Notice the way you talk to yourself when you are struggling to juggle “all the things”. Would you talk this way to a friend? Probably not.
Instead, try reminding yourself how tough it is to keep all these things on your plate. Take a few slow, deep breaths. Place a kind hand on your heart. Self-compassion can help you respond better in a crisis.
If you need some guidance, try listening to these self-compassion meditations as a way to build a self-compassion practice so you’ll have something to draw on next time a difficult moment hits.
2. Give up the Quest to do it Perfectly:
Being a busy mom means that you are not going to be able to keep the standards that you wish in all the different parts of your life. Part of lightening the load of motherhood is refusing to put unrealistic expectation on yourself.
What if the dishwasher isn’t loaded perfectly, kids clothes are jammed in drawers rather than being folded neatly or they don’t take xyz lessons this season?
Once you get used to the discomfort of “good enough”, it is quite freeing. It allows you to delegate; not just to your spouse but to your kids too. Not needing things to be done to such a high standard also helps your to set better boundaries about what you are and are not able to take on.
3. Automate and Delegate:
No doubt you’re busy as heck and feel like you are being pulled in five different directions at any given moment; planning dinner, supervising homework, driving to sports, running the bedtime routine, keeping up with cleaning and anything else that has found its way onto your plate. In the midst of this, it feels like an extra task just to ask for the help you need.
Don’t fall in the trap of just doing it yourself!
Finding ways for things to be repeatable and clearly communicated is super helpful for lightening the mental load of motherhood. Plan to do this ahead of time, not in the moment. Once everyone knows what to do, then completely turn that task over to them and take it off you plate.
I am sure you can find a million different ways to do this, but here are some things I love to help me organize, automate and delegate:
*Detailed cleaning routine from Clean Mama which is great for explaining what to do and when.
*A free app called COZI linked to the cleaning routine above. I set it up on my phone and on my older kids devices so it sends them reminders about when to do chores. I don’t have to ask again!
*Meal planing & shopping list app called Plan to Eat. It stores my recipes, makes meal plans and grocery lists.
*Free meal plans every two weeks from the Better Mom so I don’t have to think
4. Be Real With Your Close Mom Friends: Are you feeling overwhelmed? Struggling with mom rage? Being real with you close friend will help you feel less alone and validate what they are going thru too. You may even be able to find creative ways to work together or support each other.
5. Prioritize Self-Care: Self-care is a long-term strategy focused on preventing burnout. Often moms are so exhausted taking care of themselves seems to be the last thing on the list. Other times, they are just uncomfortable with prioritizing their needs and feel like a “bad mom” or guilty for leaving the “to do list” if they take time for themselves.
Look for small ways, like pouring a nice cup of tea, smelling your favourite lotion or sitting down for a few minutes to listen to music or read a book to tend to your needs. Intentionally set aside even 5-10 minutes every day to recharge and care for yourself.
The mental load of motherhood can be so exhausting and overwhelming. Especially at time of high emotion and transitions like we are in this week, as we prepare for back to school, our “mom brains” can feel especially stressed. Remember to respond to yourself with compassion when you can’t get it all done. Expect less of yourself. Proactively find some ways to delegate and automate the sharing of tasks. Cultivate a good group of mom friends to commiserate with and prioritize caring for yourself.
Sometimes motherhood can feel so overwhelming and stressful that self- help is not enough. Counselling can help you process your feelings and find more effective ways to cope. I specialize in working with moms who are feeling stressed, overwhelmed and anxious to help them learn new ways to thrive in their lives.
You would think that kids who had been shuttled around all year to various programs and activities and had been stuck mainly indoors doing school work for the last 9 months would love some downtime. But, no.
My kids beg to play video games, watch TV, get on their siblings nerves, pick fights and tattle on each other and plead to go to Chicken Little for ice cream. Daily.
This year, because your kids have already been cooped up at home for the past 4 months, your patience is worn thin. Some days it feels as though your teetering on the edge of sanity, trying not to lose your s*&t!
