We’ve all been there, some more than others, with or without kids. And it sucks. That feeling of being dangerously close to breaking down or blowing up, whatever your preferred method of burnout may be. It’s something that everyone faces at some point, but it seems like for a lot of moms it’s a common occurrence, and I’d like to change that.
I see how much our culture expects out of moms: raise the kids, keep their homes clean, cook healthy dinners, bake cupcakes for fundraisers, chaperone on school field trips, stay in shape, take care of their partners, have strong social connections, and keep on smiling the whole way through. And while I agree that we need to keep a positive attitude for our kids and not let them see how stressed we are, it’s still a whole lot for a woman to handle, wouldn’t you agree?
But I have a solution to this madness, and it’s simple. As in the answer is Simplicity, the long-game you’re going to have to play if you want out of the rat-race once and for all. I’m going to get into it in detail, but if you’re pulling out your hair and need help now, then scroll on down towards the bottom where I lay out a quick plan of action to get you out of overwhelm fast.
But first, let me just say that I live a very simple and satisfying life with my daughter, but that hasn’t been my life’s story. I used to hustle 3 jobs at a time, blew my paychecks on clothes, and spent my free time in the only way I knew how, which was shopping. My life back then was busy and stupid. But then around 10 years ago I became curious in a simpler way to live, and started working my way towards it. I’m telling you this because I want you to know what I haven’t been handed a simple life. I’ve had to work hard and work diligently towards my goal, which now that I am a mom is paying off big time.
Anyhow, I guess that is a long way of saying that because I have simplified my life, I can enjoy this motherhood and homemaking thing to the fullest, and I want the same thing for you.
So, I want to share with you my not-so-secret secrets to not being stretched thin. To not being overwhelmed. To be able to literally fall in love with motherhood. But first, let me politely rebut the common solutions given to overwhelmed moms everywhere:
Um...ok, that sure does sound wonderful. But the laundry pile has gotten quite large, and I haven't mopped in so long the floors are sticky. So....now what?
Cool. Will do. Still feel stressed.
Pursue Your Passions
When? In my fringe hours? At the end of the day after the kids fall asleep but before I pass out myself?
Lower Your Expectations
I did, that's why there's snot on the floor. Still overwhelmed, and now there’s snot.
Learn to Say "No"
Great! NO NO NO NO NO. Still have dinner to cook, read bedtime stories, wash and fold the laundry, take a shower, and spend a little time with my partner. I can't really say no to those things, and I don’t really want to.
Ask for Help
This too Shall Pass
And so will my sanity.
Okay, so I obviously just had way too much fun shooting those down, and I was definitely being snarky. But none of these are the solution when the problem is that mom’s feel overwhelmed when they juggle just the basics of cooking, cleaning, transporting the kids to and from school or daycare, grocery shopping, bath times, bedtime stories, gym sessions, and making sure the laundry gets done. They don't get to the roots of the problem, which are outsourced lives, overloaded schedules, big homes, and too much stuff.
Think about it: We send our kids out the door to get educated in schools, we work-out at gyms, we leave the house to make money somewhere else, we enroll our kids in after-school activities to keep them active, we order pick-up for lunch and dinners, and then we run off to a yoga class to de-stress because we're so darn tired from all the running around. And then worry that we're not spending enough time together as a family, and that time is slipping away, and we're drifting apart.
It's a kind of madness, wouldn't you agree? It doesn't make sense. For one thing, our kids want our presence more than anything else in the entire world, and for another thing, we don't even want to be doing 75% of what we're doing. This is a pretty clear-cut case of needing to seriously evaluate our values and how we're spending our time because chances are they aren't matching up at all.
For some reason, we assume that we can't provide what our families need from the comfort of our own homes. We feel the need to outsource basically everything: learning, exercise, employment, food, fun, and even relaxation. Back when I was practicing massage, I can't tell you the number of clients who viewed their weekly session as the only "me" time they had. And they had to pay $80 bucks an hour just to enjoy it.
You know what's the saddest thing about all this? It's totally unnecessary. There are other ways to live- an infinite number of ways. So why are so many of us stuck living in this very typical rut of a rat race? We can do better.
Here's what I'm proposing:
Things / Stuff / Riffraff / Excess
Schedules / Extra-Curricular Activities / Classes / Obligations
Space / Square-Footage
Create, craft, and curate the best environment possible that promotes learning, relaxing, moving, exploring, and connecting for your family.
Make home your North star
Stop looking outside your home for the answers, and start figuring out how you can provide your own solutions. Look at your home as the blank canvas that it is with endless possibilities.
Realize that YOU are the best teacher for your kids
You don’t need to send your kids out the door to become educated and well-rounded. You are your child’s first and best teacher.
I'm not even going to lie- I’m a firm believer that homeschooling and parents being at home as much as possible are 2 of the strongest antidotes to overwhelm and disconnect. Families need more time together, and there's not a whole lot we can do to change that. Sure, we can ship our kids off to daycare or school, and we can drive ourselves to jobs elsewhere, but I believe we pay the price in the end by all that we miss out on.
Life itself is not complicated- it's actually pretty simple. But I don't mean it's easy. There's nothing easy about breastfeeding on-demand, or staying up all night with a sick kid, or cooking dinner after a long day. But it can be simple. We just have to arrange our lives in a way that allows for it. We have to simplify first.
Honestly though, if you're feeling stretched thin and overwhelmed, these words aren't going to do a whole lot for you right this minute. What you need is a game-plan to destress and come back down to the ground, something that will help you deal with the acute issues you're facing, like a tourniquet of sorts to staunch the immediate blood flow. And because in the past I was obsessed with learning how to avoid feeling overwhelmed and burdened, I have a little method that I developed that I'd like to share with you.
First, you’re going to do something that will initially seem counter-intuitive, and will probably feel like the last thing you want to do: Clean your house. Don't roll your eyes and don't you dare quit reading, because this is the most essential thing to do when you're in the midst of overwhelm. Yes, it sucks, and yes, it's not fun. But you've got to get out the water and wash down your house, open the windows and clear the air, make space and make nice. It's nearly impossible to make clear and wise decisions when the house is a mess.
Second, after your house is clean, clean yourself. A shower is nice, but a bath is better. What is it about water and new beginnings anyhow? It's like a baptism of sorts- you go in dirty, and you come out a new person- body and soul. There's not much a little hot water can't sooth, whether it's a backache or a weary heart or a stuffy nose.
Third, put on dangly earrings, hit the road with or without your kids, and go do something lovely and uplifting. The reason for this is because there’s usually some stagnant, frustrated energy still hanging around due to the fact that our minds have become laser-focused on the problems at hand and our worlds have become so small and narrow, and we need to break out of our little shell and let ourselves unwind. Whatever you do though, let it be slow, and let it be simple.
And that’s that: the 3 simple steps I’ve done countless times when I’m at the end of my rope. Use them as your own personal first-aid when you’re feeling overwhelmed, but make sure you take full advantage of the calm you feel afterwards. Use it to tackle the issues we talked about earlier and simplify your family’s life so that you’re not caught up in the mind-numbing rat race of modern day life. Or better yet, so that you can celebrate your days and create the family life of your dreams.