10 Things to Do When You Feel Overwhelmed as a Mom
Since my husband and I have been married we have moved ten times, lived in four states, and nine different cities. Many of those moves were due to different ministry/job opportunities and some of them were due to being a military family. I feel like I can safely say that I am a pro at the whole packing, purging, cleaning, and setting it all up again thing. My husband and I also have two little ones that are only seventeen months apart. When we had our second baby my husband had just graduated from boot camp in the Navy and he was working nights over at the military base.
Let me just say, that was a really rough season. We were a brand new military family with a newborn and a one year old living in a city and state that we had never been to before without any family around. We knew that it was only for a season but that didn’t take away from the intensity of our daily lives. Aside from a few amazing military families we had met I felt very isolated and alone. My walk with the Lord felt very watered down and since I had given birth to our son I felt like was constantly teetering on the edge of depression.
The majority of my feelings and my emotions during that season could be summed up into one word “overwhelmed”. I felt practically overwhelmed by everything going on in our lives, our finances, the basic needs of our kids, meal planning, sharing a car with my husband, not having a good church nearby, not having family around, laundry, dishes, the list went on and on. The state of our home felt like it was in constant chaos. I am the creative type and cleaning does not come naturally to me. I like things to be organized but typically while doing so I make a large mess somewhere else. My husband is the neat and tidy type. He doesn’t love to clean but he can’t function in a home that isn’t perfectly polished. Okay, that was a little bit of an exaggeration but he really likes it when the house is tidy enough to walk with bare feet on the floor.
Our chaotic home was often a common start to many arguments during that season. My husband desperately wanted to help me get organized with a cleaning routine and meal plans (he was willing to do whatever it took) and I wanted him to learn to live happily in the mess. We sound kinda like that movie Yours, Mine, and Ours huh? I don’t really know what caused me to change, maybe it was from being late to every event or never being able to find a matching pair of socks but one day I decided that I could no longer live with the mess. It was by no means an easy decision. It has taken a lot of effort to get to where I am now and it continues to take a lot of effort. If you are feeling overwhelmed and maybe your mind is wired more like mine here are ten tips that have worked really well for me:
I know this one kinda sounds obvious. Whenever I feel like I am trying to retrain myself I like to lean back on God’s word and ask for Him to give me the wisdom I need to get through the season that I am in. “If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking.” James 1:5
2. Turn off the TV, Put the phone away, and get off social media!
Whenever I feel like I am spinning my wheels and I just can’t seem to get myself into a good routine, it’s usually time for me to do a reset. I start by telling my friends and family that I need a break for a few days to play catch up. I will alert them to not expect me to be answering my phone, emails, or text messages. I may even make a post on social media to let my audience and clients know that I will be out for the next several days. Personally, I am an extrovert and I naturally feel the urgency to communicate and socialize with others through face to face time, talking on the phone, and social media. Even if you aren’t someone who enjoys those things, I highly recommend taking a break for a few days from any media (including movies and TV shows) in order to get your life back on track. The amount of time I save by simply putting my phone away and staying off my socials always surprises me and usually gives me the extra time I need to get my families’ lives reorganized.
3. Focus on the Practical
I like to take my focus off of the big picture and focus on the small practical things that are directly in front of me. My most important responsibility is to make sure that everyone is safe, clean, and fed. Despite what my Pinterest boards may look like, I know that my home does not need to be fancy in order to be functional. I tell myself to take it easy, take it one step at a time, room by room. No one ever said that I had to be Marry Poppins or Martha Stewart. I typically let my kids watch a show or do a special activity while I focus on creating a plan for organization. I keep it simple by using a basic notepad and pen to make a check-off list for the things I plan to get done throughout each day. Cleaning up the clutter is the first thing that I do whenever I need to reset. It helps to have the misplaced things out of the way even if that means placing them in a large basket until I can take them to their proper places. If you are just getting started my advice would be to take it slow. Prioritize by focusing on the most important tasks and then go from there.
4. Get everyone on a schedule
This is my staple to maintaing a functional life and a functional home. Without some sort of basic schedule I find myself lacking in the most practical areas of my life such as meal prepping, and showering. By not being able to meet the practical needs of my family I am forced to take from the other areas of my life; finances, sleep, and quiet time. I have found that when my family and I have designated bedtimes and mealtimes we are happier and healthier as a whole and we have more time to do fun things with friends and each other.