Life as a Mom is Tough
It’s only 8 am and already you’ve been up for hours because someone peed the bed in the early hours of the morning and you couldn’t fall back to sleep.
You haven’t had your morning coffee yet because someone else is melting down over their unicorn t-shirt being in the wash. To make matters worse, you’ve run out of milk for your cereal.
You had hoped to get some exercise in this morning, but your plans have been derailed. You are tired and keeping it together when you’ve got a million balls to juggle can feel practically impossible.
Mom stress is real!
The Impact of Mom Stress
You might be familiar with the horrible feeling that floods your body in moments of high stress; like when your kids are melting down and you’re trying to get them out the door.
Maybe you hear your voice change-my kids joke that they know that I am about to lose it when I start using proper grammar and big words as I internally struggle not to come unglued.
And, if you don’t catch yourself, words will come rushing out like toothpaste out of a tube; impossible to put back.
Mom meltdowns leave you feeling terrible about how you’ve handled the situation.
As crappy as the situation was, your behaviour has left you feeling much worse.
Why is it so hard to keep my cool when I’m stressed?
Dear frustrated and stressed mom, I want you to know that this reaction is not because you are a terrible person. Or because you are any more flawed than the rest of us.
Making sense of this reaction by understanding how your brain and body work can help you to stop beating yourself up (you are human, after all) and have hope that you can learn to handle things in new ways.
Here is a brief explanation; Our brains and nervous systems respond with a stress response which is sometimes called fight/flight/freeze when we are experiencing a ‘threat’.
You might be surprised to learn that our brains don’t have a separate pathway to handle the emotional ‘threat’ of mom chaos compared to the physical ‘threat’ of a car speeding towards you.
Either way, when your nervous system becomes aware, consciously or unconsciously, that something bad is going down, or at least might be, your amygdala sends a signal that activates your sympathetic nervous system and your body gets flooded with adrenaline and cortisol.
Physiologically, you are primed to dart out of the way of that speeding car, but the reality is you need to keep your cool while you wipe up a full glass of milk that has been spilled all over the table and is dripping down onto the floor, when you are already 5 minutes late to get out the door.
Now, your body that was already experiencing a stress response because you were running late, has just gotten all jacked up again with a fresh flood of stress hormones after the milk spilled.
All that energy has to go somewhere…..and if you don’t get a hold of yourself so you just might come unhinged.
How do I Stop Losing It so Often?
One of the best ways to have a chance at getting a grip on yourself in those chaotic scenes, is to start recognizing your triggers and addressing them pro-actively.
What are triggers?
Carla Naumburg, a clinical social worker and author of one of my new favourite books How to Stop Losing Your s*&it with Your Kids defines triggers as “anything that makes it more likely that you’re going to lose your shit with your kids.” These can include stress, insecurities, big feelings, or distractions.
She states that some of the most common triggers are;
-Chronic exhaustion -Anxiety -Multitasking -Smartphones and social media -Major life changes
Identifying and figuring out how to deal with your triggers is critical to getting a hold of yourself, so that you don’t flip out on your kids.
I challenge you this week to make a list of your triggers and what you can do to address each one.
I’ll share some of mine…..
A messy house – how can families with kids have a tidy house? It’s never going to happen! Remind myself to take a deep breath, ask for help from the kids and chill out if a cushion is out of place or there’s socks on the floor.
Lack of quiet time – I try to have a nice hot bubble bath or even a long hot shower every day with no kids around and if I’m really lucky even take a book to read in the bath! Finding quiet time even 5 minutes alone a day is key to sanity.
An overbooked life – Just say no! If I have too much going on, I try to reprioritize and let things go.
Mealtimes – meal planning at the start of every week for the week.
Noise – all houses with kids must be noisy, right? If the kids reach the point that they are getting louder than I can manage, go do ‘quiet activities’ with them or go outside with them.
Disorganization- write things down, keep a diary or daily journal so I know when and where I need to be. Leave extra time before and after because kids can drag their feet and take an age to do anything.
Here is a journaling page for you to help you start looking at your mom stress by giving you a place to record some of your triggers and possible solutions.
