You love them, but boy, do they wear you down. Having toddlers is hard enough, but when you add the pressures of an international marriage and a foreign country into the mix, you’ve got a recipe for disaster. Here are some things that I do to survive the toddler years here in Japan.
Take Time for God
Feeding your spiritual soul should never be overlooked or forgotten. There are plenty of mom’s out there with perfect hair, perfect clothes, perfect everything, but they are miserable inside. Your outside appearance doesn’t always dictate what’s going on in your head and heart. Even if the house is a mess and you can’t seem to get everything done, overcome the feelings of frustration by praising the Lord! Turn on your favorite praise music and clear the air! You might be tired, but find that extra time in the morning or during the day to get in the Word and experience that quiet time with your Maker.
Take Time for Your Spouse
It happens to the best of us: spousal neglect. Kids come in and demand our attention. Right. Now. While it’s important to spend time with your kids, it is equally important to spend time with their dad. Look through old love letters together, go to the park as a family, eat a special “dinner” after the kids go to sleep. If you’re like me and babysitters aren’t an option it can be especially tough to find time for everybody and everything, but it’s doable. Cut whatever you need to out of the schedule and spend time with your man! It’s always nice to remember those feelings of passion that brought you together in the first place!
Take Time for Yourself
This is one that I admittedly really struggle with, but is so important nonetheless. There were times last year when I thought to myself, “There’s no way I can make it.” My self-esteem went to the pits and I could barely motivate myself to get out of bed. This, my friends, is depression. In our quest to do everything and be everything, many of us sacrifice our mental health. Never forget that women are much more likely than men to develop mental illness. Keep track of your thoughts in a journal so you can see how you’re doing. It’s easy for your mind to play tricks on you or to convince yourself that you’re really not doing so bad… only to have a meltdown later. While the kids are playing, take that moment to sit at the table for some tea and just collect your thoughts.
Sympathize with Toddlers’ Difficulties
One of the things that always helps me when I’m getting annoyed with all the whining and complaining is to remember how hard it must be to not be able to do things for yourself. I would probably cry too if I couldn’t figure out how to put my shoes on. If someone stopped me from having that second cookie I so desperately wanted, I would probably be upset too. These feelings of sympathy can help you to overcome the anger you might feel when kids forget to say, “Thank you for helping” for the hundredth time.
Try to Get into a Routine As Early As Possible
One great way to do this is to get a planner! I just posted a recommendation for a great one that I bought at our local home improvement center. At some point or another, the kids will have to start school and having a nice rhythm to your schedule early on will help to prepare them for the rigorous schedules they’ll have to follow later. Kids do much, much better when the main things like meals and bedtime (always a tough one!) are consistent.
Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff
I went to the library the other day and was told for the millionth time, “Oh, your girls are so white!” and then the woman promptly tried to get her child away from my kids as fast as possible. The passive aggression and flat-out racism in Japan can be really tough to deal with, but don’t let that stop you from having fun! Life won’t always go the way we planned and people won’t always react the way we’d like, but onward to victory! There are too many things to bring us down in a day, like the project we couldn’t finish, the dirty dishes, the floor covered in toys again, but with God’s help, we will make it!
May the Lord God give you victory today and everyday!