perplexing. (I remember the days of trying to sort out what could possibly be making my baby unhappy when they were clean, fed and well rested and still crying sometimes!) But once they start talking and expressing themselves, we get to learn about them and their point-of-view.

Understanding where they’re coming from can help you have more patience with your kiddos and give them more grace as a result. I remember when my daughter was 3 and spilled an almost full bottle of hand soap on the hallway carpet. I was angry that she’d made a mess and didn’t understand why in the world she was carrying the soap dispenser out of the bathroom. She explained to me that she wanted to show our new Minnie Mouse soap dispenser to the Minnie Mouse toys in her bedroom. Oh my heart!

She still got in some trouble, and we definitely talked about how soap dispensers stay in the bathroom, but her punishment wasn’t as severe because I understood where she was coming from. She wasn’t just carrying around soap for no reason and trying to make a mess. Listening to her helped me understand her and address what was really going on.

2. Observe your kids.

But, kids don’t always express themselves with words. Sometimes their feelings are too big or they just plain don’t have the words. I mean, I’m just over four decades into my own life and still can struggle to find the right words to explain how I’m feeling sometimes! Sometimes we need to stop and observe our kids to figure out what is really going on with them and why they are behaving a certain way.

Recently my parents were in town for a visit. (They moved away last winter.) We made a quick trip to the grocery store for just a couple of things. My son stood in the chip aisle and argued with me for a moment about buying Cheetos. I get it. I love Cheetos, too, but I told him we had some at home and to stop being difficult. Indeed I was frustrated. Later that evening, my dad mentioned to me that my son had noticed all the rest of us had picked up some sort of snack or something to purchase and seemed to be feeling left out. It made perfect sense as I looked back on the situation. I wasn’t a very grace-filled parent in that moment, but I did at least understand my son a bit. He never said he was feeling left out; however, his actions told the story if I’d have just paid closer attention.

No matter what, of course my son shouldn’t be allowed to argue with me. If I had realized what was really going on with him at the time, though, I could have reacted differently and resolved the situation in another way. I could have suggested he pick another snack instead. Just two minutes after the Cheeto disagreement, I did concede to getting a box of Cheez-Its at my son’s request that both my kids love. His attitude disappeared after that.

3. Communicate with your kids.

Another way to be a more grace-filled parent is to communicate with your kids. Listen, my kids talk a lot. A lot. But, what I mean is to actually communicate with them. Let them know what plans are for after school or what you expect from them on an outing. Just a few sentences ahead of time can help them also understand you better and allow you both to have more patience with and grace for each other. It helps you avoid yelling at your kids or getting otherwise upset with them.

For example, as my children have gotten older, they have had more plans for what they want to do during their downtime. My daughter may be planning to come home after school and spend a couple of hours writing. Or my son might be looking forward to playing with a friend in the neighborhood when he gets home on a nice day. If I throw a wrench into their plans with an extra activity, that can lead to grumpy attitudes at the least and meltdowns at the worst. Simply communicating about plans ahead of time helps tremendously.

My husband and I also talk with our kids about why they are being punished or when we observe a behavior we don’t like. Of course there are times they get in trouble immediately, but other times we have found it’s helpful to communicate with them about why we are unhappy with what’s happened. Communication really does go a long way!

4. Know when to discipline and when to hug.

The definition of grace is not getting what you deserve. Meaning if I do something wrong, you show me kindness instead of anger. Being a grace-filled parent means that sometimes when our kids do something wrong, we let it slide or give them a hug instead of a punishment.

I mentioned in point two that my parents moved away last winter. Their move a few states away has been a big adjustment for all of us. So when they headed back out after visiting us recently and my youngest had a difficult attitude the next day, I gave him a bit of grace. He needed grace and love more than discipline in that moment.

When we are listening to and observing our kiddos, we can more easily discern when they are just out of sorts and need love and attention more than punishment.

