“Without ideals we are aimless, but never let ideals eclipse the reality of our situation”
~ Mike and Alicia Hernon
When you have toddlers in the house, things tend to descend into chaos in the time it takes you to use the restroom. It seems impossible to survive the toddler years, when they’re all under age 5!
Our world today seems to glorify the messiness of the early years with messy mom buns, toys everywhere and daily take out dinners. The goal of this is to normalize how hard these years can be, which of course, is great!
But if a short scroll through social media filled with photos of messy living rooms and trashed kitchens gives you anxiety, let us tell you that it doesn’t have to be that way.
You can survive (and thrive) in the toddler years! And your home doesn’t have to be a disaster for years for you to survive either!
How to Survive the Toddler Years
Surviving the toddler years begins with a simple understanding that your life has changed and will never be the exact same again. This might be hard for you to wrap your brain around and there might even be some mourning period after your children are born. That is totally okay and normal.
Don’t be Married to Your Ideals
Ideals for how you want to raise your kids and what kind of parents you want to be are great things to have! We need goals and boundaries for ourselves and our kids.
Things like no tv time, organic food only and homeschooling are great goals for your family to have.
That is, until they’re no longer bringing you peace. If you’re in a place where those things are causing you stress and anxiety, then it might be time to press pause.
Maybe it would be okay for your toddler to watch half an hour of tv while you make dinner. Or to serve chicken nuggets and mac n’ cheese once a week so you can get a break from cooking. Let’s be honest: your kids will be fine.
And you don’t have to cancel your ideals. Small changes or a short pause during a hard season don’t make you a bad parent. It makes you a smart one who understands the limits of your family and what you need to have peace in your home.
Preschool Might be Your Best Friend
When we first had kids, we weren’t in favor of preschool. It seemed like an unnecessary cost, especially since Alicia had a background in education.
Fast forward to having 4 kids under 5. Preschool started looking really nice!
Having your child in preschool means that they’ll be stimulated and get play time with other kids. That totally isn’t necessary but when it’s happening outside of your home, it’s 100% worth it!
It goes back to the idea of peace in your home. We realized that even if we couldn’t find the best, most beautiful preschool out there, having a break for just a few hours a day was worth it because it would bring greater peace to our home.
Even if your child learns nothing (which isn’t likely!) but is happy to play with other kids and you get a break, it’s still worth it.
Hire a Sitter. Seriously.
You’ve probably heard that it takes a village to raise a child. It’s true.
Surviving the toddler years is difficult alone. And it can be hard to find a sitter. Especially someone you trust. But it’s imperative for your marriage that you have alone time with your spouse.
And that doesn’t mean just having an hour between the kids’ bedtime and going to bed yourself.
You and your spouse need a couple hours here and there to spend together without the children.
The health of your home hinges on the health of your marriage. Your children will be happier and more peaceful when you and your spouse are happy and peaceful within your marriage.
So keep looking for a sitter. Ask your parish priest for a recommendation. Ask a friend to watch your kids for an hour on Saturday morning so you can grab a cup of coffee with your spouse. Trade babysitting with a couple in your neighborhood.
Find someone you trust and make it happen. It’s worth it and will make these survival years more bearable!
Your Kids Will Make You Holy
Finally, the thing to remember about the survival years is that family life will make you holy.
It’s not about sitting there with your hands folded and praying. The seemingly endless, repetitive tasks like folding laundry, doing dishes and changing diapers are what make us holy.
The gift of self, which can feel like such a burden in the toddler years, is the path to holiness in the vocation of family life.
It can be hard to take this on joyfully. But you’re not alone in it. It’s something that you have to remind yourself of daily, if not multiple times daily.
Surviving the toddler years isn’t just an exercise of your will, empty and repetitive. It’s a rich experience of dying to self and giving everything to little people we love more than anything, with the reward of watching them grow!
I Will Survive!
In the end, the toddler years are all about survival. Just making it to naptime might be your goal for a while. And that’s okay. You can thrive during those years, but that feeling of surviving will happen. Changing your mindset, making small choices to bring just a little more peace and bending your own rules are all necessary to surviving with littles.
The most important thing to remember is that this won’t last forever. You’ll wake up one morning and realize that it’s been a while since you were in survival mode. Your oldest can help with meals or buckling car seats. Your youngest started sleeping through the night and you barely noticed. You have on eor two in school and suddenly have free time.
That time will come before you know it. Until then, you’re not alone. You can do this.
If you’d like to hear more about how to survive the toddler years, check out our latest podcast episode right here.
Interested in joining us for a Messy Family Getaway next year in Mexico? Check out the details here!