Why Sacrifice Makes Parents Happier- And How You Can Be Happier Too!

Why Sacrificing Makes Parents Happier- And How You Can Be Happier Too

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Photo by Sebastián León Prado on Unsplash

This post may contain advertisements and/or links for products and services that I value. I offer recommendations to products and/or services that I find helpful in my own life as a mom. I may receive a commission based on viewer purchases or interactions with these ads. You will NOT be charged any extra money. All prices will stay the same for you whether your purchase items/services through links found on this site or not! 

Updated: 2/8/2019

Stanford University conducted a longitudinal study to monitor children’s self-control and how it impacted them in later years as adults.

The study is referred to as the “Marshmallow Test”.

closeup photo of marshmallows on bowl

Here’s what they did:

  • 4 year old children were brought into a small room with only a table and a chair. They were given one marshmallow. The researcher promised them that they would be given a second marshmallow if they waited to eat the first marshmallow until the researcher returned.
  • Then the child was left alone with the marshmallow.
  • Some kids ate the marshmallow right away, unable or unwilling to wait for a few minutes for the second one.
  • Some kids were able to sacrifice temporarily by waiting the necessary time period in order to double the reward.
  • In watching the footage of this study, it is clear that ALL of the children struggle to wait. They frequently touch, lick, hold, and pick at the marshmallows. They hold their faces in their hands, try to look away, bounce up and down, and show many other physical signs of distress as they wait.
  • But, about 1/3 of the children are successful and receive two marshmallows.

Later in life, the researchers followed up to see how these kids turned out. Those who had enough self-control to wait for their marshmallows had many advantages in their life- higher SAT scores, less frustration, more focus, more decisiveness, better organizational skills, more confident, more self-reliant, etc.

Call it what you will- waiting, sacrifice, delaying gratification, working hard… The results are the same.

As parents, we are asked to sacrifice for our kids…. A lot. All the time.

Our kids’ needs and wants often come before our own.

  • We spend our money on the kids first- paying for soccer cleats, dance outfits, music lessons, etc.
  • We spend our gas on the kids first- driving to school, practices, games or performances, the store, friends’ houses, etc.
  • We spend our time on the kids first- helping with homework, going to their performances or games, and playing Chutes and Ladders.
  • We spend our energy on the kids first- worrying about how they are doing in school, planning their future, working multiple jobs to provide for them financially, and teaching them skills.
  • We even give our sleep up for our kids- waking up at night with the baby, calming a child who had a nightmare, and waking up early to get them ready for school.

I hear this question from parents frequently, and I’ve been surprised to find myself asking the same thing on tough days: “When is parenting (and all this sacrifice that comes with it) worth it?”

In other words, “When can I eat my marshmallow? Where’s my reward? How long do I have to wait?”

The ray of hope from this study is that the children who were able to wait had amazing positive qualities as a result of this one trait- the ability to wait. They didn’t benefit from actually getting what they wanted (the marshmallow) but from the waiting itself.

These are qualities that helped them in almost every other aspect of their life. They exceeded their peers in school, work, finances, relationships…. And yes, parenting.

closeup photography of woman smiling

All that came from the undergoing the process of waiting. And the ability to “wait well” rather than giving in to temptation early.

So maybe waiting- or making sacrifices- isn’t that bad.

Waiting is a learning process, like life’s version of going to school. Everyone has days when they don’t want to go to school, and that’s ok. Nobody wants to wait. Nobody wants to sacrifice. 

But the reward for waiting- especially waiting well- is way more than two marshmallows. It’s success across all areas of YOUR life- just like what those kids experienced!

That means better finances, better jobs, better family and home life, stronger friendships, less stress and frustration… FOR YOU!

What an amazing promise!

person writing dollar sign on sketch book

Here’s the other great thing about this study- They found that self-control doesn’t have to be innate within us.

We don’t have to be born with some amazing, natural talent for waiting or sacrificing.

Even the children who ate the marshmallow could practice and practice until they learned to wait. In fact, sometimes those children who had to work hard to learn this skill were better at waiting than the children who were innately good at it in the first place.

