Victoria is a stay-at-home mom, author, educator, and blogger at Healthy at Home. She currently lives in Colorado with her family.
I understand. You are exhausted, stressed, overwhelmed, and feel like you’re on a never-ending Groundhog Day cycle. (Of course, I’m referring to the Bill Murray movie where he keeps repeating the same day over and over and he keeps screwing it up. Somehow he’s being given multiple chances to figure out his mistakes and fix them until he gets it just right.)
Unfortunately, no matter how many mistakes we make, or how many successes we feel like we’ve had, sometimes we feel stuck. So many people talk about how easy it is to be a stay-at-home parent or even a mom. Someone once told me that I had it easy. “Kids are easy to entertain.” Little do they know that not only am I not trying to just entertain them. I’m also trying to teach them manners, good social skills, healthy eating, self-confidence, good characteristics, good hygiene, and academics so they’ll be successful in life, along with simply trying to keep them (and myself) alive every day.
Don’t get me wrong, I love my children dearly. I can’t look into their little faces without being washed over with an immense wave of love and devotion to them. The amusing faces they make, the adorable sounds and words they make, and even just a realization that these wonderful little beings are my children and I am their mommy, are totally worth it.
But when they have been crying for two hours, my oldest is screaming at me, and I can’t seem to think clear enough to catch up with the dishes, the laundry, or even dinner every evening, it gets overwhelming. My two especially, I have learned, have inherited their father’s genes for sleeping. They both have night terrors, nightmares, and have difficulties with sleeping. Apparently my husband and his brothers were known for sleep walking. So even the nights aren’t peaceful and relaxing, just another round in this game we call parenting.
And to top it off, I am in the thick of potty-training my oldest boy… if you’ve ever potty trained a little boy, you are likely groaning right now. Our house reeks like pee and poop constantly. My little one is really trying hard but tends to soak everything in the bathroom with pee every time he goes, and the best is when he poops in his underwear trying to get to the toilet. Poop ends up on his hands, the floor, the walls in the bathroom, and somehow even on the walls up the staircase as he’s going for more clothes. I told you I understand.
But how do we deal with it? And more importantly, how do we not only survive it but prevent getting to this point so often?
Take Care of Yourself
If you’re feeling stressed or overwhelmed, you're not alone. Apparently, 70% of US moms say mothering is “incredibly stressful.” It’s easy to feel stress over just about everything, from financial insecurities, doubting your parenting, and high expectations for your kids’ success, to a lack of support, time famine, relationship demands, and concern for your kids’ safety. You may feel taken for granted, not appreciated, and overworked. I think this describes most mom’s I’ve ever met. It’s also very common to feel ineffective, and as though nothing you do is good enough. I’m in the middle of all that right now.
We all have our moments. You can’t be expected to stay perky and happy all of the time. It’s just not possible with all of the worries you are likely carrying around on your shoulders. At times you cave and have moments where you need more support than normal. This goes for all moms; those that stay home with their kids and those that are working outside the home. "Employed moms desperately want some time to decompress, and at-home moms may yearn for some quiet time alone," says Kathleen Kendall-Tackett, author of The Hidden Feelings of Motherhood. In her wonderful book, she talks about how to deal with the stress, depression, and burnout of being a mom.
Taking care of yourself is one of those catch phrases that absolutely drives me crazy. It’s not as easy as it sounds to get a break in a house full of little ones and pamper yourself, but I have some tips for at least taking care of yourself the best you can with the little time you have.
- Start by drinking plenty of water. Your body is fueled by water. By simply forgetting to drink enough water throughout the day, you will likely get a headache, start feeling sluggish, and begin feeling sore all over your body. Even the simplest tasks will become much more difficult. Find a bottle you can carry around that won’t spill, and keep drinking!
- Get plenty of rest. Sleeping at nighttime might be iffy, like it is around here, but that just means that you need to take advantage of it when it comes. Try laying down with your kids while they nap. You could nap yourself, play on your phone, read a book, or just sit back and try and mentally organize your life. But rest. You could even go to bed when your kids do and wake up when they do. Do everything you can to squeeze in a little extra rest whenever you can. Maybe you should treat yourself and sit down to a movie with your kids every now and then. I won’t tell anyone.