5. Make a cleaning routine
This one is my least favorite. Seriously, though, I don’t like cleaning. I like how things feel when they are clean though! I gravitate more to cleaning when I feel like it and cleaning when I feel stressed. This approach is often a recipe for disaster in my home. Although I don’t always enjoy it, I have found that it is a lot easier to maintain my home with a simple cleaning routine. I don’t have anything fancy in place, in fact I don’t really even have anything written down at the moment. My husband and I have an understanding that we do certain things on certain days of the week such as cleaning our sheets, wiping down the bathrooms, laundry, and even grocery shopping. With our basic cleaning routine in place we have become more hospitable as a family and we tend to want to stay at home more often when we have a consistently clean environment.
6. Be patient
I am not a naturally clean person. I would rather go on a spontaneous outing than maintain the cleanliness of my home or grocery shop. While we do occasionally go on spontaneous outings, it is better for us to have designated times throughout the week to go exploring in our city. It takes time to develop cleaning habits before they become second nature and it takes time to get an entire family on a schedule. Little things like holidays and family in town can really throw off a routine and sometimes it takes a while to get back on track. Patience is needed, lots of patience and lots of grace. I know that if I am faithful to stick to my goals eventually I will get things where I want them to be.
7. Get your husband on board
Whenever I decide to change something or start something new, I always make it a priority to communicate with my husband. Sometimes, his input will help me to better structure my ideas and his support is always a huge bonus. We do our best to share the load in our marriage when it comes to parenting, cleaning, and other household tasks. In order for our relationship to operate smoothly it is imperative for us to communicate and get on the same page. We don’t always agree but we try our best to listen to one another and compromise with each other until we reach a decision that is best for our family.
8. Implement family values
This is a new one for us as a family. Obviously, we have values and certain things that we feel are very important to us however, until I had listened to a recent podcast by Havilah Cunnington we hadn’t ever taken the time to write down the reasons for doing what we do. Havilah’s podcast was all about the “why” behind family values. Why do you do what you do? If you can’t answer the why behind your goals you are not going to be able to stick with them when the going gets tough. You should also be able to have a why behind your no, this will ensure that you don’t over-extend yourself and others will respect you more for being able to wholeheartedly fulfill your commitments. My husband and I know that we want to be on a schedule and maintain a clean and organized home so that we can fulfill the vision for ministry that God has placed in our hearts. When our home isn’t in order we are often late to meetings and events because we can’t find things, we eat out more because we don’t have meals that we planned ahead of time, and we are forced to use up valuable time playing catch up on chores rather than using the time for our ministry and family fun.
9. Plan ahead
I am sure many of us have heard the saying “those that don’t plan, plan to fail”. This saying couldn’t be more accurate. I have always known that planning was important but I never understood the value in it until I began planning for things in my everyday life. Once there was a lady in my bible study who told our small group that the key to being on time was to begin tomorrow the day before. I took her advice to heart and I started my preparations for the next day a day or two ahead. If I know that we are planning to go on an outdoor adventure or to a barbecue at a friend’s house on Saturday and church Sunday morning, I will make sure that I wash and fold laundry on Friday so that everyone has clean clothes to wear for the weekend. Since we have been using this method in our home, my husband and I communicate better, we are less stressed out, and we are generally more carefree when we spend time with each other and our kids.
10. Have fun
I am naturally a play before work kind of girl. It has taken a lot of work, a lot of prayer, and a lot of time for me to have a lifestyle that is organized and on a schedule. Getting on a schedule is not a walk in the park. It’s messy and difficult. That’s why it’s important to have fun. Be honest with your kids when you make a mistake and don’t forget to say I am sorry. Remember, they are watching you and copying everything that you say and do. Someday, I want my kids to be able to run their lives and their homes in an organized and peaceful manner. If I want them to do this, I have to first do it myself. Have fun with your kids, play music and dance with each other while you fold laundry. They might not be old enough to fold laundry with you but at least let them try to fold something small and maybe carry a pile of their clothes to the dresser in their rooms. Letting your kids help you will require you to take a few extra steps but it is worth it. There is always a way to make chores a little bit more fun even if that means celebrating with ice cream afterwards. Get creative and do what works best for your family.
Thanks for reading! I hope that my experience encourages you and maybe even helps you in your journey as a mom.
Written by Jo Rogers. Used with permission.