Here’s some tricks that those children used to learn to wait:

  • Children can be taught skills like using their imagination to decrease the temptation, such as imagining that the marshmallow is burnt. This makes temptation less appealing.
  • Or, children can use their imagination to entertain themselves during the wait, making the time pass more quickly. They can drum their fingers or sing a song. Anything to take their mind off the marshmallow.
  • Or, they can remind themselves that the reward is worth the wait. Picture the reward at the end to inspire yourself to keep waiting.

There are endless strategies that children- and adults!- can use to help themselves learn to sacrifice.

If this really works, I want to try it.

It helps to be aware of the kinds of temptations that come our way. There are two kinds of “marshmallows” that I encounter in my adult life.

1) Being Rewarded by Getting Something I Want

One of the hardest facts of adult life is that there are often no tangible rewards for our efforts.

woman sitting on gray concrete pavement near white metal railing at daytime

We bust our butts and nothing really happens. All the money we earn goes towards paying rent and basic groceries. It can be very frustrating!

But rewards don’t have to be tangible.

Thank goodness there is another way to reward yourself that’s all up to you. Anyone can feel this reward no matter their circumstance. At the end of the day, can you look back on your efforts with a feeling of pride? That’s rewarding yourself.

But it only works if you stop and notice your own progress. It takes conscious thought to look back on my day, pause to notice my accomplishments, and take in that pride. That’s rewarding.

The problem with this approach is that there are days when I forget to stop and make that conscious effort to reward myself.

If I forget to reward myself for several days or weeks on end, the stress accumulates and can lead to feeling burnt out.

2) Being Rewarded by Avoiding Pain or Stress Rather than Receiving Something Positive

This concept reminds me of a monkey trap. For those of you who have never trapped monkeys (actually, I haven’t either… but it’s still a great metaphor for life.  This method is discussed more here with slight variation), here’s how to do it.


Image from https://oneragamuffin.wordpress.com/2013/04/08/those-crazy-spider-monkeys/

Find a vase with a narrow neck- just barely wide enough for the monkey to slip its paw into. Fill the vase with rocks until it is too heavy for the monkey to lift.

Put some kind of food around the jar to bait the monkey. Add a few more pieces of food into the jar, just on top of the rocks.

When the monkey comes along, he will eat the food and soon discover the last bits inside the jar. He reaches in, grabs a fist full of food, but can’t pull his hand back out now that it is full of food.

All he has to do to be free is let go of the food and his hand will easily slide back out of the jar. But he won’t sacrifice what he has to avoid a bigger problem of being caught.

There are times in our lives when it is better to lose a small prize to avoid big pain.

man pressing his knee

I stress about meal times. I don’t want to prepare food, cook the food, set the table, and clean up after the meal. If I put a little work into preparing freezer meals, I can avoid the pain of cooking a meal from scratch after a long day at work. I’m rewarded by having a little less frustration in my life. 

I also work hard to avoid financial distress. I am rewarded by paying for my rent because I don’t get evicted.

I eat fewer carbs to avoid bad health. I’m rewarded with a slimmer figure and more energy.

I pack snacks in my purse before I go to Walmart to avoid a h-angry child. I’m rewarded with a calm child and a smooth shopping trip.

Again, these things are MUCH more rewarding when I stop to take notice of them. I can be so preoccupied with life that I don’t see the silver lining. What’s the cure? Gratitude!

Be grateful for the stress that you DON’T have. Be grateful for the time you SAVED! Be grateful for the things you HAVE paid for.

If we don’t stop to notice, what is all our hard work for anyways?? 

A few months ago, I hit a slump in rewarding myself. Here’s what it looks like when a person goes without reward for too long:

  • I didn’t felt motivated enough to put in work now so that I could avoid pain later.
  • It felt like I was stretching my physical and emotional limits just to get the necessities taken care of. But I wasn’t getting enough done to feel proud of what I had accomplished for the day.
  • No reward from getting something good…. No reward from avoiding something bad…. No rewards at all. 
  • It seemed like my to do list was just as extensive as it was when I woke up that morning. And I had less motivation to do anything the next day because all that effort didn’t seem worth anything.

