I'm Determined to Change My Parenting Mindset, and Step One Is Self-Care

"Enough!" "Stop it!" "Go away!" "Mommyyyyyyy!" These are some of the phrases that my three children would shout at the top of their lungs just before the pushing, hair pulling, and pterodactyl-like shrieking starts. Throw in a couple of crashes, spills, and a breakfast-covered floor, and welcome to mornings in my house. But it wasn't the chaos that upset me — that's par for the course when you have a houseful of small children — it was how I often reacted to it. Those phrases that my 2-year-olds were screaming at one another? Embarrassingly enough, they got those from me. I found myself getting to the point where I was relying on tablets to keep the peace or just saying "Screw it, here's ice cream for breakfast" because I couldn't deal with any more screeching. On my worst days, it was time-outs for everyone and demonstrations of just how loudly I could yell.

Starting each and every weekday off like this left me feeling like the world's worst parent for the rest of the day. And, while I was out and about, I felt like everyone around me could actually see how terrible I really was. I wanted to be better, but I didn't know how to get there when everything from my house to my appearance was such an obvious total disaster. I started thinking that maybe, if I at least looked like I was put together, then no one would know what a sh*tshow it was at home.

But there was that problem of time. Or, in my case, the lack of time. Mornings were spent making breakfast, cleaning up spills, wrangling toddlers into their clothes, looking for socks, refereeing, changing diapers, brushing teeth, redressing said toddlers who shed all of their clothes the second I left the room, and, if I was lucky, running a brush through my own hair while taking a drink from a lukewarm cup of coffee before herding my kids down to the car using a level 10 voice and threats of tossing their tablets into the garbage can if we didn't get to school on time. It seemed like there was no way to find any time for myself.

And yet, I did.

By changing the order of things (i.e. my kids no longer get their morning chocolate milk and cartoons until everyone is dressed and ready) I was able to carve out just enough time to get myself ready for the day, and taking those few minutes for myself has actually changed my parenting.

For a long time, dark circles and frizzy messy buns have been my unfortunate jam. So back in December, I got a few lessons on how to apply some natural-looking makeup and properly blow out my hair; something I had never really bothered with because although my hair is thin, there's a lot of it and it takes forever to dry. But after sitting down with a professional who took my time constraints and hectic home life into account, taking care of myself in the mornings actually seemed plausible. I decided to follow all of her advice, and that included splurging on a secondhand Dyson hair dryer. I was reluctant to spend any money on myself, let alone a couple hundred dollars on a hair dryer, but that's what she had used and it did seem like my hair dried pretty quickly. The gaping hole left in my wallet was quick to point out that of course it dried quickly. She's a professional! Needless to say I was relieved when I dried my hair for the first time on my own, and it came out almost exactly as it did when I had it done professionally. What would have taken me 40 minutes took about 20, and it's quiet enough where I can use it and still hear my children in another room. I went from a head full of fly aways to decent blowouts, and I felt like an actual person.

When I originally started my new routine, it was just for the sake of appearances. I wasn't actually expecting to feel or act any differently. However, feeling better about my appearance made me feel less messy all around. I, like my hair, felt healthier, bouncier, and shinier. I found myself getting less stressed and less frustrated by my toddlers acting like toddlers, and actually started having fun blowing out my older daughter's hair before school along with my own. Taking 20 minutes to do my hair in the morning had me leaving the house feeling like Superwoman, and that brought a sense of confidence that I could do and handle anything . . . especially my children when they're at their most challenging.

There are still days, like today, when I'm just lazy. My hair is in a low, messy bun, and I'm rocking leggings and an oversize sweatshirt. But now, it feels like I have the luxury of choosing to be lazy, and that makes me a better and much happier parent.