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The Overwhelmed Mom: A Parent’s Juggling Act

Overwhelmed Mom - a woman sits on the floor with her face buried in a pile of laundry looking overwhelmed.

Written by Lisa Ellen Bean

Lisa is a co-founder at Empowered 4 Growth, an ICF certified coach and a mom to two boys aged 10 and 8. She blogs to share her journey of learning about raising strong, resilient, and confident children in the 21st century. You can reach Lisa by email at lisa@empowered4growth.com.

December 8, 2020

I don’t know that I’ve ever hit writer’s block quite like this before. I love to write, and words usually pour out of me quite easily — from fingers, to keyboard, to screen.

But, there is something about this topic — how the overwhelmed mom is juggling all the things that she needs to do — that had me stumped, and I think I’ve figured out why…

The writing formula — present problem, provide solution — doesn’t work! There is just not a one-size fits all answer to the constant juggling act of an overwhelmed mom.

Every Mom (or parent) is unique.

Every family is unique.

Every situation is unique.

And, therefore, every solution MUST be unique.

The solution has to work for you, and you alone. Forget the external judgement that you’re not doing it right, and particularly forget the internal judgement that you could be doing it better.

I’m not here to get caught up in whether there is such a thing as work-life balance, or if women can or cannot really have it all. That is just semantics.

We each have the same 24 hours in a day, but we each have different priorities and different sized slices of the proverbial pie.

The Overwhelmed Mom Effect

Have you heard of the boiling frog effect? The story goes that if you put a live frog into a cold pot of water and then slowly increase the temperature of the water to a boil, the frog will not notice, and not jump out to save its life. It’s not that hard to see the correlation between the boiling frog and the overwhelmed mom, is it?!

Feelings of overwhelm and being out-of-balance follow the same ‘boiling frog’ effect. Overwhelmed MomSlowly we get more and more overwhelmed and spend less and less time on self-care, or other items that may be important, but certainly aren’t urgent.

We tend to wait for it to get really, really bad before we make a change to improve the situation. And, when it gets really bad, we see the effects: health consequences, tempers flare, and/or relationships suffer.

Be kind to yourself. Check-in on how close you are to hitting the wall regularly, by asking yourself:

  • Is this pace, or load of responsibilities, sustainable for the long run?
  • Am I happy and satisfied with what life looks like right now?

If your answers are less than you would like them to be then read on. I will take you through a few self-coaching exercises to help you gain clarity on designing a unique plan for a unique you.

What are your Categories?

If you look at the big buckets of activities that draw your attention and your time, what are they?

Whenever I’m feeling pulled off-kilter, I start creating a list. It’s helpful to be able to see everything on one page so that I can begin to get my arms around the problem.

Start by listing all the categories of things that you have to do. Keep them fairly broad so that you end up with a list of a dozen items or less, rather than the hundreds you could potentially break it down to.

My list includes:

  • Empowered 4 Growth business
  • A business coaching contract I spend several hours a week on
  • Managing the household
  • Kids’ schooling
  • Relationship with my husband
  • Self-care
  • Family time
  • Personal development

Once you know the categories, take some time to think about each of them. Rate each category on a scale of 1 out of 10 based on how well you think you are currently doing. For each category assess your positive and negative feelings for what you have accomplished or what you haven’t been able to accomplish. Are you feeling the familiar “mom-guilt” rear its head in one or more of the categories?

Getting things back under control has to be a two-pronged approach — we need to look at the logical aspects of the problem, but also at the emotional and mindset aspects that may exist.

What is important to you?

Now that you have your categories all in front of you, it’s time to determine what matters to you. It’s so easy to get pulled in the direction of what our society and culture thinks is most important, but this is a time to step back from that and determine what matters to you.

In my coaching, I often see people who have been so wrapped up for half their lives, or more, in what they are supposed to do. They’ve forgotten how to figure out what they really want for themselves. They are disconnected from their own hopes and dreams, and life’s satisfaction.

The only way to regain this ability is to clear some space for quietness, reflection, and dreaming. Sometimes it can take a bit of time to remember how to do this.

Carve out a bit of time each day for yourself. Being alone is best, although you may also choose to engage with a professional coach who can help guide you through a set of activities and reflection exercises to unlock what is truly important to you.

Otherwise, going for walks on your own, daydreaming, meditation, or creating a vision board are all excellent ways to get back in touch with who you are and your priorities.

Here are a couple of questions to ask yourself:

  • What does your ideal life look like in 3-years’ time? Have your description include as much detail as possible.
  • What does the perfect day look like for you?
  • What does the perfect week look like for you?
  • What sort of relationships do you have around you?
  • Go through your categories one by one and visualize what you want this part of your life to look like in the near future? If the category has disappeared or if new ones have been created, that’s ok!
  • What are you going to regret not doing in 10 years?

Put it all Together and Drop the Guilt

By now, you’ve evaluated the current situation, and done a lot of thinking about what’s important to you and your ideal future state.

What will it take to get there? There are actions that are going to surface that will help you move toward the right future state for you. What should you stop doing? What should you start doing? What should you continue doing?

As you move forward, feel confident that you have created a plan that works for you, in your unique situation, and for your unique priorities.

Others will offer well-intentioned opinions. Be aware that this may create feelings of doubt, indecision, and guilt. If you find yourself feeling guilty about making choices that are right for you, try finding a way to capture your personal ‘why’ as a way to remind yourself of the reasons for your unique path and decisions. Write it out as a manifesto, create a picture, design a vision board, or have a mantra that you repeat regularly.

You can also ask a supportive friend, or work with a personal coach; someone that will hold you accountable and support your decisions without necessarily providing their own opinions. Having someone remind you that the feelings of guilt and indecision are not helpful can go a long way.

Overwhelmed Mom or Real Self-Care – You Choose!

Oh — the elusive self-care. When I say self-care here, I don’t mean regular manicures and pedicures. I’m not even referring to regular exercise or healthy eating. All of those are important and I hope they have made their way into one of your categories above, however…

… what I really mean by self-care here is taking the time to check-in with yourself, to think, and to ensure that you are creating a plan for a life that will bring you satisfaction and happiness.

Overwhelmed Mom

In business coaching we often use the phrase ‘taking time to work on your business, not in your business’… it doesn’t have the same ring to it when I replace business with life. So, let me say this: take the time to create an intentional life for yourself. A life where your intentional choices bring you and your loved ones happiness, joy, and love. Whatever that might mean for you!

I believe it’s as black and white of a choice as you can get – either you make time for self-care, or you live with all the negatives of being unintentional about your life and an overwhelmed mom.

 

As parents we lead by example. Our kids watch what we do, the choices we make and how we live our lives. They get far more learning from watching us than they do from any aspect of formal education.

At Empowered 4 Growth it is important to us to help encourage this leading and learning by example, so we are creating programs, like our Empowered Leader program, to support parents with this in mind.

If you are craving a life of intention and want to work further on the issues and exercises raised in this blog post I invite you to schedule a complimentary initial coaching session to help you get started on your plan. In this coaching session, you will begin to gain clarity on what’s important to you, and some next actions to get you started.

Now it is your turn: Are you an overwhelmed mom? What does your life of intention include? Let us know in the comments below.

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