5. Remember that you are a teacher.

One of the biggest jobs we have as parents is to be our kids’ teacher. We teach them everything they know about navigating life through our words and actions. Remembering that we are teaching them is an important part of being a grace-filled parent. Our kids are still growing and learning. If we take the time to teach them rather than just get mad at them, we’re all happier in the end.

Our goal is to help them grow and learn. Growing and learning are difficult when we’re being yelled at or in trouble. Instead, use some mistakes as teaching moments. I’ve also learned to expect that I will have to repeat myself and repeat lessons. My kids are kids. They aren’t perfect and they’re not going to always remember what to do in a moment.

6. Set realistic expectations.

When I expect more from my kids than they are capable of, then I lose my patience and my feelings of grace. One trick I’ve learned is to remind myself how old my kids are when I start to impose unrealistic expectations on them. If I stop to think that my daughter is only 12 or my son is only 9 when they mess up, then I can realize when I’m expecting them to act like adults.

I also set expectations out loud to my kids when we are going into situations. For example, if we are going to visit a friend, I remind them I expect them to help clean up toys and not give me a hard time when I say it’s time to leave. When they know what I expect of them, they are more likely to behave accordingly.

7. Guard your time.

I cannot say enough how important guarding your time is. I’m an introvert, so finding downtime comes naturally to me. Both introverts and extroverts need to be wary of overscheduling. Who can be a grace-filled parent when you are stressed out trying to get everyone in multiple places at the same time every night of the week? (Maybe some of you can, and that’s awesome. But I know I sure can’t, and I don’t think I’m alone.)

I’d rather say no to an activity than lose my patience with my kids. We started in elementary school with the rule our kids can do only one regular activity per week. That changes as they get older and can both handle more and stay up later. But it’s what works best for us, and I gladly stick to it.

8. Have fun together.

Eight months old. That’s the age that babies start getting more interactive and you can have a bit of fun with them. (Or at least that was our experience.) From that point on, find ways to have fun with your kiddos. Do things they enjoy with them and let yourself go and enjoy them, too. Now that our kids are older, we enjoy playing games together. When we go to the playground, I swing with the kiddos (unless the swings are busy or other kids want to swing). Just have fun.

We are much more inclined to give grace when our children need it when we have good feelings of making good memories with them. Find ways to sincerely enjoy spending time with your kiddos. Parenting is a lot of work and requires a lot of us, but don’t forget to enjoy moments along the way!

9. Ask for help.

Another important thing to remember about being a grace-filled parent is that you aren’t meant to do it alone. Start always with asking God for help. I pray daily to be the mom my children need. In fact, this parents’ prayer is a great place to start.

Other times you need to ask for help from those around you: your spouse, your extended family, friends and even your kids! For example, I am the one mostly in charge of laundry in our family. Sometimes I get overwhelmed, more frustrated and certainly less grace-filled when I am sitting with a pile of laundry surrounding me that needs to be folded. I’ve learned to make laundry a family chore. I get it gathered, washed and dried, then we all fold it together and everyone is responsible for putting away his or her clothes.

10. Apologize when you mess up.

Being a grace-filled parent doesn’t mean you always have it together. You aren’t perfect. Along the way, you’re going to mess up. Let your kids see what it looks like to mess up gracefully. Apologize to them when you are wrong, because sometimes you are. I have gotten short with my kids for no good reason other than being tired or cranky or whatever. And then I tell them I’m sorry. I want to model asking for forgiveness for them as well as reminding them none of us are perfect.

Looking for more grace-filled posts? Don’t miss these!

How to be a calmer parent

8 tried-and-true strategies for being a calm parent

Nobody goes into parenthood thinking how irritated and grumpy they’ll be. We have visions of being a calm parent. But then the baby is born. You add up no sleep, a huge adjustment to taking complete care of another person and the pressure you feel on all sides and all calmness goes flying right out the window. And that’s just the early days! Parenthood is a hard gig. If anyone tells you it isn’t, they either aren’t a parent or they’re flat-out lying!

