As a mom (and maybe as a human being), I feel overwhelmed. And not only am I an overwhelmed mom, I feel like I shouldn’t be — I only have one kid, I work from home, I don’t have to worry about our basic needs being met — which only makes things worse because I become more overwhelmed that something is wrong with me for feeling overwhelmed in the first place.
It’s a vicious cycle perpetuated by mommy guilt, a culture of busy, self-doubt, and the weight of family, social, and/or work obligations. I know I’m not the only overwhelmed mom out there.
Here’s the best way I can describe it: I feel like I am the sun and my family orbits around me. When I walk in the door, before I can put down my car keys, the dog, the toddler and even my husband are coming toward me, blocking my way, wanting attention, jockeying for position.
Maybe I should find joy in moments like this — to be loved so much that all of these people/animals must greet me immediately upon arrival with as much energy as possible — but usually what I feel is overwhelmed. It’s a struggle to get through the door, a struggle to get my coat off, a struggle to keep everyone a few feet away from me so I can start the next necessary task (a meal, a chore, etc.), a struggle to have a moment to collect myself.
I don’t want to struggle. And I don’t want to be a constantly overwhelmed mom.
But I’ve realized that the problem isn’t them, but it’s not necessarily me either. It’s that chaos is a part of life, especially life with young children. And I can’t change that — the fact that I’ve been trying to change the chaos is (at least partially) what makes me feel overwhelmed.
I’m trying to shift my thinking and the way I react. Instead of trying to lessen the chaos, I’ve been looking for strategies that will allow me to function better in and through the chaos. Maybe if you’re an overwhelmed mom, you’ll find these ideas helpful — they cost no money, and most of them take only a few minutes and require minor tweaks to your routine.
Strategy 1: Wake up 30 minutes earlier than your kid(s).
For me, this is HUGE.
In January, our family transitioned to a new routine. Last year, my husband worked the midnight shift, which was hard for many reasons, but when he came home in the morning, he managed getting our daughter dressed and off to daycare, giving me plenty of time and space to get ready for work. Now he’s on the day shift, which means he leaves the house by 6 a.m., while I am at home, attempting to figure out the transition from working full time in an office to starting my own business. It’s up to me to get our daughter out the door in the morning, which should be easy, right? It’s not like I’m on a hard and fast schedule.
I’ve mentioned that the process to get Emme dressed in the morning can be trying. This morning “routine” overwhelmed me; it made me feel anxious and frustrated, and I was struggling to bounce back from getting my day off on the wrong foot. Setting the alarm seemed unnecessary since I knew Emme would wake me up, but I finally convinced myself a few weeks ago that I needed to try to get out of bed before her.
What a difference having a cup of coffee by myself makes. The entire morning dynamic shifted, and not because she changed, but because I have a few minutes to wake up, enjoy my coffee, and relax — not dive in head first with morning toddler drama. But it’s funny, now that I’ve stopped fighting against it, the toddler drama doesn’t seem quite as dramatic.
Strategy 2: Do the thing you are doing even if it’s just for a few minutes.
As a blogger and a freelance writer who is trying to find work, I can easily convince myself that I’m “working” no matter what I’m doing. After all, I’m scanning freelance jobs, posting on Facebook, checking my email, chatting online with a friend, reading an industry blog, researching an article for a client, and updating my resume… all at the same time. Which means literally nothing is getting done.
This multitasking mentality creeps into all facets of my life. I turn on the TV after Emme goes to bed with the intent of watching a television show to unwind, only to sit down with my laptop in hand, screwing around on one million different websites, the TV on in the background. Or I’m trying to manage my daughter while texting with a friend and tackling random tasks (that never end up getting done).
Multitasking is necessary sometimes, but when you can, slow down and do the thing you are doing. Just give the task at hand five minutes of your attention.
Strategy 3: Take a deep breath.
Whenever you need to throughout the day — when you’re starting to feel anxious or frustrated, take a few seconds (just a few seconds!) and breath in. Count for a couple of seconds while you hold your breath and then breath out. Don’t worry, the mess your child is making will be there when you’re done.
Strategy 4: Create boundaries around social media.
Social media is a great way to connect with the world around us and the people we care about, but it is undoubtably a time suck. At worst, it can turn your energy and attention to something that makes you feel angry (your crazy uncle’s extreme political rants), judged (your “friend” who posts articles about how formula is poison), or lacking (all of the happy pictures and status updates that suggest that everyone else is living the perfect life). I don’t know about you, but sometimes social media just makes me feel anxious.
And yet it’s such a habit. I open my Facebook app on my phone without even thinking about it. I don’t even mean to do it, it’s just what I do. Here are some ideas to cut down on your social media time:
- Try moving the social media apps on your phone every so often they are a little less accessible to you. You can also hide it in a “subfolder” on your iPhone — I can never find the apps I put in subfolders. #problemsolved
- Change your phone settings so you’re not constantly getting social media notifications.
- Attempt to keep your social media surfing to a few times a day — maybe once in the morning and once in the afternoon.
- Let knowledge be your power: You can download the Moment app to see exactly how much time you’re spending on your phone. Though it doesn’t tell you exactly how much of that time is spent on Facebook or other social media apps, this information is still helpful for me because I know a lot of the time I spend zoning out on the phone, I’m scrolling through my Facebook feed. Challenge yourself to decrease that time.
- Unfollow Facebook friends. You don’t have to unfriend people and make it a whole thing. Go to the profile page of the person who is driving you batty and uncheck “Following” to take that person’s status updates out of your feed.
Strategy 5: Meditate for 10 minutes.
More and more research suggests that meditation really can help relieve anxiety as well as other medical issues. I have been trying to get into the habit of meditating every day. I’d say I manage to do it 5 out of 7 days a week. But when I do take 10 minutes to meditate, I feel less overwhelmed and more balanced throughout the day.
I find if I mediate right before I pick Emme in the afternoon, it has a similar effect as my morning coffee — I’m suddenly much more capable of dealing with post-daycare toddler demands (milk! potty! crackers! Caillou! books! paci! apple! Frozen!), getting dinner on the table, and feeling, you know, content with my life not overwhelmed by it. On the weekends, I try to meditate when Emme takes her nap.
When I decided to try meditation, I wasn’t quite sure where to start. I found Headspace, a website that provides a lot of information about meditation, and I downloaded the free app, which includes ten 10-minute meditations.