(For more in depth look on how to increase your motivation, click the image below.)
The Motivation Myth: How High Achievers Really Set Themselves Up to Win

  • As my motivation spiraled downward, I tried to remedy this situation by giving myself a much needed break.
    • The weird thing was that it was never enough. I couldn’t get a long enough break in without being interrupted by a child in need or work or a dirty house. Each time my leisure time was cut short, I craved it more and more. I found an unexpected pattern- for a few weeks, I was getting more down time than I had in months, but I felt worse than I had in months.
    • I thought the leisure would fix my stresses, but it only amplified them by keeping me away from the necessary tasks to decrease my stress- like cleaning the house or going to work.
    • Besides that, I didn’t use my “me-time” wisely. Instead of thinking about all the things I was grateful for or feeling proud of my efforts, I focused on how upset I was. The more “me time” I took, the more unhappy I became.

And yet, I still wanted the leisure time. I was in a bad habit of having it and didn’t want to give it up- even just to switch back to healthy levels of leisure.

It was a depressing situation to be in.

But this study gave me hope, and so, I decided to conduct an experiment on myself.

Here was the big question: Can I teach myself to wait for my marshmallow?

green plant beside white desk

I stepped back to remember what is most important and determined to make the sacrifices I needed to get those things or become those things.

Obviously, my kids were top of the list. So I started acting like it.

I started sacrificing for my kids again. I put aside my “me time” to play with my kids, to get the shopping done, to help them with problems, to go to work, to clean the house, to cook food. You know, all that mom stuff.

And I set aside a healthy amount of time for myself at the end of the day, with a determination to make it a positive and healthy time to review my day. 

I loved my productive “me time” so much that I created a resource for all parents. Here’s a copy for you to enjoy! Just follow the link.

Free Self Care Guide 2

Click here to receive your FREE Parent’s Guide to Self-Care! 

The results were quick.

I felt happy and fulfilled in my life, especially as a parent.

I was so pleased with the results of this experiment that I decided to continue it for the long-term.

My hope with this experiment is beyond the checklist that I can get done every day. I want to develop some of the positive outcomes that the children in the marshmallow test had. I want to be self-reliant, organized, confident, smart, and financially successful. I want to be and feel in control of my life.

If you would like to join me in this challenge, please do so and share your successes and temporary setbacks in the comments below to help each other along!


Mrs. S

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The Ultimate Guide to Foolproof Goals In Simple Steps- Become the Parent You've Always Wanted to Be

The Ultimate Guide to Foolproof Goals in 5 Simple Steps- How to Become the Parent You’ve Always Wanted to Be

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Photo by Pablo Heimplatz on Unsplash

This post may contain advertisements and/or links for products and services that I value. I offer recommendations to products and/or services that I find helpful in my own life as a mom. I may receive a commission based on viewer purchases or interactions with these ads. You will NOT be charged any extra money. All prices will stay the same for you whether your purchase items/services through links found on this site or not! 

Updated 2/5/2019


Goals tend to be a “love it or hate it” topic.

It is so rewarding to complete a goal, and yet so depressing to fail at a goal.

Unfortunately, people make some common mistakes when setting their goals that increase the likelihood of failure at the goal.

During my time as a professional working with children with disabilities, my entire job was to set goals for the children’s progress and goals for the staff to help the child.

We gathered input from the parents, the child, and the staff to find out what the child’s needs were. My job was to compile all that information into specific and measurable goals so that each person knew exactly how to help a particular child.

That job gave me a lot of practice in writing goals.

Sometimes, I wrote a goal that didn’t turn out well. I thought it sounded good when I wrote it, but as staff or children worked to carry out the goal, they seemed confused, frustrated, and unwilling to keep up the effort that it took to complete the goal. Parents, staff, and the child were not on the same page. The result was inconsistency and failure to reach the goal.

woman sitting between concrete fence at daytime

Sometimes, I would write a well-worded goal for a child or a staff. They seemed to feel confident as they worked on things. Everyone knew what they were supposed to do. Everyone understood the needs of the child and how to help. Parent, child, and staff worked together as a team and achieved the goal much more quickly.

As I experienced success and failures in writing goals, I noticed some common factors in writing goals that seemed to increase the likelihood of success.

Here are some tips in setting goals that will make you more successful.

Check out this great resource to help you keep track of your goals using this journal! Click the image below.
My 66-Day Challenge Habit Tracker & Goal Planner: A Daily Journal to Help You Track Your Habits and Achieve Your Dream Life

1) SMART Goals- This seriously works!!