Being a calm parent is challenging, even for naturally calm folks. I think I’m a pretty naturally calm person. I don’t get angry easily. My husband is the same way. But parenthood definitely puts that to the test. We’ve failed and messed up. However, in the past 12-1/2 years of parenting, I’ve learned a few strategies that help me be a calmer parent.

1. Pray about it.

Everything starts with prayer, right? Well, at least it should. Sometimes we get off track and try to do things on our own first. It never works out so well. Even being a calm parent is something we can ask God to help us with. He blessed us with these children. He knows their hearts and our hearts. Our Father knows our challenges and struggles. He is just waiting to help us!

You can literally pray before you start the day for God to help you be a calm parent that day. I pray that God helps me to be the mom my children need each day. Calmness is included in there!

Praying in the moment is also important. I can’t say that I do this every time my irritation starts forming, but I try to pray in the moment as often as possible. Sometimes it’s just a short, “God help me to deal with this,” prayer. A bonus to that is in the time it takes me to pause for a few seconds to pray, it also breaks the momentum of my irritation.

2. Listen to the right music.

Music is powerful. I’ve shared a few times the difference that music makes in my life. The right music helps me to be a calm parent. That might sound a bit lame, but it’s true! My go-to music is contemporary Christian music. (If that’s your jam, too, check out the free Families with Grace playlist on Spotify.) Or maybe you enjoy hymns. Maybe country gospel music speaks to your heart. (I truly love all three types of music I’ve mentioned!) Whatever it is, listen to something that calms you and helps you focus on God.

In the car after school, I usually have Air1 Radio or The Message on Sirius XM playing. My kids can sing along to almost every song that comes on. When they were younger, I’d leave the kitchen radio turned on almost all the time to Christian radio. It’s really difficult to yell at or lose patience with your children when you are singing or humming along to Christian music.

Even now, I listen to it while I work most of the time. (For articles that require more concentration, I usually switch to classical.) Then even when I’m not listening to music, the songs are still running through my head. It helps me be a calmer parent.

3. Remind yourself how old your kids are.

Have your ever gotten mad at your child for acting their age? I sure have! We definitely have to teach our children how to grow and behave, but we also need to understand what they are truly capable of. For example, I’d love to tell my 9-year-old to go organize his room. But he still needs some guidance. He knows toys can’t be all over the floor and that dirty clothes go to the laundry room. However, he is 9. He also needs specific instructions for where to put some toys or reminders of the organization we helped him create for them.

My 12-year-old is mature for her age and always has been. Sometimes I have moments that I start to get irritated with her for doing something irresponsible and then I remember, she’s 12. It calms me down. I know that she is still learning. Expecting our children to act more responsible than they are able to be is only asking for trouble. We can remain a calm parent when we stop before we snap at them and remember their age.

Remembering their age helps me switch from anger and irritation to teaching mode. That’s what my kids need most anyway. Our kids need us to take time to teach them rather than just get upset with them for not doing something correctly.

4. Set reasonable expectations for your children.

I get frustrated by people who don’t do their jobs well. We’ve all had times when we had to do a task we shouldn’t have had to do because someone slacked off. When someone doesn’t do the job we expect them to do, it is incredibly frustrating.

The same is true with our kids. When we set expectations for what we’ve asked them to do, we get frustrated when they don’t follow through. Sometimes it is completely their fault, and they didn’t do what they are fully capable of doing. Those times, they need to have consequences. Other times, though, we expect them to do a better job than they are able to do. Before we start getting upset we need to be sure we have reasonable expectations for what our children can and should be able to do.

Over the weekend, my kids were working together to clean up after dinner like I had asked them to. My youngest didn’t complete his task completely. My daughter started to just sigh and do it for him. I stopped her and we showed him how to complete the task. It was a win-win, because now he knows how to do the task and we can expect he can do it in the future. And nobody got upset in the process.