Come back for part two of this blog series and I’ll give you some practical, in-the-moment things you can do to get a grip when you are about to lose it.
After all, there is no way to avoid the nervous system response to a ‘threat’, but you can learn to handle it differently.
Having a child is incredible – it also comes with mood swings and psychological changes
If you’re a new mother who has been experiencing low self-esteem, you’re not alone. A group of researchers recently took a look at why new moms and low self-esteem are common, along with dissatisfaction with their romantic relationships.
Analyzing data from over 80,000 Norwegian mothers, the researchers uncovered some significant patterns that represented how pregnancy and motherhood changes a woman’s attitude about herself and her partner.
The Self-Esteem Roller Coaster Ride
The study found that women’s self-esteem comes and goes. During pregnancy, a woman may experience a dip in her self-esteem. However, once the baby is born, her self-esteem begins to rise again. But only for a short time, then it dips again, only this time the dip is more gradual but prolonged.
Relationships Take a Hit as Well
New mothers don’t seem to be excited by their romantic relationships either! The researchers found that during pregnancy, first-time mothers tend to be very satisfied with their romantic relationships. However, once the baby is born, these same mothers experience a gradual decline in relationship satisfaction over the next few years.
The pattern is fairly similar for mothers having their second, third or fourth child. Though a bit less pronounced than new mothers, experienced moms gradually become less and less satisfied with their relationships once the baby is born.
The biggest takeaway from the study is that self-esteem and relationship satisfaction are definitely linked. While the researchers did not uncover exact mechanisms for these mental health changes, we can safely surmise a fluctuation in hormones and a big lack of quality sleep most likely contribute.
Having said that, motherhood is hard enough without having to battle low self-esteem and relationship dissatisfaction. Here are some things you can do:
Have Realistic Expectations
New mothers have an idea of what motherhood will be like, Sadly, they’ve gotten this idea from Hollywood and Madison Avenue. The reality is, motherhood is not one big bouquet of flowers. In fact, at the very beginning, all you may really notice are the big, prickly thorns. Later, once the baby sleeps through the night and stops waking you every two hours, you may notice how lovely the roses smell.
All of this is to say you have got to have realistic expectations. Breastfeeding may not come naturally to you – and that’s okay. You may not like your baby at first – and that’s okay. You may not feel like you know what you’re doing most of the time – and that’s okay. In fact, all of these things are perfectly normal.
Setting unrealistic expectations for yourself as a mother will only cause your self-esteem to take a nosedive. Don’t try and be the perfect mother, they don’t exist (sorry Mom). Just try and do your best and enjoy the experience as best you can.
Don’t Compare Yourself to Other Mothers
Nothing pokes at our self-esteem quite like unfair comparisons. If you’re a brand-spanking-new mother, it is hardly fair to compare yourself to someone who’s been doing it awhile. So what if your sister, who’s on her third child, makes motherhood seem like a breeze AND bakes her own scones? She’s had time to practice, you haven’t.
While it’s fine to seek advice from other moms, never make comparisons or you’ll just set yourself up to feel badly about your own mothering abilities.
Consider Couples Counseling
If your relationship has taken a hit, it’s important that you and your partner try and reconnect. This is sometimes easier said than done, which is why seeking the guidance of a therapist is often the best way to heal the relationship.
A therapist can help the two of you communicate respectfully and effectively, something that’s not always easy when you’re both averaging 3 hours of sleep per night!
If you are interested in exploring treatment options, please get in touch with me. I would be happy to discuss how I may be able to help.
Life as a mom has always been busy, a bit chaotic and full of challenges, but now it feels like you are trapped on a hamster wheel, one day rolling into the next and you have a sense of restlessness you just can’t shake.
You feel guilty for giving your kids so much screen time, but you you still need to work, get things done around the house and have some time for yourself.
None of the things you ordinarily do with the kids are relevant; no school, programs, playgrounds or playdates.
You can’t even escape to Starbucks to be alone and get stuff done. It’s hard to feel at your most creative when you’re in survival mode with no end in site.