Yes, SMART goals are important, but this is only step one of five… Keep reading!!

You’ve all heard of SMART goals. SMART is an acronym to help you remember some things to keep in mind when creating a goal. (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Timely)

As I wrote goals, I found that this is an excellent rule of thumb. SMART goals are successful goals.

  • S- Specific

First, the goal should be specific.

When we think about how to improve our parenting, we often use generic phrases, like “I want to be more patient” or “I want to be a better mom.” The problem with these phrases is that achievement of this goal could happen in a million ways- but that also means that there are a million ways to fail.

For example, let’s say I set a goal to be “more patient with my kids”.

-Does that mean I want to yell less?

-Does that mean I want to calmly help my kids when they argue with each other?

-Does that mean I want to get through the grocery store without a meltdown?

-Does that mean I want to think positively about my kids during frustrating         situations?

-Does that mean I want to involve my kids in various learning experiences (cooking, budgeting, fixing the car, etc.) even though it’s hard for me to teach these skills?

As you can see, there are many different directions to take this goal.

It might start out well.

woman staring at round mirror with silver frame

I’m all fresh and ready to succeed at this goal in the morning. I calmly talk to my child when he won’t eat his oatmeal. We discuss it and reach a compromise- he eats five bites of oatmeal and then he can choose something else to eat. Win for me!

-Then I go to the grocery store. I have to be perfect for my goal- but the transition to the store was difficult and I’m feeling a little flustered. Still no big blow ups… but I’m definitely not calm… Am I meeting my goal or not?? It’s hard to say… 

-At the store, spoke in an agitated tone when my child tried to sneak candy into the cart. I don’t feel successful at being “patient” at the store.

-Then, my kids argue on the drive home. I don’t yell, but I didn’t have the patience to help them work it out. I don’t feel successful at my goal.

-At home, I try to involve my kids in cooking, but it’s just a frustrating situation for everyone. I don’t yell, but we all leave flustered. I don’t feel successful at my goal.

All through the day, I am successful at one aspect of being patient. I am not yelling at my kids. But my goal is much broader than not yelling. My goal is to be patient and I feel like I lost at my goal all day long.

I should feel great about the day, but instead I am discouraged. I am less likely to continue my goal the next day because I feel so far from where I want to be that I don’t even want to try.

woman face palming on table

What’s the cure?

Begin by thinking of what you want to become. I want to become patient.

But don’t stop there!

Then, think to yourself, “What does patience look like? How does a patient person act? What do they do?”

Make a list of specific behaviors (things you can see) that you could work on to be more patient, then choose one.

Identify when you usually have a tough time with this behavior. For example, if I want to be more patient by yelling less, ask yourself “When do I usually yell at my kids?” In the grocery store, in the car, when they argue….. Knowing when to watch out for will help you be more aware of keeping your goal.

Now your goal looks like this: “I want to become __(Quality)____ BY doing ____(Action) _______ during     (Circumstance)     .

Imagine how different the scenario would be if my goal was specific- “I want to become more patient BY decreasing yelling at my kids WHEN they argue with each other”.

This is one behavior that I can easily identify through the day. It is easy to think back on my day and say, “Did I yell today when my kids argued?”

It is much more difficult to think to yourself, “Was I patient today?” That’s too subjective.

Be specific in your goal.

  • M- Measurable

Let’s continue the goal “I want to become patient by decreasing yelling at the kids when they argue with each other.”

The next step is to come up with a unit of measurement so that you can tell if you are making progress or not.

drafting instruments on top of table

Ask yourself, “How often do I yell at kids right now? Twice a day? 5 times a day? 10 times a day?”

Find out a number that you would like to reach without demanding perfection of yourself.

For example, if I currently yell at my kids 10 times per day, I might try to decrease yelling at them 7 times per day instead. Once I am successful at yelling only 7 times per day, I will set a new goal to decrease my yelling to 5 times per day. Then decrease that to 2 times per day, etc.

  • A-Attainable

Don’t demand that you change drastically right off the bat.

Trying to complete a goal like that is like trying to quit smoking cold turkey.

If you yell at your kids 10 times per day, a goal of 1 per day might be difficult to attain. You could cause yourself unnecessary frustration by trying to reach a difficult goal.