5. Take a breather.

It’d be nice to say that if you use these strategies you will always be a calm parent. But that’s not true, because you’re human and so are your children. Some days are hard when you’re exhausted and your children seem to find every button you have and push it over and over and over and over. Sometimes, the best thing you can do is take a breather.

If your children are babies or toddlers, this may mean just putting them in their crib for 5 minutes while you go to another room and just pause. (Been there, done that!) If you have preschoolers, this may mean you sit them down with a 20-minute show and you don’t interact. For older kids, you can send them to their rooms or tell them you need time alone for a few minutes.

I’ve sometimes taken an extra couple of minutes switching out or hanging up laundry just for a breather. Taking a couple of minutes away from the moment can help you calm down. Add in some deep breathing and prayer time and it works even better.

6. Ask for help.

You weren’t made to parent alone. Asking for help is OK. I was fortunate when my children were small that both my parents and in-laws lived within a few minutes of us and loved having time with grandkids. I utilized that help. If you don’t have that, maybe you have a friend you could trade off babysitting with.

Don’t forget to ask your spouse for help as well. Nope. It shouldn’t be the case that one of you is “helping” the other when you’re both in this together. But at the same time, your spouse doesn’t know what you need without you asking. Sometimes my husband has noticed my need for time away before I have. He’ll encourage me to go to our room or leave the house or whatever I need to do to regroup. Other times, I ask him to take over so I can have a minute. The same has been true in reverse.

Sometimes to be a calm parent, you have to ask for help and get away from it all — even just for 20 minutes in the shower alone. Other times to be a calm parent, you need someone to take items off your to-do list and fold the two loads of laundry sitting by the dryer. Just ask!

7. Try to embrace an attitude of gratitude.

Nothing impedes our calmness like getting angry with our family. Sometimes we get angry because of all we have to do for them that they don’t seem to appreciate. I’ve struggled with this before and still do from time to time. Have you ever had a thought starting with “Why does nobody else around here ever….?” Then you know what I’m talking about.

Yes, our families need to pull their weight. We shouldn’t let chores go undone or do them all ourselves. However, shifting our perspective helps alleviate anger and, in turn, makes us a calmer parent. For example, as you’re conquering that ever-growing pile or laundry, take a moment to thank God for the family you have who wear those clothes. Start adding in other things, too, like thanking Him for the clothes themselves and the ability to wash them in a washing machine.

It may be cliché, but once we start counting our blessings, we calm down. Our attitude shifts and we are more at peace.

8. Apologize when you lose your cool.

Chances are really good that you aren’t going to be a calm parent all the time. I’m certainly not. Sometimes our children need us to not be calm to get a point across. Other times, they don’t deserve our wrath. And it’s those times that we need to go back to our children and apologize. It’s a learning moment for our kids and helps us remember the lesson we learned as well.

Our children learn nobody is perfect, how to apologize when we mess up and that love covers it all. We have a memorable moment in feeling bad about acting out of anger so we are more likely to stop ourselves before doing so again. Simply saying “I’m sorry for how I reacted” goes a long way.

Find more resources to help you be a calm parent in these posts as well:

30 Toddler activities at home

Low-key toddler activities for when you need a break

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I wrote this post about toddler activities at home back in 2012 when I was pregnant with my second child, feeling miserable and figuring out how to best entertain my toddler. Some of these activities we still enjoy and use even now! These low-key toddler activities will help you stay sane and maybe even allow you a bit of downtime.

My kiddo has lots of energy. She has a lot more energy than I do. This is especially true when I’m not feeling well or didn’t get enough sleep or whatever. I totally admit there are times when letting her watch an extra episode of Doc McStuffins, Mickey Mouse Clubhouse or Jake and the Neverland Pirates is easier because I’m tired or have things to do.

I’m not a fan of that. I don’t have a problem with her watching some age-appropriate television. She’s learned many things, in fact, but I certainly don’t want to just park her in front of the television on days I’m not feeling well. 