- Make time for baths and showers. I first tried showering when my husband got home from work, so I had some time alone, but it just caused more household stress and I didn’t get time alone. But for us, first thing in the morning, with my toddler in the bathtub and me in the shower, seems to work for us. My baby loves throwing toys in the bathtub and talking to his brother while I shower. Do what works best in your household. You may need to try a few different things before you find the solution.
- Eat well. If you’re like me, your kids eat most of what’s on your plate. So with the limited time you have and your kids “sharing” your meals, that just means that when you do eat, it needs to count. Leave bags of healthy snacks all around the house where you tend to sit or rest. I leave my home-dehydrated fruit on my nightstand and a bag of mixed nuts (from the bulk bins) on my computer desk. Downstairs I have homemade crackers, cheese, apples and oranges I can grab. Set yourself up for success and you’ll find yourself feeling better rather than worse.
Stop Being a Perfectionist
According to research professor Dr. Brene Brown, “Perfection is correlated with depression, anxiety, addiction, and life paralysis or missed opportunities. The fear of failing, making mistakes, not meeting people’s expectations, and being criticized keeps us outside of the arena where healthy competition and striving unfolds.”
If anyone understands this point, it’s me. This is one of my biggest weaknesses. With all of the other stressors in life, my brain simply struggles to handle a messy house, a sink full of dishes or disorganization. Not only does it make me feel out of control of my own world, but it makes me feel like I’m a failure even at being a housewife. Then top that with the kids screaming bloody murder, and it only compounds for me. By at least having a clean house, I feel like I can somehow handle some of the other stressful situations tossed my way every day.
It’s easy though to shoot too high. I also work from home, and make all of my own foods, cleaning supplies and bathing products. I think feeling a measure of control makes me feel better, but it easily backfires. Sometimes we have to learn to let go of the small things in order to remain sane and feel successful each day. Many times I have to forgo many of my projects and just have a relaxing day focusing on the kids. Many times it’s the dishes and laundry that get put to the side.
Is there anything that you can let go of today so that you can lower your stress levels, even just for the day? Remember the housework can wait. You and your kids' needs cannot.
Decide What is Most Important
When I’m feeling my worst, I try focusing on what matters the most in my household. Usually, I pick the chores that make me feel the best. I promise when mommy is the happiest, so is the rest of the household. I love cooking, so maybe I’ll bake some bread and set up some freezer meals in the meantime to make the rest of my week a little easier. My little ones and I can make some cookies together which mean time spent together and happy kids.
And think of things that you can do to feel good while you’re conquering your to-do list today. Can you put on some warm, fuzzy socks and make some hot tea to sip on? Those sure make me feel good!
Funny story, when we moved into our rental home, the house looked like it had been well used, from the scuff marks on everything to the grease all over the kitchen to the crayon and nail polish on every wall of the house. It took almost 9 months to get some paint from the property management company. Every day as we play or live in each room of the house the walls have grated on me. I cannot function in a dirty house and having gross walls that I couldn’t clean or cover up has been a huge weight on my shoulders.
Now I have this great five-gallon bucket of paint and my heart is soaring. I have put off just about everything else in my house… making bread, crackers, chips, and tortillas, doing dishes and laundry, and even craft time with the kids… just so I could make some progress on painting. And I tell you what, every swipe of paint that covers the stains on the walls and makes the house look nicer for my family, has lifted at least 50lbs off my shoulders. I feel lighter, less stressed, happier and more comfortable in my home. At the end of the day, that is what’s important, right?
I obviously can’t avoid all else in the house for painting for long, but it sure has made a huge difference in the atmosphere of the house for everyone. What’s important in your home today? What would make the biggest difference for you and your family?
Take a Moment to Soak It All in
If you’re anything like me, you mostly feel like you’re kind of free-falling through life, flailing like a maniacal bird trying desperately to catch the wind before hitting the ground. (Source) It’s easy to let yourself drown in all of the hardships you’re facing, especially when you have one or two screaming children. However when you find a moment of peace, maybe sitting at the dinner table at night, reading a book with your kids, or finally getting to take a shower by yourself for the first time this month, try to think about all that you have to be thankful for.
