I am a usually proud stay-at-home-mom (SAHM) to an almost two-and-a-half year old boy and a four-month-old girl.

I encounter the same challenges as every other garden variety mom I read about on parenting sites. My daughter doesn’t always sleep, but her smiles almost make me forget those sleepless nights…almost.

My son is a toddler with all of its implications. He’s a good eater, but not always. He is sweet and love-able, but not always. He has the best laugh I’ve ever heard, always.

As primary caregiver to two kids, I’m torn at all times. The three of us are a revolving door of unhappy and waiting. Usually my moments of misery are a self-imposed oppressive guilt, but I’ve discovered a few tricks. And though they aren’t guaranteed to work every time, I bat a pretty good average of all around sanity.

1 | I wear my daughter in public, and sometimes around the house, as a way to feel connected even if I’m distracted by tasks. 

When I read the few pieces about wearing children in a carrier, there is usually some caveat about spoiling the child. I don’t know about all that, but I do know that if we are out and about, my baby carrier is a saving grace. My daughter is safely snuggled into me, so I can follow my son as he brazenly enters prohibited areas, or destroys displays. If need be, I can even issue a time-out while my daughter reliably sleeps, or quietly observes her surroundings.

Around the house I do my best to have my daughter sleep on her own with as little intervention from me as possible. Usually this is successful, but there are those occasions when she’ll accept nothing less than auditioning as an appendage I never even knew I was lacking. If my son is napping, I can attend to my daughter in a carrier while accomplishing many of my tasks. If my son is wreaking bedlam on our furniture and dismantling all the items I thought were child-proofed, I can tend to him without a sigh of defeat that my daughter’s long-overdue cuddle needs are brushed aside. 

2 | I read stories to my son while feeding the baby. 

It’s absurd the rhetoric cycling in my head because I’ve failed to sprout additional arms. Things  can be especially dicey when I need to feed my daughter, who, by the way, must be the slowest eater known to humanity.

It’s always during these crucial moments that my son, who generally exhibits the capacity to entertain himself for reasonable stretches of time, is opposed to occupying himself. If, however, I read books to him during my daughter’s bottle time, I can make a connection with him while otherwise incapacitated on the sofa by milk and a baby.

Even if my daughter’s belly is content, she larks it up next to me on the floor as my son attends to a story on my lap. I’ve memorized so many of his books that I can steal looks at my smiling little girl who seems thrilled with the cadence of many tales.

With these stories, not only does my son receive attention during moments when he might be feeling vulnerable, but I can also bask in some self-praise for providing an activity for both children that yields proven short and long term results.

3 | I take note of my children’s positive behaviors (instead of just feeling badly about what’s not working).

It’s so easy to perseverate on everything that’s wrong. My son sprinkles crayons the floor around the restaurant table, or expresses his displeasure that I won’t permit him to cuddle with a knife. Perhaps he tantrums because of our disagreement that the sunglasses kiosk is actually not part of his personal toy inventory. And there’s the baby, who is far from innocent in her ability to draw a grimace from bystanders.

Like most mothers, I have a long list of these kinds of instances, but as much as I could choose to focus on the aspects of raising my children that bring a scarlet hue to my fair complexion, I can also choose to notice behaviors that leave me feeling proud enough to do a quarterback-worthy victory dance.   

As much as I can internalize my parenting fails, can’t I also take credit for my daughter’s smiles aplenty? When my son shares a toy without issue, or gives me some of his favorite snack, isn’t that my doing as well? 

It’s taken some time but I finally give myself permission to take credit for the good things my kids do, even if no one is watching.