Combining that thought with my love for lists and I decided to make a list for myself of low-key activities that don’t require much energy from me, would be fun for her, would maybe be educational for her and would be a great way to spend time together. I had a few ideas. Then I turned to some mom friends online and got some even better ideas. These ladies are seriously creative and smart. 

These low-key toddler activities at home are perfect for times when you’re exhausted or sick or you can’t go outside and play. The best part is most are cheap or free and none of them require much more from mom than to sit or lie down. (I’ve included links for products to show you some of our favorites, but you can easily work with what you have!)

Low-key toddler activities at home

1. Coloring with crayons and coloring book pages. Check out this 13-piece set from Crayola that has crayons and 12 toddler coloring books. Or you can print free coloring pages from a variety of web sites.

2. Coloring with Color Wonder markers. I love these because your kiddos get to use markers without possibly making a mess. The markers only mark on the special Color Wonder paper. Clearly this was invented by the parent of a toddler! This Nursery Rhyme Color Wonder set is a great starting place.

3. Blowing bubbles. We do bubbles outside together with a bubble machine, but I also blow bubbles inside for her.

4. Playing dollhouse. If you don’t have a dollhouse, then find another kind of pretend play with toys like Fisher-Price Little People, stuffed animals or whatever you have around.

5. Playing with busy bags. If you aren’t familiar with busy bags and you have a toddler, you need to be! These are awesome and portable ideas to keeps toddlers entertained and learning. I’ve done two exchanges of busy bags with other moms and they are some of my kiddo’s favorite things to play with. Go to Pinterest and search for “toddler busy bags” for all sorts of great ideas. Even as a non-crafty mom, I found quite a few that would work!

6. Doing puzzles. We’ve found our favorite puzzles at the Dollar Tree. Right now 24-piece puzzles work best for my kiddo.

7. Having a pretend picnic. Spread out a blanket, invite stuffed animals and chow down on pretend food (plastic or imaginary).

8. Playing with a baking sheet and magnets. Before vacation, I read that a baking sheet with magnets is good car entertainment. My kiddo loved playing with it more once we got there. I have magnets saved back specifically for the baking sheet. An added bonus of using alphabet and number magnets is it’s teaching her as well. Animal magnets are also fun for her. (Look for magnets with a full magnetic backing instead of small magnetics attached to avoid a potential choking hazard.)

9. Reading books. We love reading books together. Not only is reading to my daughter good for her brain and language development, it’s also great snuggle time! (Don’t miss this list of more than 100 children’s books worth reading!)

10. Playing with Princess Dominoes. Any dominoes work. We happen to have the Disney Princess ones. Sometimes we match up the princesses in a row like a domino game and every so often, we use them like building blocks.

Available in wildlife (shown), dinosaur, outer space and unicorn

11. Playing with Play-Doh. Play-Doh can be a bit messy, but if you are sitting with your kiddo and playing that helps keep the mess down. I also use Glad Press-n-Seal on the table (tape it down if it doesn’t stick well) for my kiddo to play on. It makes for easier clean up. Whether you use a Play-Doh set or just dough, it’s a fun activity that lets you sit down.

12. Building things with Legos or other building blocks. Right now this means making towers or rudimentary shapes; we’re not building fancy Lego models of any sort.

13. Drawing on her magnetic drawing board. Surprisingly, my daughter is impressed with my stick figures when she asks me to draw things like our family. I also use the magnetic drawing board to show her what her name looks like. She’ll often ask me to write other names. She now knows the first two letters of her name as a result. Of course, she also draws on it herself.

14. Cutting paper with safety scissors. I just bought some safety scissors for the kiddo along with a pad of construction paper. She’s not super great at cutting just yet, but she loved the idea of it. We laid on the living room floor for a good 45 minutes alternating between cutting the construction paper and drawing on it.

