Most weeks I have it all together and life runs like a well oiled machine. Then out of nowhere I hit a pothole and I have to deal with a flat tyre, broken suspension and a cracked head light.
At the moment I am knee deep in the trenches of overwhelm and it is not pretty. Four kids do, indeed bring 4 times the joy but they also bring me 4 x times as much overwhelm! By overwhelm I mean each of them are at different stages in their life, each with different and unique needs. Not all of the overwhelm is bad but added all together it weighs me down.
Overwhelm doesn’t always look like a sick kid or a financial stress, it can be simple things like dance exam costumes or remembering who needs new shoes and what size they are or meal planning. It is, for me, often the every day that can get overwhelming when we hit a pothole. While I am standing at the pothole waiting for a tow truck, a million things still need to be done.
This is motherhood though. It is nothing new for me. I have been juggling it in various forms for the last 17 years so I do at least have the comfort of knowing that the tow truck will arrive, the car will get fixed and the stuff will get bought.
So how do I manage the overwhelm of mother load that we all face on a daily basis?
I have to start off by saying that I do probably eat more chocolate than I should during these periods, but I have termed it self-care so it is actually good for me.
Planning is vital. Right now our May and June calendars are pretty scary. the older two have exams, Kiara has a dance competition, Cameron wants to go to a gala in Durban, Jack has parent’s day at his swimming club. And then on top of that David and I have work commitments. Just the thought of it makes me anxious but I am pretty good at planning these things out. My big A3 calendar makes a huge difference. I can see at a glance what is happening every day for the next 2 months. It also allows me to see overlaps in schedules and plan accordingly. If you have more than one child, you simply can not plan. The older they get and the more they take on , the busier the days get. Knowing what is happening when helps to deal with the overwhelm.
Take a time out. I see you rolling your eyes wondering where you are supposed to get free time to take a time out. When life gets overwhelming you can’t afford not to take a time out. The school run and I have a love/hate relationship, when life is running well, I hate the school run. When it is not I love the school run because it gives me a guilt free time out. It allows me time to breath, be calm and recharge a bit. Getting up early is also a big time out for me, I don’t always work, sometimes I just enjoy my coffee in the quiet.
Lower your expectations. I think this is important in parenting overall. Your kids need dinner (most nights) but do they really need a big meal with protein, 2 veg, carbs and salad every night? Definitely not. Your home needs to be clean but a few toys lying about isn’t a reflection of your parenting. A lot of the expectations we have are those we have created for ourselves and all they do is place unnecessary pressure on us. By lowering your expectation, you remove a lot of pressure and overwhelm.
Pick your battles. When I get stressed I like to fight, with anyone and everyone. It is not particularly productive, in fact it is not productive at all. As a parent it is so important to pick the battle you want to fight with your kids. Fighting your child on every thing is exhausting and by then end of it you probably aren’t going to be getting anywhere. Your kids aren’t the only ones you need to pick your battles with. Pick your battles with your partner wisely, especially if you are extra anxious. In fact, when you are feeling overwhelmed I would probably put the white flag up and avoid conflict all together.
Eat right. This is a tough one for me but when I don’t focus on eating right I end up with low blood pressure, I crave all the wrong foods and my energy levels dip. Avoid the sugary, over-processed food that is so delicious but does nothing for our overall well being.
Fortunately these periods come and go (and then come back again) , the key is to get through them in one piece. It is also important to remember to be kind to yourself. Life happens and we can’t control it all. Be kind to yourself, sleep in, eat the chocolate, take a duvet day and try again tomorrow.