All too often, I hear from moms that they are overwhelmed. I’m always surprised when people ask me – “How do you do it? Three kids, a husband who works like crazy, and running a busy practice.” I never really stopped to think about it, but I think I’ve finally figured out a few ways to overcome feeling overwhelmed.
Don’t get me wrong, we all have those days, but my days of feeling overwhelmed are sooo few and far between. When I truly stop and look at why I don’t feel this way, I think it comes down to four things. First and foremost, I threw perfection out the window a long time ago and decided to give myself some grace. (It took me a good three years into motherhood when the kids were 1, 2, and 3 to get to this point, but I haven’t looked back!).
My kids don’t care if dinner is made from scratch, organic or not, has a protein, vegetable, and starch. It doesn’t have to always be a rainbow of color or cut into little shapes. They are happy eating pasta. They are happy eating cereal. Granted, this isn’t every night, but on the days when I just can’t, eggs and toast for dinner are going to be just fine.
What my kids do care about is whether their mom is happy. They care if I am playing with them, reading to them, snuggling with them; those are the things they remember. When I am stressed and overwhelmed, I yell, I don’t play, I get frustrated easily. They would rather have PB&J for dinner and a mom who plays with them.
We put so much pressure on ourselves to be perfect that we get overwhelmed. Even if we are organized and on top of things, if we demand perfection – or whatever OUR idea of perfection is – we will get overwhelmed. Just be over it. Make your focus on joy and love and don’t sweat the small stuff (and recognize that it’s almost all small stuff).
Second, make time for yourself to exercise. This was – and still is – such a powerful tool. Exercising on my own is great (a run on the beach or a quick work out in my garage), but the best thing for me was to find a tribe of like minded women to work out with, to lift each other up and encourage one another. On the days I know I am really busy, I will get up at 4:45am and go do an early Bodyback class. There are so many early options from HIIT classes, to yoga, and even barre where you can go from 5am-6am before your little ones are fully awake and running. I let dad take over on those early mornings. The kids would have their milk while dad had coffee and maybe even watch a little show or play a game together. They are really the best behaved right when they wake up, and then I can spend the rest of the day telling dad how AMAZING he is.
On the days I work out, I am a better mom. I feel more prepared to catch the curve balls, I feel like even if I spent the rest of the day dealing with toddler tantrums, that I’ve accomplished something for me. Find whatever makes you happy, whether it’s an early morning run with the dog, a hike, a yoga class, or something – get out there and connect with nature, connect with other women, and get your endorphins pumping. It has made me stronger in mind, body, and soul.
Third, learn to say “NO”. It’s okay to not volunteer to be room-mom, serve on the PTA or volunteer to coach soccer. You can do those things when you are not so overwhelmed with keeping tiny people alive. I promise you, your kids will go to the bathroom alone one day, and tie their own shoes, and play on a playground without you being worried they will hurt themselves. There will be a day when you can go buy groceries without epic tantrums. And, there will be a day when you’ll be the one volunteering, and it’s OK if that day is not today.
Don’t be so hard on yourself. It’s also okay to tell your kids no. No, you can’t do tennis, and baseball, and soccer, and dance, and Greek dance, and school, and gymnastics, and music lessons. Let’s pick one or two things. I love how many things my kids want to do, but the reality is that I’m only one person, there are only so many days in a week, and we have three kids. Just remember, every time you are saying “no” to something that takes time away from your own health and sanity, you are saying “yes” to taking care of yourself. Yes to filling your cup. Yes to being a better parent.
Fourth – Ask for help. I can’t stress this enough. It takes a village and it is OKAY to call friends and family. A few years ago, a pipe broke in the adjacent building and flooded our office. Of course it was on a Friday night, so the water poured in and sat in our office all weekend. I will never forget walking into the office that my husband built with his bare hands and seeing that it was ruined. It still makes me want to cry. We had the experts come in and dry everything out – we took every precaution to make sure there was no mold, and everything the water touched was ripped out…every cabinet, baseboard, piece of wall, floor and counter. That alone took almost two weeks. Contractors then said it would take 8 to 12 weeks to restore the office. So, we fired them and did it ourselves in four. Basically every waking second we were not in the wellness center seeing patients, we were working on the office. Our kids were out of school for summer. They were 4, 5, and 6 years old, and on the days where they couldn’t handle one more Home Depot trip or slab yard run with me, I called friends and family and asked if they would take our kids to the park or let them come over and play.
It still makes me emotional to think about how amazing my friends and family were during that time and how much they rallied to help make that time fun for the kids. You just have to ask. You are a better parent for asking for help. Wouldn’t you be happy to help take a friend’s child to the park for an hour or two? I know I would. Let people help you. When you are having a day, call a friend and encourage your friends to do the same. We are all in this together. You are amazing. You can do anything but you can’t always do everything.
Some other things that have helped me from feeling overwhelmed is to just have less stuff. Fewer toys for me to pick up, fewer clothes for them to pull out of drawers and off hangers while playing hide-n-seek, less tupperware, dishes, blankets. All of it. Just less stuff. Having a place for everything so that I can put everything in it’s place helped me feel in control, less overwhelmed. When my house is a disaster, I feel like a disaster. Lighting a candle during the day or putting some essential oils in the diffuser, adding strawberries or cucumbers to my water – all of those things make me feel better.
Remember the next time you feel overwhelmed:
- Grace Not Perfection
- It’s okay to say no
- Ask for help
Being busy is not a badge of honor; it is not a point of pride. I want you to brag about how relaxed and happy you are, not how you have ten million things to do. You’ve got this.