Serenity now (amid chaos)

On the holiday photo card I recently sent out to my friends and family, there’s a photograph of me, my husband and our four young children (above) — a snapshot frozen in time of all of us at our best.

Below the image we shared a sincere greeting: “Oh so very blessed: Wishing you a holiday season full of joy! Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from the Devine Family.” 

The photo I chose, as well as many others I share on Facebook, Instagram or on my blog may project the illusion that our family life is rather serene (defined as “calm, peaceful and untroubled; tranquil”). 

However, anyone who’s in the thick of parenting, or happens to know me personally, understands that family life with young children isn’t all that peaceful.

Even the very moments leading up to the tranquil image that graced our holiday greeting were full of the chaos that punctuates normal family life. 

In fact, I don’t think it would be an exaggeration to assume that not an hour of my waking life goes by in which my patience doesn’t get tested one way or another — whether that’s from mediating sibling squabbles or simply tackling the small, everyday hurdles we need to overcome (as grownups) just to make it through each day.

Although serene isn’t the word that accurately describes my life in general, there are definitely moments of serenity in this rich and full life of mine. 

And we enjoy, without a doubt, an abundance of blessings. 

And that’s what I’m working to focus on as I navigate each day as a parent. I encourage you to join me in my efforts to work toward a peaceful start to the New Year by using the following parenting strategies:

Take care of yourself 

I know this is easier said than done, but it’s important.

It’s taken me several years (and, OK, maybe a few mama meltdowns) to realize: I’m not superwoman — and taking a break every once in a while can help me be a better mom. 

Give yourself permission to schedule an afternoon or a night “off.” Better yet, make it a habit. Even small breaks from the responsibilities of caregiving can help us all recharge.

Let go of perfection 

Set realistic expectations of yourself (and your loved ones). Accepting the fact that not everything may go as planned can help alleviate stress and anxiety. When kids are involved, glitches inevitably come up to complicate even the most well-thought-out plans. Work with intention to reframe your perspective to focus on the positives, rather than the negatives.

Keep it simple

Kim John Payne — author of one of my favorite parenting books, Simplicity Parenting — challenges parents to think back on their own most cherished childhoods memories. Do those moments include soccer practices or trips to Disney World? Unlikely.

Instead, our strongest memories are often about meaningful connections and simple, found moments: “It’s sitting on a rock, watching a river flow,” Payne argues. “It’s making a connection to nature, a connection to friends and a connection to oneself.” 

In our home, we’re working to create a balance of enrichment grounded in simplicity.

Make time to connect

Don’t forget to have fun together! Each day, enjoy conversation and make a point of learning about your growing child’s developing personality, skills and talents. Enrich pockets of time with nurturing experiences that encourage family connection, curiosity and play. 

Here’s wishing you and your family a peaceful start to the New Year and a 2017 full of joy (amid the chaos)!

Megan Devine is an elementary school teacher and mother of four who lives in Northeastern Minnesota. She blogs at