Truly look at your beautiful children. You had a part in creating these amazing individuals that love you unconditionally and are learning so much from you every day. What about your loving spouse that works hard providing for your family and taking care of you and your kids? I’m sure you have great friends and loving family that want to spend time with you and your kids, enriching your lives. Then there is your beautiful home and the soft, warm bed you have to crawl into at night.
There is a lot of background noise associated with maintaining your daily life. But if you really stop and look at your life a little closer, you’ll find that you have a great deal going well for you after all. You can’t be doing that badly. Isn’t that what it’s all about?
Create a Better Tomorrow for Yourself
To go with the above point of finding things to be grateful for, now you can take all of those blessings, and think about how to make your life even better. You, after all, are way more in control of your life than you might believe. If the walls are driving you crazy, make time to paint them. If dinner keeps getting further out of reach every night, start making crockpot meals in the mornings, or put together some quick freezer meals over the weekend to sustain you the rest of the week.
Focus on holding onto hope. The three components of hope include having goals, feeling empowered to shape your daily life, and identifying multiple avenues for making your goals happen. In one study, hope proved to be a strong predictor of satisfaction, leading the study’s authors to suggest that hope is a symptom of happiness. What do you hope for your family, and what goals do you have in place to get you there?
I love this quote, and even have it posted on the wall above my computer to motivate me,
“The best way to predict your future is to create it.” –Abraham Lincoln
It may help to jot down all of the things in your life that need some improvement as they come up. Then you can work on coming up with some solutions. My house has been reeking of poop and pee lately as my little boy is potty-training. It’s driving me crazy, and even worse, my husband is complaining about it, which is a real boost to my self-confidence.
So instead of just being frustrated every day, I purposed to do something about it. Now I keep a spray bottle of vinegar in there with a pack of wet wipes. My son is learning to sit down on the seat until he has more control to minimize the mess. When he’s finished, we wipe down the toilet and floor with wet wipes, and I spray the whole area with vinegar. Having painted in that room makes the walls much easier to clean now as well.
Being a mom has its ups and downs. One moment you are relishing in your wonderful kids and astounded at how bright they are, and the next you just want a break so bad you could scream. If life was just limited to your children, it would likely be much easier, but it’s not. You will always have tons of other responsibilities that creep up and rear their ugly heads, like dirty dishes and laundry, expectations from friends and family, financial duties, etc.
But that certainly doesn’t mean that you have to be perpetually overwhelmed. Even just taking a break to breathe, have a glass of tea, and write this article while my youngest sleeps and my oldest works on the computer, has already made me feel much better this morning. Take some time to take care of yourself by letting some things go and deciding what’s truly important, take a moment to soak it all in and be thankful for your life, and create a better day for yourself tomorrow. Soon you’ll see a big difference in your stress levels and mood. Good luck and stay hopeful. Tomorrow will be better.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2018 Victoria Van Ness
Victoria Van Ness (author) from Fountain, CO on November 17, 2018:
lol Because that would likely have blown all of his theories out of the water. Having a toddler screaming, running through the house and covering just about every surface in poop kind of shatters all hope of peacefulness.
Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on November 17, 2018:
This was great Victoria. Always a pleasure to read your work. I am very lucky to be older as a stay at home dad. There is almost no crisis. Boy in my early 20's with three everything was a big deal.
I just read an article about finding peacefulness. Funny he did not mention raising children ;-)
Victoria Van Ness (author) from Fountain, CO on November 12, 2018:
I guess we all hope we're not screwing our children up too bad. We want to enjoy our time with them, but know the need for structure and discipline, which sometimes seems like all of our time with them. I just hope that all of my children end up at least semi well adjusted, with positive thoughts of their childhoods, able to go on and have successful lives.
Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on November 11, 2018:
I remember many of the events while I was raising 3 boys, and sometimes it was chaos. We all make mistakes, but enjoy the time as it really goes by too quickly (a perspective of a grandmother with them in college).
I think life is a little more complex now with the access to the internet and all the things on TV you don't want your children to see. Parenting, whether you are a stay at home mom or a working mom, is stressful at times. I ended up in both roles.
Your advice is spot on for taking care of yourself. We all need some alone time, and a night or a few hours during the day out with the girls can do wonders.