More frustration = More yelling = Feeling inadequate = Feeling ashamed = Quitting your Goal = Returning to old habits = More frustration. And start the cycle over again, and over, and over. 

Make your goal attainable, let yourself feel proud of the progress you are making (even if it’s small), and then set a new goal to keep up the good work until you slowly become what you want to be.

silhouette of five persons walking on hill

  • R- Realistic

Remember that you are human and you will make mistakes. Allow yourself some room to make mistakes and still reach your goal. Rarely, if ever, set a goal that requires you to reach 100% to attain that goal because 100% leaves you no room for human error.

Let’s say I have successfully decreased my yelling at my kids to 1 time per day. The next goal is 0 times per day, right?

A better goal is “I will become more patient by decreasing yelling at my kids when they argue with each other to 2 times per week.” This goal still helps you decrease your yelling from once per day, but it also allows you to make mistakes without feeling like you failed at your goal.

  • T- Timely

The last piece of completing a goal is to identify a time frame during which you will achieve this goal.

It is better to think of this as a “checkpoint” rather than a “deadline”.

The idea is that you will be accountable for your work rather than just forgetting about the goal altogether. When the specified day arrives, you should assess your progress on the goal.

Track your goals using a calendar, like the one below! Click the image!

Dry Erase Monthly Calendar Set-Large Magnetic White Board & Grocery List Organizer For Kitchen Refrigerator – Best For Smart Family Planners – Free Markers – 17″ x 13″

If you have made any progress at all (even slight progress), you should celebrate your progress.

If you have not made progress, that is a sign that your goal might not be specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, or timely. It is a good chance to look at the goal and see if it needs to be adjusted so that you can be successful next time.

This is not an excuse to slack off. Slacking off on your goals only hurts yourself.

The final goal looks like this, “I will become _(Quality)_____ by doing __(Action)____ when __(Circumstance)_____ using ___(Measurement)_____ by ____(Date or Time Period)___.

In our example, “I will become patient by decreasing yelling at my kids when they argue with each other to 5 times a day or less for the next week.”

Need more information on SMART goals? Check here! 

2) Boring is Bad

SMART goals help a lot, but there is more!

People need variety. If you work on the same goal for too long, you can get sick of it and progress slows down or stops.

If a child or parent that I worked with had been working on the same thing for a long time without reaching it, I often switched up their goals just to give them a change of scenery.

I noticed that this often helped them be more excited about their goals because they had something new to do. The enthusiasm increased their success rates. I found that I could reintroduce the “boring” or mundane goal later on. With their new success, the person would be more interested in trying again and often would progress much faster at the old goal.

man jumping high

But we need more variety than that.

  • Choose a variety of time periods to achieve your goal.

Don’t have several long-term goals with zero short-term goals. It is too discouraging to wait that long for a reward. Besides, your short-term goals should be tailored to help you achieve a long-term dream.

Don’t have zero long-term goals and many short-term goals. Again, the point of short-term goals is to help in your long-term goals. Without a long-term goal, you have no direction. The more short-term goals you have, the more likely you are to fail at them because there is just too much going on. Every failure you have at a goal makes you less likely to try again in the future, so failure at short term goals should be taken very seriously.

  • Choose a variety of topics.

Nobody wants to fix everything about their parenting all at once. Nobody wants to fix everything they do wrong at work all at once. Or fix their relationship all at once.

Find categories in your life and make one goal per category. For example, you might have a goal in parenting, a goal at your work, and a goal to play the piano.

When your kids set goals, keep track of their short and long term goals using this chart! Click the image below!

JUMBO Large Dry Erase Calendar Wall Hanging Classroom Decorations 2018 2019 Teacher Supplies Fun Activity Tracker Kids Chart Poster Organizer Weekly Planner Markers Eraser Office Organization 36×48 in

Large Chalkboard Calendar 2019 | 24″ x 18″ Wall Decal Sticker Monthly Planner Blackboard Organizer for Home, Kitchen, Office, Refrigerator Wall Decor

3) Perfection Fallacy

This is simple… and yet really difficult.

Goals are about progress, not about perfection.

It’s ok to mess up and try again.

It’s ok to adjust the goal if it’s too difficult.

