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If you’re a mom, chances are that you regularly suffer from mom overwhelm. That’s just the way it is; also, moms struggle more than dads.
Tiffany Dufu’s book, “Drop the ball”, is a perfect example of how hard it is for women struggling to be perfect examples of success on all fronts – perfect workers, perfect housekeepers, perfect parents, perfect partners.
In her book, Tiffany speaks of how her experience growing up led her to obsess about always having a “perfect home”, one that she alone could provide, leading to mom overwhelm and to a sense of guilt whenever her home wasn’t as perfect as she thought it should be.
Having feelings of not being able to do it all, or of being a failure because you are unable to do it all, are feelings many moms know all too well. The thing is, parenting sometimes feels like hard work, like juggling too many balls at the same time, and trying to keep one’s balance often leads to feelings of overwhelm.
Common reasons behind mom overwhelm
Many people have tried to explain the reasons behind mom overwhelm. Some say that it occurs when you try to do too much. Others say that it’s because society is constantly pushing us to be “perfect mums” and that things such as the “perfect parents” portrayed on social media are driving mom overwhelm.
Some studies say that mom overwhelm often results from our inability to know when it’s time to let go, when to ask for help, and when to stop trying to solve each and every problem. They say that moms’ suffer from a need of “intensive motherhood”, meaning that they easily feel guilty when they are unable to “do it all”.
A recent survey suggests that mom overwhelm is often driven by a reluctance to ask for help even when that help is available or affordable, and by the common perception that free time is an opportunity to catch up on chores rather than to spend time doing something for oneself (I’m guilty as charged!).
Irrespective of the reasons that cause us to feel overwhelmed as moms, mom overwhelm hurts us and it hurts our kids.
Here are five simple things that we can all do to find more balance in our parenting.
5 simple tips to reduce mom overwhelm
1) Stop trying to do it all
If you’re like many moms, you believe that you always have to be on top of your game when it comes to parenting. But here’s the thing: trying to be “perfect” can only lead to frustration and feelings of mom overwhelm.
Finding more balance in your life must begin by challenging your preconceived ideas about what it means to be a “good enough parent”, not a perfect one. What standards guide your parenting? Who sets those standards? What really matters for you and your family?
2) Asking for help will help reduce mom overwhelm
Mom overwhelm often occurs when we try to do everything alone, sometimes because we believe that we can do it better than anyone else, other times because we do not want to “disturb” others.
If you are feeling overwhelmed as a mom, it is important to ask for help. Ask your partner for help. Identify household chores that your kids can do on their own and trust them to do those chores alone. Stop trying to micromanage everything. Accept that it isn’t a big deal if others don’t do stuff as you would have done. Be specific about the help that you need.
3) Put family time on your to-do list
Feeling like never having the time to spend with our kids is one of the reasons that drive mom guilt. One of the easiest ways to hang out with your kids and stop feeling guilty is to put that time on your schedule.
Blocking off 15 to 20 minutes a day to do something with your kids is an easy way to avoid both mom overwhelm and mom guilt. Here is a free 30-day challenge to help you get started.
4) If you are feeling overwhelmed as a mom, try a time audit
Mom overwhelm is often a sign that you are doing too much. To get over it, it is important to analyze what and on whom you’re spending your time. Experts say that “lack of time” is rarely the real problem when we feel overwhelmed – the problem is how that time is spent.
Here are four easy tips to take back your time.
Tip 1: Don’t make a list. Make the list.
We’ve all heard that lists make us manage our time better. But here’s the thing: it’s never about having a list, it’s about having the right list. It’s about consciously deciding to stop spending time on the things that do not matter and to stop responding to the loudest distractions.
Fun challenge 😊: Over the next three days, track how you spend every moment to become more conscious of where your time is going.
- What does a typical day/week look like for you?
- What can you take off your list?
- What can you do less of?
Tip 2: Adopt a not-to-do list
If you go through your to-do list and divide your tasks into “must-do tasks”, “important tasks”, and “other tasks”, you will find that the things to do on your “other tasks” list don’t always have to be done, or that they can be done at a later date.
Easy strategies could include responding only to what requires your immediate attention or being unavailable to certain people on certain days and certain times.
Having a not-to-do list also means knowing when to say “no” in order to free up more time to spend on the things that really matter.
Tip 3: Keep things simple to avoid feeling overwhelmed as a mom
Most things are pretty much straightforward but we tend to complicate them. The authors of the book “Simplicity parenting” are right when they say that an important rule if you want a more fulfilled life is to “simplify, simplify, simplify”.
Making things as simple as possible will help reduce your feelings of mom overwhelm. This could means simplifying your meals, simplifying your family activities, and adopting a minimalist lifestyle.
Work with what you have. If you’ve allocated 30 minutes on Wednesday afternoon to read to your kids and you’re just too tired to do it or you simply can’t, it’s not that big a deal. Read to them for 10 minutes. Still can’t do it? Make it 5 minutes. Can’t read? Tell them a story off the top of your head.
Remember that striving for perfection is setting yourself up for failure.
Tip 4: Be as specific as possible
The easiest way to get things done and to avoid feeling overwhelmed as a mom is to be more specific about what you put down on your to-do list.
Say you want to start spending more time with your kids. Let’s get even more specific: say you want to start reading to your kids: schedule 20 minutes in your to-do list to read to your kids. Remember everything is about habits. You don’t create a habit of reading to your kids by saying “I want to start reading to the kids” but by accomplishing small regular habits – you read to them regularly for a few minutes.
5) Put yourself on your agenda to avoid mom overwhelm
If you are not taking care of yourself, you can’t take care of others. It is important to put yourself on your priority list, even when (especially when!) you’re crazy busy. Be gentle on yourself.
• Accept that you deserve time to yourself every day. Stop feeling guilty about spending time on yourself.
• Put yourself on your priority list. Relax. Do something you enjoy. Unwind.
• Don’t know what to do during your “me” time? Write a list of the things you’ve always wanted to do and put them on your to-do list.
• “Me” time could be as short as 10 to 15-minute breaks taken regularly. Commit to taking some time off every day.
• Creating a daily ritual could make it easier to take time off.
Avoiding mom overwhelm involves a delicate balancing act between being there for your children without suffocating them and finding time for yourself and your activities.
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