Take a look at these 10 ideas to to see which ones might work in your house to help keep your kids busy and create better flow to your day while you’re parenting kids through the COVID pandemic.
These suggestions are most applicable to kids elementary age and older
10 INDEPENDENT ACTIVITIES FOR KIDS WHEN MOM NEEDS A BREAK
#10 Map out their day (and yours too)
Giving your kids a sense of structure and predictability. Keeping relatively consistent wake and sleep rhythms and flow to your day will make things go more smoothly.
You can find all kinds of chore charts and daily routine charts on the internet. You can find ones with pictures for kids who can’t read…..pretty, colour co-ordinate charts and more basic ones too. In our house, sticky notes are king. My kids know what to expect for the day by reading a few words I’ve scribbled on a sticky note and then discussed with them.
Make sure they are prepare them for moments in the day where you will be busy and unable to play with them. Maybe you will be doing a special craft or activity later in the day or going for a walk to get fresh air. Help them know what to expect.
One thing that has really helped set an independent morning and nighttime routines with my younger kids is using Chompers. The kids are (almost) always more eager to brush their teeth and find out what is going on in the latest episode, and I’m pretty confident they’ve brushed for more than 10 seconds.
#9 Get them Moving
Before settling in to do work or to take some time for yourself, experiment with having them burn of some of their energy first.
It’s great if you can take them for a walk in your neighbourhood (keeping your distance of course!), get them to play in the yard or go for a bike ride.
But if your going to parent effectively through this COVID pandemic, need some time alone right now, try some of these YouTube videos to get them movingnparenting kids through the COVID pandemic.
It seems like everyone knows about Joe Wicks and his fantastic daily workouts
In our house, Adriene is a hit!
She has the most encouraging and engaging way about her in this yoga video with kids. If you haven’t check out her free yoga videos for adults, you definitely need to do that too.
Maybe they just need to “get their beans out” and practice some dance moves for a few minute.
#8 Get Artistic
I am not musical, artistic or crafty, but my younger kids definitely are. I struggle to come up with creative ideas for crafts and definitely can’t drawn anything fancier then a stick person!
Having another adult lead your kid through an activity can free you up, even for a short block of time, so you can get something productive done.
I’ve been amazed by the creations my kids have made while following Rob through art videos. Art for Kids Hub has both free and paid versions.
Creating a Masterpiece is a bit of an investment financially ($20 USD/month + supplies) but the results are amazing. It is like having a talented artist come to your home and is especially great for older elementary aged + who like art.
If your kids are younger this will require supervision, but older kids could definitely do this alone with the video. If you don’t have the supplies on hand for painting, Amazon should carry what you need.
If you have a piano at home, why not have your kids lean how to play with the extra time they might have available to them now. Mr. Hoffman is a funny and engaging teacher, even for younger children.
You can have some time to yourself while they learn a new skill. Bonus!
There are both paid and free options.
#7 Get Them Learning A New Language
Rosetta Stone is great for students Primary-12 (free for 3 months)
Maybe they need some practice with reading, but if you can’t sit with them, Reading Eggs is great fun!
Outschool is a live video learning platform where kids can explore 10,000+ classes taught by a live teacher.
Virtual School Day is a super cool platform where classes are led by celebrities like Mayim Bialik, Aly Raisman, Julianne Hough, and Leland Melvin.
Challenge your kids to learn something new while you go and prep supper, do some work or have a few minutes of time to yourself and then ask them to explain to you what they have learned. Maybe you’ll learn something new too!
#5 Have them listen to an audio book
Reading together can be so much fun, but if you need to get some work done, maybe a loved on can read a book over Skype or FaceTime to your kids while you are in a meeting.
Or you can set them up with an audio book and get busy!
Librivox has a free ‘classics’ that are now in the public domain. We’ve been reading The Railway Children this week
#4 Get them into Podcasts
I love listening to podcasts, but I had never considered looking for podcasts for my kids before this past summer. I guess it never occurred to me that they were being created for kids too! Once I figured that out, they’ve since become a regular part of our day.
