The day you become a mom is also the day where you really step it up in the skills department. It’s so easy to feel as if you are juggling everything. It’s the only “job” where you are expected to have it all together. You probably even have a running checklist in the back of your head.
- Keep your house spotless.
- Gourmet (and also inexpensive, organic/grass-fed/free-range) meals.
- Ultimate patience; never yelling at your kids.
- Breastfeeding as long as your child wants.
- Always being on time (despite having three kids in car seats).
- Looking svelte every time you leave your house.
- Bringing in money from a job you love while simultaneously creating harmony and a feeling of wellbeing in your kids.
- Having a house worthy of being on a magazine.
- Creating Pinterest worthy holiday/birthday decorations, gifts, and treats.
- Stay on top of well-child visits and dentist check-ups.
- Having kids who bring home straight A report cards.
Aren’t you tired of checking off boxes on your list yet? Unfortunately, I could add a lot more items to the list of things where moms are expected to excel. It’s enough to make anyone feel like they are failing. The truth of the matter is, you are not going to kill it in every area of your life. And still, even knowing that, it’s so easy to feel overwhelmed and stressed as a mom.
If you’re feeling this way, it’s time to drop all those balls you are juggling and give yourself a minute. Here are my top tips for coping when I feel overwhelmed and stressed out as a mother.
Tips for coping with motherhood overwhelm
It’s nearly impossible to do everything. You might know a mom who seems to have it all together. I’ll let you in on a secret. She is failing somewhere. I promise that she is. Just like you, she probably feels like a hot mess.
How do you curb the overwhelm and find joy in motherhood when it seems like everyone expects you to have it all together?
Realize it’s impossible to do it all
If you think you can do all the things, stop! You can’t. Because even if you make it through that list of things to do, there will be more tomorrow. A mother’s work is never done. Stop trying to expect that you can finish.
Instead, think of how you can set some priorities. Decide what areas you need to focus on, and then choose your top 1-3 essentials for each area. That’ll give you a list of what you should focus on.
For me that means:
I don’t always fold the laundry, but I get the dishes done every night. You can wear clean clothes from a laundry basket (even if they are a little wrinkled), but I can’t stand the smell of dirty dishes in my kitchen.
I want my kids to be great readers, so I focus on helping them read and skip that overly long list of spelling words.
I skip the intricate birthday party decorations and let the kids come up with their own games so I don’t have to plan anything. Then, blow the budget on cheap pizza and a fun cake instead. Less work and still so memorable for them.
Setting priorities is the best way to ensure that you are spending your time where you want to spend your time.
Time block with routines
I’m going to be honest, schedules have never been my strong suit. I tend to hate anyone telling me what to do, even if it’s just myself via a schedule. But without a schedule, it’s so easy to forget the important stuff and feel overwhelmed.
Time blocking can help with that. When you time block you section a chunk of time to work on a specific task, but you don’t schedule every minute of your day. You can have several time blocks throughout the day.
For example, after I finish eating breakfast, I spend an hour cleaning. That might mean unloading the dishwasher, putting a load of laundry in the washer, or sweeping the floor. Whatever needs to be done. I let my toddler play while I clean. Because the cleaning happens consistently (daily) I stay on top of most things around the house. But I also don’t feel bogged down by having a detailed list or agenda. I just clean what needs to be cleaned that day. My time block is always set off by a routine (putting my breakfast dish in the sink), instead of a certain time of day.
You can do the same. Set up blocks of time to work, clean, rest, and play. When you incorporate those time blocks into your regular routine, you’ll start to feel more in control. You don’t have to worry about cleaning during your “play” time block and visa versa.
Outsource and ask for help
As moms we tend to wear our busyness as a badge. But here’s the truth. You don’t have to do everything on your own.
If you are struggling to keep up on housework, hire someone to clean your house once a month. Money tight? Assign your least favorite chore to your husband or kids. They live in your house too!
Have your groceries delivered (or at least do a pickup) instead of spending an hour in the grocery store with screaming kids.
Buy the birthday cake (or ask your talented mother-in-law to make one) instead of making it.
Look through your to-do list and determine what you can outsource. And remember, not all outsourcing requires money. Get creative if you need to, but try to take some of those things off your list and let someone else help you.
A lot of mom overwhelm is created when you are trying to do too much. The simplest solution is to take some of that stuff off your to-do list.
Does it really matter if you volunteer at every party in your child’s kindergarten class? Do you really need an Elf on the Shelf that creates havoc in your home every day leading up to Christmas?
Take some of those things off your plate. Can some of the things on your list wait for a few months or longer? Are there some tasks or traditions that you really don’t need or love? Get rid of anything in your life that isn’t essential.
Don’t go it alone
Everyone says it takes a village to raise a child. Do you have your village? I’ll be the first to admit that I haven’t always been in a position where I’ve had a village. Living in a different state than any family, motherhood has sometimes felt lonely and isolating. I’ve had countless times where I’ve felt as if I had no one to rely on. That’s a hard place to be. Motherhood is not meant to be lived alone.
Luckily, I now live in an amazing neighborhood that is packed to the brim with other amazing mothers who love and support my little family. We made a choice to move away from an unsupportive situation and into a great neighborhood. That choice has made all the difference.
I know it’s hard to make choices that help you build a village. It’s tough to create friendships with other mothers. It’s difficult to reach out to neighbors, family members, and friends who could help you in times of stress. But I can’t say this enough. Building a village is a choice. Sure, some lucky people fall into their villages naturally. But for most of us, it takes effort. You have to get out of your comfort zone. You need to continually work at building relationships that may not always feel easy.
Every choice you make that helps you build your village is an important one. It will be so worth the effort.
When you are overwhelmed right now
The tips above can absolutely help when you feel overwhelmed. But they may not all be easy to incorporate in the moment. So if you are having an overwhelm emergency, it’s nice to have a few tricks up your sleeve to cope.
Give yourself a small win
Set the timer for 10 minutes and clean as many things in your immediate area as you can. Once the 10 minutes is up, you can stop. But that short amount of time will give yourself a small win. This works for pretty much anything. Give yourself 10 minutes of time playing with your kids, or 10 minutes of walking on the treadmill.
Take a time out
When things feel too much, take a breather. I know there are a million things to do. You probably have dinner to make or homework to get done with kids. It can all wait. Hide in the bathroom if you need to, but take a time out. When you give yourself a minute, you are giving your brain a chance to catch up to everything else going on.
Take care of yourself
Your family needs you to practice self-care regularly. But, self-care is especially important when you are stressed to the max. Write a list of self-care tasks that you can complete in just a few minutes. Keep that list handy and pull it out when motherhood feels too much.
Some parts of motherhood bring you more joy than others. Lean into the parts that make you happy. You might not be able to avoid all of the things you don’t love or aren’t good at. But you can focus on improving and loving the parts of motherhood that make you happy. You can’t be everything.
Don’t beat yourself up. Sure, work to improve the areas where you don’t shine. But, don’t beat yourself up if you don’t have the time, energy, or desire to spend on the things that don’t bring you joy.
It’s okay if you aren’t good at every part of motherhood. You aren’t failing your children and your family. They’ll survive if you burn the toast, if the bathroom still stinks, or if you need to work instead of stay home with your baby. In fact, if you lean into the parts of motherhood that bring you joy, it’ll allow your family to feel that joy. They won’t remember the dishes in the sink, they’ll remember the dance parties in the kitchen. They won’t remember you were always late to their dance recital, but they’ll know you showed up. Lean into joy mama.