Parenting is nonstop. I get no vacations, no sick days and it’s almost impossible to find reliable coverage. As we go beyond Mother’s Day, I challenge you to embrace the perpetual state of mother-induced exhaustion and extend yourself some grace.
Finding joy in this process of raising little humans, while simultaneously balancing marriage, work, travel and homeschooling can feel daunting at times. As a work from home and homeschooling mother of four active children, I constantly hear “you’ve got your hands full” while attempting to go about our daily existence. Recognizing that our life choices are outside the norm of adult life in the United States, I tend to smile, nod and keep it moving. Making a conscious decision to live intentionally requires not engaging in frivolous conversations, nor validating our family’s choices with complete strangers.
No, I’m not more patient than you, I’m not super woman and I actually wear makeup to hide the bags under my eyes from the 13 years of sleep deprivation. I’m simply a woman getting up daily “grateful for a new day with no mistakes in it, yet.” This Mother’s Day, let me challenge you to live an intentional, grace filled life and provide you some suggestions on how to go about doing so.
We’re big believers in intentional parenting. Our lifestyle of frequent travel is closely linked to this aspect of our family values. Mark Twain said: “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”
Keeping up with the Joneses is unattainable, don’t bother.
Tackling intentional living and the realities of managing way too many priorities in a “Pinterest” perfect and social media worthy world is daily choice. No one’s life is perfect, the grass is not always greener, and we could all learn to put down our social media apps and interact with others in real life. Our family chose homeschooling because we want to be the primary influencers in our children’s lives. We strive to provide them an educational, spiritual and cultural foundation that matches our family values, which are deep in a multicultural, justice and service-oriented world view. Our children are listening to and watching what we do, not just what we say. We model commitment in our marriage relationship, integrity, empathy, love and truth in our interactions with others. Honestly, at times this is mentally, spiritually and physically exhausting. I’ve had to be intentional about my relationships and the people whose opinions, life philosophies and lifestyles I allow into my personal space. I make honest effort to love others well and to do for others even when it’s not convenient. I have many acquaintances and few friends. I hold the word “friend” closely and it’s reserved for those whom can come into our home, at any time and even unannounced. Gasp. This is hard if your focus is in projecting an external image of perfection. I challenge you to live your truth and be open to being transparent about the not Pinterest worthy moments of life.
The label friend is reserved for those who see me at my best and worst moments and love me anyway.
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Love others well: ensure that those around you (including yourself) feel loved and valued.
We’ve made it a priority to focus on maintaining open lines of communication in our marriage. While our four children are time and energy drainers, we recognize that our marriage came first and God willing will be here and stronger than ever when our kids leave the nest. Thus, we are intentional about carving out child free time and make a point to go on date nights and even adult only adventures. Loving well and being loved well is key to healthy relationships. I chose to see the best in my husband. To believe that he’s doing the best he can and that he’s not intentionally doing things to irk me like leaving socks on the floor or arriving home late from work.
I challenge you to be intentional in your friendships, relationships and individuals whom you allow into your family’s physical and spiritual space. I’ve made conscious decisions to surround myself with people whom have a vested interest in the health and growth of my marriage and family. By doing so, I model for my older kids how to create and maintain healthy boundaries in relationships and to be discerning regarding the people that they invest in.
Intentional parenting leads us to build resilience in our children by allowing them to own their successes and failures. In their educational and extracurricular activities, we focus not on the result, but the process. Our kids are involved in many competitive extra-curricular sports. Our oldest two are second degree black belts in Taekwondo and compete at a national level. We’re intentional about communicating, that even in team sport, they’re competing against themselves and are expected to do their personal best. Life’s not a competition and they’re in these sports to lead active and healthy lives, learn hard work, dedication, teamwork and overcoming challenges. Their worth in our eyes is not connected to performance in said activity. Parenting is a marathon, not a sprint. We care more about their hearts and long-term health, than medals, awards or status. Click here to read more about our adventures with intentional parenting.
Children thrive by being industrious and contributing members of a family.
Our lifestyle of year-round school and constant travel allows us to live in such a way that prioritizes our marriage, kids and home life. Travel is expensive and thus we teach our kids to value it, by having them contribute. We’re those parents whose kids have chores. We “pay” them in trips and spending money to use during our adventures. They cook, do dishes, take out the garbage, fold and put away laundry, clean their rooms and do yard work. In addition, they’re being raised to love well by doing acts of kindness for our neighbors and those in our community in need without monetary reward.
There’s nothing relaxing about traveling with children, but we do it anyway because we know that adventure is the best way to learn.
When our first born was eight weeks old, my husband and I decided to take a across country trip from Connecticut to California. To date, I’ve lost count of how many trips we’ve taken with our now four children, but the memories will last a lifetime. As I reflect on how travel has shaped our first born into an amazing, responsible, self-motivated young woman, who’s eager to learn, explore and take on the world, I’m encouraged to continue this same walk with our other children. I love to nostalgically look through pictures of many once in a lifetime experiences that we’re blessed to have been witnesses to as a family unit. While many may think that traveling with young children is a waste of resources, our family cherishes the memories that I know will sustain and inspire us for generations. I may not remember what each of our children got as gifts for their first Christmas, but I can surely recall in detail many of the emotions, laughter and joy that we experience as a family on our adventures.
Family travel is not all joy filled, Instagram worthy moments, but the benefits outweigh the challenges and I encourage every family to not over think it. Just go. Traveling with kids is challenging work, do it anyway. It simply means that we do our daily dose of laundry, homeschooling and work tasks in a new location. My husband and I actually steer clear of calling our family travel a vacation. There’s no vacationing to be had when on the road with four young children. Traveling with four kids is not a simple task. It means packing “just in case” outfits, because we all know that kids will be kids. It’s spilled food, clothing used as napkins, outfits smelling like fish because our youngest insisted that he wasn’t going to swim and refused to put on a bathing suit, only to jump in the ocean the moment he saw the perfect wave. If you’ve been waiting for the ideal age when it will be easier to start, don’t wait, embrace the crazy and just do it. I encourage you to read my post The Impact of Early Life Travel on Perception and Cultural Understanding and be inspired to incorporate travel into your family lifestyle.
Ruth Mendes is a wife and mami of 4 active and globe-trotting kiddos. She always loves a good adventure and truly believes that it’s possible to travel with kids. Join her at Have Kiddos Will Travel, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, as she shares their adventures in homeschooling and traveling while inspiring you to get out of the house with your kids.