Do whatever it takes for you to feel successful at your goal- even if it means setting an easy goal for a while and slowly making it more difficult.

It is more important for you to feel like you can do it. That confidence makes all the difference in your willingness to set and follow through with goals.

When you see progress, celebrate it. Reward yourself. Make it worth your hard work.

Click the images below to try some of my favorite rewards for myself!
Lindt LINDOR Assorted Chocolate Gourmet Truffles, Gift Box, Kosher, 7.3 Ounce


Lindt LINDOR Assorted Chocolate Truffles, Kosher, 21.2 Ounce Bag

LifeAround2Angels Bath Bombs Gift Set 12 USA made Fizzies, Shea & Coco Butter Dry Skin Moisturize, Perfect for Bubble & Spa Bath. Handmade Birthday Mothers day Gifts idea For Her/Him, wife, girlfriend


AMC Theatre Gift Card $25

4) One by One

Occasionally, when I asked for parents’ input on what they thought their child needed, they gave me a laundry list a mile long. We do this to ourselves too. When you ask someone what they want to change about themselves, they can usually create an extensive list.

The beauty of goals is that the sky is the limit. You can change any of those things that you really want to change. It’s just not smart to try to fix everything at once.

Goals are slow and steady.

When you make goals, limit yourself to 1-3 things.

  • If your goal involves a major life change, 1 thing is enough.
  • If your goal is smaller, go ahead and work on 2-3 goals if you feel like you are emotionally prepared for that much and if you have time for that much.

I never recommend more than 3 goals. Some people might disagree, but I find that fewer goals correlates with more success. More success means more goals in the future. And that means you get more goals accomplished by spreading them out than you do if you try to lump them all together.

5) Work Hard

There’s nothing else to say. Hard work is all up to the individual. Go and do whatever it takes to make positive changes in your life! It’ll be worth it!

I am excited for you to set goals for yourself. I hope these tips help you feel more confident in your goals.

Enjoy the success of making the changes in your life that you’ve been waiting for!!


Mrs. S

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Fill Yourself- Vital Tools for Balancing Parenting Life and Personal Life

Fill Yourself- 6 Vital Tools for Balancing Parent Life and Personal Life

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This post may contain advertisements and/or links for products and services that I value. I offer recommendations to products and/or services that I find helpful in my own life as a mom. I may receive a commission based on viewer purchases or interactions with these ads. You will NOT be charged any extra money. All prices will stay the same for you whether your purchase items/services through links found on this site or not! 

Updated- 2/1/2019

Hey, Parents!

Listen up, cause we need to talk about something.

  • Remember that day when you had free time all to yourself?
  • Remember when you got that super good night’s rest?
  • Remember that one time when you went out with your friends?
  • Remember when you took the time to make yourself look sexy?

Yeah, me neither…. That’s the problem.

I know that our kids need us and I’m not encouraging anyone to neglect their responsibilities to their kids.

But I wanna talk about balance as a parent. Specifically about taking care of yourself, inside and out.

(Please note- depression or anxiety disorders may need professional help of a doctor and/or counselor.  These steps should not take the place of professional help.)

Free Self Care Guide 2

Click here to receive your FREE Parent’s Guide to Self-Care! 

Fill Your Cup

Here’s an analogy to make my point.

Let’s say everybody has a cup that represents their needs- emotional, spiritual, physical, all of it. Each person is actively working to fill their cup. A full cup means that all of their needs and wants are being met. An empty cup means none of their needs and wants are being met.

Almost nobody has a full cup, because let’s face it, there’s always something else that we want. So it’s ok if our cup isn’t completely full.

As you go, you see people who have needs that you can fill. So you share some of your water with them.

That’s awfully nice of you! But what about your own cup?

It’s no big deal to share because you have ways of keeping your water levels up.

  • You go to work to get more money for groceries, so you don’t mind sharing a few dollars with a homeless man or that cup of sugar with your neighbor.
  • You listen to a friend’s venting, and in turn they let you vent to them. You’re both emotionally filled in the end.
  • You have a comfortable home, so you don’t mind letting your brother stay in the guest bedroom for a while until he has a place of his own.

Having all these needs met keeps your water up.

But it takes effort to keep it that way.