Podcasts are great to listen to while kids are colouring, doing puzzles or lego or having some quiet time in their room so you can get some alone time.
The Dallas Zoo has a ton of educational ‘Bring the Zoo to You’ videos. We learned a ton of new facts!
And the Denver Zoo has some great Zoo tours
#2 Free Play
Kids can do crafts, read books, do puzzles, colouring or lego independently. They can handwrite a letter to Grandma. If you have more than one child they can play boardgames together.
If you have a porch or deck, you can sit outside and keep an eye on younger kids while working and they play in your driveway or yard.
Younger kids may be able to keep themselves occupied for only short periods of time without a screen. You can help them develop this skill by giving them a specific task to do and working nearby to help keep them on track. As they build this skill they will be able to keep themselves busy for longer stretches of time.
#1 Let them have screen time….with looser limits
It is so challenging it is to work from home, maintain the day to day logistics of running a house, ensure your kids are learning something for school and not driving eachother nuts! Breaking up the day with a few blocks of their favourite video game or TV show is absolutely OK. Limits are necessary, but being more flexible with the amount of screen time the get is necessary parenting ‘tool’ to get through the COVID pandemic!
Go easy on yourself if you feel you need to temporarily give your kids more screen time for the short term. It’s important to contiue caring for yourself and attending to your responsabilities. If that means they watch one more show or spend a few more minutes playing a video game today, it’s ok. Hang in there! ‘Pandemic parenting’ is tough.
March Break is just around the corner, which we know means added stress, expense, and energy being expended – something we as women have in short supply already. But add in excited kids without their normal structure, the pressure and envy we feel over the perfect family trip everyone else seems to be taking, and our own responsibilities that necessitate staying home over spring break and it feels like we are losing before spring break has even begun.
Often times we think we need something grand to make March break special, but that is simply untrue. The biggest detriment to having the best spring break ever is the baggage we carry with us – we already struggle to balance all of the things in a routine week; it all threatens to self-destruct when the routine is thrown upside down and social pressure makes us think we need to do more.
Rather than allowing social pressures, an internalized sense of failure, or even simple miscommunication with your kids to cause dread over spring break before it has even begun here are ten tips to help you take back the control and have the best March break ever.
A little planning and a lot of being intentional can make an at-home March break extraordinary – and maybe even your best spring break ever without adding to your own stress.
10 tips to have the best March Break ever
1. My best tip ever for creating something special for the kids is to ask them what they want Find out directly from them what spring break means to them and the ideas they hold dear. Often times we as moms are bummed out because we can’t do a Disney trip over March break, while what our kids really want is to eat ice cream for breakfast or to have you play a few rounds of Mario Kart with them.
Note: If your child brings up something they want to do but you can’t make happen, that’s ok! Tell them their idea sounds like a lot of fun and, as best you can to their age, explain why it can’t happen right now and redirect their brainstorming to more realistic ideas.
2. Make a list of your responsibilities during spring break Whether it’s continual care of an elderly loved one, or a demanding work schedule, or the running of a household, make a list of everything that you need to take care of during March break. Once you have your list assess it honestly – is it all necessary? Is it important enough to be dealt with this week or can it move into another week? Knowing what needs to stay – and what can go! – will free your mind up mentally when you have the kids home during March break. They don’t need you every moment, but the moments they do have you – let them have all of you! And you’ll rest easy knowing you planned for this time with them.
3. Simplify as much as you can This is definitely piggy backing on number two, but it can’t be emphasized enough – if you want to enjoy your children during spring break your life needs to be simplified. Whatever your normal arrangements are – homeschooling, co-op, or traditional day school, your children’s schedule is going to be vastly different during their spring break and yours should lighten up, too, in order to relax and enjoy this time. Write down your commitments and let go of the mental guilt for what you are letting slide for the week.
4. Hire help for the week or trade hours with another mom Considering hiring help for tasks you need done this week – have a big work commitment you must do but are fighting the guilt of putting the kids in front of the tv? Hire an energetic teen to play with your kids and let go of the guilt knowing your kids are having the time of their life! Or perhaps hiring a house cleaner for the week before would give you greater peace of mind. Think through and consider if paying for a service would enhance your spring break experience with your children. Alternatively, there’s likely a mom in your community in a similar situation to you and you could arrange a trade off of watching each other’s children while the other has a few hours to herself.
