Being a mom is hard. So hard I hate talking about it because I am tempted to get sucked into focusing on the hard and forget all the grace that makes the hard doable. The longer I parent this crew, the more I realize that when I physically do these three things every single day I feel much calmer in the hard moments. I don't know if life is actually any easier, but I feel less stress and more positive about dealing with difficult times.
Breathe Fresh Air
A few months after Siena died, a friend stopped by on one of those first nice days of spring. You know the type? The first days you can quick walk outside on a porch without your socks and shoes on. I probably hadn't left the house in days even to walk to the mailbox, but she insisted that I needed to hug the sun. At the time, I maybe thought she was a little nuts, but not wanting to be rude I pushed myself through the door behind her (or maybe she pushed me through instead- I don't really remember). I still remember the feeling of that spring air going all the way to my toes.
Try to get outside every single day. Pause and take a couple deep breaths standing right where you are. Even 30 seconds is better than not at all. Moving between house and car and car and store doesn't count unless you make the effort to stop, close your eyes and just breathe. Breathe enough air and you will soon find that the seasons taste and feel different. Soak that in.
Sit on the Floor
This might sound crazy, but sitting on the floor every day will make you a calmer parent. The older we get the further down that floor is, so to get to it we have to make an intentional choice to be there. It is another choice to slow down and choose to be less hurried. It doesn't matter what you do when you sit on the floor, just sit. Read a book to your toddler. Build a tower. Even have a conversation with your teen while sitting on the floor.
I'm not any sort of physio-intelligent person (I also made that word up), but I would bet there are some great body posture advantages to spending time sitting on the floor too. As a Montessori teacher, it is sometimes easy to slip away from sitting on the floor especially during late pregnancy, but I find when I do it anyways (even if someone has to help me up or I have crawl over to a chair to heave myself off the ground) lessons go more smoothly, the kids are more engaged, and school work lasts longer with fewer interruptions. I don't know why, but I'm telling you this is some sort of special magic to sit on the floor with your kids.
A few years ago at a conference, I heard a speaker talk about a notebook she keeps near her bed to write down how she has touched base with her kids at the end of each day. I expected her to share how she created individual quality time for each of her 6 kids daily, but what she actually shared with us (and in her notebook) was observations about a child each day. She used it as a place to jot down notes about something she saw or heard- be it a funny quote, an act of service to a sibling, a struggle she might want to work on with them. She did eventually begin speaking of individual quality time. She spoke of how her notebook helped her see patterns of when one child might be in certain need of some mom-time and what they might enjoy doing!
Observation is a cornerstone of the prepared Montessori environment. In my experience, quality observation is a common trait among successful families even when they don't realize they are doing it. It is difficult to properly prepare any environment (implementing schedules, selecting toys, creating chore rotations & house rules) if you don't have a good feel for the environment itself. By pausing, looking, and listening you are forcing yourself to take in information without creating actions just yet. You will likely later decide to take action to solve whatever problem you are having, but when you do it will be based on factual information not quick judgements.