Glass Empty

So What??

You are constantly sharing your water with your kids. In fact, in proportion to other people, you give way more water to your kids than to anyone else! Again, this is no problem as long as you are replenishing your own water.

But every once and a while, you give ALL of your water to someone (maybe it’s your kids). And you are left with nothing.

Two things happen here:

  1. First, you feel drained and destitute because your needs aren’t being met. It takes significantly more work to refill an empty cup than it does to replenish bits of water here and there.
  2. Second, you are no longer capable of helping anyone else. You might want to, you might try to, but you can’t. I can’t stress this point enough- YOU CAN’T FILL ANYONE ELSE’S CUP, NOT EVEN A LITTLE, WHEN YOUR OWN CUP IS EMPTY.

coffee latte in white ceramic mug

As parents, we must take care of ourselves. Nobody else in the world cares for our kids the same way we do. Not their grandparents, not aunts and uncles, nobody. We must keep our cups full so that we can share our water with our kids, because nobody else will. At least, not like we do.

How do we recover from having an empty cup or a near empty cup?

First of all, let me say that this is different for everyone because each empty cup looks different. There are people who are rich, but their cups are still empty. I’ve seen people who have almost nothing, and yet they are happy. Their cups are full.

1) Get your Basic Needs Met

Material things are important- you know, basic necessities like food, water, shelter. Make sure you have the basic necessities in life first.

Then work on some of the following steps to fill your cup.

2) Your Purpose

Everyone needs a purpose in life.

It gives us drive, it gives us a will to carry on, it fills our cup.

So what is your purpose?

round white compass

Dig deep. Start by finding out what you care about. I recommend making a list of at least 50 things that you care about. I find that when I can’t think of any more items for my list, but I know I have to reach 50, I start to think harder about the question.

My answers start to get more and more creative and my true colors are revealed.

Once you have your list, step back and notice patterns.

What things are truly important to you?

  • Family?
  • Friends?
  • Success?
  • Financial Security?
  • Experiences?
  • Building a better world?
  • Religion?
  • Giving to others?

Once you know what you value, you have your direction. Do some research. Put some time and thought into what you can do NOW.

It’s good to have some overall goals, like “I want to get a promotion at work” or “I want to have a good relationship with my sister”. Goals like these take time to achieve, so it can be difficult to feel proud of your achievement right at this moment.

Those are good things to work for long-term, but make sure you have some goals that you can reach TODAY. This might be “I want to make my sister smile” or “I want to work for an extra 30 minutes to show my boss that I am invested in this company.”

person standing on arrow sign on road

If your cup is empty, you need some immediate wins to fill it back up. Make 1-2 goals that you can be successful at NOW. Then follow through.

Notice when you do well! Notice when you achieve something! Notice the good things you do.

And give yourself a reward! You earned it.

You would reward anyone else for doing something good, wouldn’t you? So reward yourself too!

It doesn’t have to be big. It doesn’t have to take time or money.

  • Even just an “I did it!” can be a reward.
  • Or maybe it’s “I’m going to stay up for an extra 20 minutes after the kids are sleeping and play my favorite game on my phone”.
  • Or “I’m gonna eat a piece of chocolate.”

It’s the small things that count.

Find a purpose, put in some effort, and reward yourself for your wins.

Click the image below for a great resource on having a purpose in life.

The Purpose Driven Life: What on Earth Am I Here For?

3) Your Look

Another cheap, easy thing you can do to fill your cup is to make yourself look pretty.

Seriously, this totally fills your cup.

Dress for your purpose. It’ll help you win at your goals. And it feels good to look good.

woman wearing pink long-sleeved dress standing inside building

  • Do you want to play with your kids more? Put on something that you can get paint on or muddy in.
  • Do you want to improve your performance at work? Look professional! Put your hair up, makeup on, shine those shoes, the whole nine yards!
  • Do you want to have a relationship with your teenage daughter? When was the last time you tried a new style? Maybe you can ask her to pick an outfit for you. Share in her tastes a little.

Your look says a lot. It really affects how you act. It affects how people perceive you. It affects your attitude.

Use that to your advantage!