5. Scope out some free fun things to do for inexpensive ways to get out of the house Some of the fun things we know are happening can be found here:
6.Make up a fun tradition to do with your children every day of March break You might feel overwhelmed and maxed out, but March break is only five week days long. Five days. You can do anything for five days! Why not add a fun ritual for those five days? It can be something silly like eating breakfast under the table every morning, or maybe hot chocolate with a different board game every day. Pick something simple that you can sustain every day of spring break, and yet something that it is a little out of the ordinary and will just tickle the heart of your child(ren) and make your heart smile, too.
7. Try different foods each day Our family has a tradition of buying a new food item from the grocery store every week and it has been SO much fun to expand our world through food. I would highly recommend you find your own way of making this work for your family. One fun way to adopt this during March break would be to try a different ethnic food each day. You could buy pho from a Vietnamese restaurant for supper one night, and the next day try Tamales from a Mexican restaurant for a snack. If that is a little too adventurous for your family, try a different flavour of potato chips or ice cream each day.
8. Binge watch a show WITH the kids Maybe you can watch some favourites from when you were a kid and stir up some nostalgia. Or ask them what show they’d like to watch with you…and really engage in it with them. Or plan a family movie night wth great snacks. These are some of my kids’ best memories.
9. Head to Micheals or the Dollarama and buy fresh supplies for current interests or hobbies
Everyone loves new pencils, notebooks, colouring books or paints – you know what your child is into and loves. Help feed their interest and breath new life into their hobbies with fresh supplies to use during their school break.
10. Create a reading basket.
Nurturing a habit of reading is really important in our home, and keeping cozy blankets and baskets of interesting books near couches and chairs encourages the kids to grab a book and flip through it.
Approach March Break with the flexibility life demands but also with the intention of fostering a beautiful and fun week with your kids. It doesn’t have to be perfect to be the best March break ever.
How many parents have said at one point or another, “I wish my child would have come with a users’ manual,”? Nearly every single one.
Nothing can really prepare us for parenthood. No class, no advice, and no user manual can give us the tools we require for raising happy and healthy kids. The truth is, to be good parents requires us to be conscious parents.
Mindfulness – It’s Not Just for Meditation
Your 8-year-old runs in from the backyard, excited to tell you about the frog he just found in a puddle. Before you even recognize his joy and desire to share that joy with you, you yell because of the mud he just tracked into the house.
Was this reaction really warranted? Were you reacting just to the mud on the floor (which can be cleaned), or do you have a need to control everything in your environment at all times? And does this need stem from your own childhood wounds?
Often parents react to their children subconsciously. That is, they have a knee-jerk reaction to something their child says or does. This reaction may stem from an event that occurred in their own childhood and, without realizing it, they are having a profound reaction to it instead of to their child’s current behavior. Conscious parenting requires mindfulness, and mindfulness requires a parent to be fully present in the moment. Bringing our full awareness into the ‘now’ can help us recognize the meaning and truth in each moment and make better, healthier decisions.
Mindful parents are less likely to have automatic, unexamined reactions to their children’s behavior. Staying present also means parents are less likely to “pop back” into their own childhood traumas and wounds.
Getting Started with Conscious Parenting
Conscious parenting is easier than it sounds. To start, you’ve got to slow down so you recognize when you are reacting to a present moment authentically and when you are reacting to your own past moment.
And speaking of slowing down, try and take a three-second pause before reacting to anything your kid does. This small space will allow you to check yourself. Does the reaction you were about to have match the actual situation? If not, what WERE you reacting to?
And finally, forgive yourself for any past parenting errors. We all do the best we can do. As Maya Angelou once said, “When you know better, you do better.”
Speaking with a therapist may help you discover old wounds and programming you are parenting from. If you’d like to explore treatment options, please be in touch. I would be very happy to discuss how I may be able to help.