15. Playing under a blanket. Sometimes I sit on the floor and put a blanket over our heads. This tickles my toddler. It’s like we have our own clubhouse. Sometimes it turns into peek-a-boo, and sometimes we just play under there. She loves it. It tickles her even more when the dog joins us under the blanket.

Even more low-key toddler activities at home

16. Fill a dishpan with dry beans and give the kiddo cupcake pans, spoons, measuring cups, plastic Easter eggs, etc., to move the beans around. It’s not totally clean (you will have some beans on the floor), but it’s not bad and will keep the kiddo entertained for a while.

17. Playing with stickers. Buy some stickers, peel off the sticky part that surrounds the stickers (to make them easier for little fingers to remove) and give the kiddo a sheet of paper. Just keep an eye on your toddler to make sure the stickers go on the paper and not themselves, their baby brother or all over your house!

18. Playing with baby dolls. Pretend play is always a good thing. If you don’t have baby dolls or if you have a boy, then find something else similar to play with that you can take care of together. Playing house/real life is a great toddler activity!

19. Having a tea party. You don’t even have to serve real beverages or snacks (though you totally can). Just sit together and pretend to have a tea party or snack time.

20. Brushing the dog. The kiddo does like to help with this. The dog isn’t quite as sure, but he loves the treat she gives him afterward!

21. Painting finger or toenails. My kiddo isn’t allowed to have paint on her fingernails until she totally stops putting her thumb in her mouth (feel free to judge me), but I’m thinking of trying her toenails this summer.

22. Playing “beauty parlor.” Let the kiddo brush your hair, put clips in it, etc. You can do funny hairstyles for her, put makeup on her, etc. (My curly hair is a bit nervous about the potential tangles on this one, but I already do this a bit.)

23. Make sun prints. Use sunscreen to paint on a piece of dark colored construction paper, then put in the sun to dry for a few hours. The sunscreen will keep the paper from fading, but the areas without sunscreen will fade.

24. Playing nap for mommy. The kiddo came up with this game on her own a month or so ago. Now a couple of times a week she will pretend to tuck me in, give me a doll or stuffed animal to sleep with and want me to be quiet. She tells me to let her know if I need anything, so I have to pretend to need drinks of water every so often. It’s a pretty nice gig that she actually enjoys!

25. Playing doctor with a doctor’s kit. This happens all the time around here. If your toddler isn’t into doctor’s kits, you might let him/her watch an episode or two of Doc McStuffins. Sitting for a checkup is pretty easy, even when you’re not feeling well. My daughter also loves for us to hold her toys while she examines them.

26. Playing with tools. A friend lets her kids bring in a ride-on toy then they turn it upside down and sit on the floor with their play tools pretending to fix it. Pretty much any relatively large toy could use some sort of repair with a play toolkit! Plus many toddler toolkits come with things to work on as well.

27. Playing with paper or magnet dress-up dolls. Paper dolls can be a bit more fragile, so use your best judgment for them. We love magnetic dress-up dolls!

28. Playing with Mr. Potato Head. Sometimes a classic is a classic for a reason. Mr. and/or Mrs. Potato Head are fun toddler activities!

29. Playing with puppets. Whether you have hand puppets or finger puppets, you can have fun with them. We don’t get fancy or carried away with puppets. We just sit together and have our puppets interact with each other. Easy and fun!

30. Playing with a reusable sticker pad. The great thing about reusable sticker pads is that sticker fun continues for more than a few minutes. And you don’t have to worry about stickers getting put other places that are hard to remove.

Bonus tips for playing at home with toddlers

Consider heading to a local teacher supply store or learning tools store for great ideas. For example, a friend of mine found some awesome wipe-off boards and books with dry-erase crayons

And, finally, just change the scenery and play in different rooms in the house. One of my kiddo’s favorite places to play is our long bedroom hallway. Sometimes we go there to play and shake up our routine so we aren’t always playing in the living room.

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