Click the image below for some great (and inexpensive!) cosmetics that will help you feel gorgeous!

e.l.f. Assorted Mixed ELF Cosmetics Lot with No Duplicates (10 Piece)

SHANY All In One Harmony Makeup Kit – Ultimate Color Combination – New Edition

L.A. Girl Beauty Brick Eyeshadow, Nudes, 0.42 Ounce

6pcs Matte Velvety Liquid Lipstick Matte Liquid Lipgloss Waterproof Lip Gloss

SHANY Glamour Girl Makeup Kit – 48 Eyeshadow/4 Blush/6 Lip Glosses

4) Your Time

Time doesn’t cost any money. But it is a valuable and limited resource.

You’re splitting your time between your kids, your significant other, your job, your social life (if you have one- haha), sleep, chores, etc….

Oh, and I forgot, you need time for yourself.

selective focus photo of brown and blue hourglass on stones

And that’s just it.

Your water level can go down if you forget to take some time for yourself.

I love my time after my kids are all in bed. They’re down at 8pm every night so that I can have time with me and time with my husband.

Once I’ve got them down, I have to make sure that time is well spent. There are some nights that watching a movie is the perfect activity- I can turn my  brain off and relax and that’s exactly what I needed.

But there are other nights when watching a movie doesn’t do anything to fill my cup. I can’t afford to waste that precious alone time, so I need to be aware of my own needs.

I try to take the first 5 minutes after the kids go to sleep to think about the rest of my night. I ask myself, “What do I need in order to stay sane today?”

  • Do I need to snuggle my husband?
  • Do I need some chocolate?
  • Do I need a hot shower?
  • Do I need to read a book?
  • Do I need to play a game?
  • Do I need to get something done so that my to do list is shorter?
  • Do I need to turn off my brain for a while?

Once you know what you need, do that. Don’t get distracted. Let the dishes go. You’re more important than the dishes! 

Need a little extra help to organize your time? Click the image below!

Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity

5) Your Focus

Once you have done every reasonable thing that you can for yourself, start looking out for others.

Giving to others fills a need for you and is therefore necessary to have a full cup. That is the need to feel needed.

But this step must be saved for after you’ve got something in your cup again… So we are assuming that the previous steps have replenished your water levels a bit before you try this.

It also decreases the stress of worrying about all the things you wish were different about you. If you’re thinking about others, you’re not picking yourself apart.

This step cures those times when you are happy you’ve made progress, but you get down thinking about how far you have to go. Instead of focusing on your own road, start helping others along the way and you will get where you’re going before you even realize it.

man and woman holding hands on street

Again, you don’t want to give so much that you have nothing left to give. But you don’t want to be stingy or selfish either. You want to give a healthy amount.

How much is that?

I wish there was an easy answer, but the truth is that how much you can give changes based on how full your cup is at any given time.

You might be able to give more sometimes, but it’s ok to cut back if you need to fill your own cup for a while.

Pay attention to how you feel when you are giving to others and after you give to others.

  • Do you feel rejuvenated?
  • Like you want to do more?
  • Like you have new meaning in your life?
  • A sort of a glowing feeling that makes you want to find another person who needs  you so that you can help them too?

If you feel this way, you know you are sharing a healthy amount of water.

  • Do you feel drained?
  • Depleted?
  • Emotionally exhausted?

Then you are giving too much. Take a step back and help yourself. Then go ahead and offer what you can to others once you are built back up.

A focus on others can build us up. Just don’t let it wipe you out. Find balance.

6) Forgiveness

Nobody’s perfect, and that’s good.

Even if it’s cliché, it’s a good and true cliché.

person holding white petaled flower

But it doesn’t do you any good unless you really believe it.

  • If you really believe it, you can forgive yourself when you fail during this process.
  • You notice when your cup is empty or getting empty and you respond accordingly without beating yourself up for letting your cup fluctuate.
  • You accept the facts, try to understand what you can do to prevent problems in your future, learn from the situation, and move on.


Grudges against yourself (and others) drain your cup FAST!

So don’t let them sneak into your life.

Notice a problem. See it as a fact, not a personal fail. Make yourself better. No need to dwell on your mistakes.

These steps will help you fill your cup back up, and keep it full.

They help you have a healthy, balanced life even if you don’t have a lot of money or resources. And when you have that, you are in a good position to help others- especially your kids.


Mrs. S

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