In the rising panic of all the stuff you know you’ve dropped.
Plus all the stuff you’re sure you forgot you were meant to do.
You’re beyond tired. But can’t sleep.
You’ve hit a whole new scale of irritable. Exploding at the tiniest thing.
You’re anxious – oh so anxious – about a list as long as your arm.
And it feels like there’s a drill slowly, painfully piercing its way through your brain.
You’re not alone!
This IS motherhood in the 21st Century.
Whether we’re working or not. In an office or at home.
We’re ALL living with overload.
And it’s grinding us down.
Pushing many wonderful, talented, hard working women over the edge.
And leaving the rest of us hanging on – literally – by our fingernails. But deeply miserable.
Was this really what feminism was about? The right to be utterly exhausted?
Is that really the future we want for our daughters?
And if not. How can we fight back against the overload?
Well I certainly don’t have all the answers.
BUT having coming back from cracking point whilst trying to juggle family life and work – ironically in what was supposed to be a mum friendly business! – this is my heartfelt advice.
I really passionately hope that it helps you unload.
And rediscover the joy of motherhood. And of work. And of just being you.
Please do share your thoughts and let me know what you think.
1. Cherish Sleep
I read something recently claiming “succesful mothers” get up at 4am!
Let’s not even go there unpicking what they meant by successful mothers.
Just NO NO NO! We need sleep. Lots of it.
Staying up an extra hour. Or two. Or three. Getting up at 5am.
To work. To juggle stuff.
It will NOT conquer the overload. It WILL make things worse.
Our bodies go into survival mode when we don’t get enough sleep.
And release stress hormones.
The best legacy we can give our daughters is to see us cherishing sleep – enjoying a nap, going to bed early, resting in bed with a book not frantically tapping at our screens.
Because a little bit of stress is good.
But the long term unrelenting stress of motherhood overload is not.
2. Spotting Our Signs Of Stress
These days, we kind of think we know how someone behaves when they’re stressed.
But actually stress comes in all sorts of disguises.
Some of us become manically busy. We “cope” with overload by doing even more.
Some of us become hyper focused on one thing. At the expense of all else.
Some of us talk excessively. Sharing everything with out limits.
Some of us shutdown. And don’t communicate at all.
Some of us become addicted to repetitive behaviour whether social media or food or gambling.
And with these disguises stress is sneaky.
Because it lets us keep on going and keep on going and keep on going.
It lets us cope.
Even when we are totally overloaded.
Until BAM! Breaking point. We crumple. We get sick.
And in the worst case we break down.
Because so much of our coping behaviour is actually self-destructive.
From my own personal experience, learning to spot destructive coping signs early is key.
They are the warning sign that we need to unload. That we need to stop.
That we need to change something.
3. Stop With The Busy Busy
But how can we stop? There’s just so much to do.
Well, yes there is.
There’s washing and work and meals and e-mails.
And a long long list of never ending stuff stretching from here to infinity.
But how much is genuinely important to our families? Or our work? Or to us?
And how much is noise?
And how much is just the manic busy busy of an over stressed society?
Being busy – for its own sake – is nothing new.
Socrates nailed it back in ancient Greece. And Jane Austen had its number.
But it does seem to have got worse. We daren’t stop. We daren’t do nothing.
And in the overload of motherhood we are petrified of dropping anything.
And it doesn’t really help to say as long as we pay the bills, put food on the table, do some basic washing and let our kids know we love them lots, we’ll survive. Although, we will.
But as women – as mothers – we need to watch out for the busy, busy.
And gently, every day, every week, say no to stuff. And drop things.
So we have time to find out what really matters to us.
Because that is really hard in an always on world that insists everything is urgent!
4. Urgent? Really?
Email. Texts. Mobile. Voicemail. Facebook. Whats App. Hangouts.
About every single aspect of our life, at work and home!
Jeez!! If Socrates and Jane Austen, thought all the busy, busy was hard going, what on earth would they make of today?
The insistent urgency of the modern world is relentless.
And we humans are NOT designed for the onslaught.
So don’t beat yourself up, if it all just makes you want to hide.
Remember the old adage the urgent is the enemy of the important.
And make a stand. Do communication your way.
Less of it. Only send that message if it’s important.
And respond slowly. At certain times of the day.
5. Keep Shop Hours
Because if we are on the whole time – if we can always be reached for a supposedly urgent response – our brains never rest.
They are always alert for incoming unknown.
And guess what – when we’re always alert like that – our bodies release stress hormones!
Yep, our old friend the stress hormones that trigger self-destructive behaviour.
So despite all the supposed wonders of flexitime for working mothers, it’s actually really important we keep shop hours.
Which means leaving the phone at home, at times.
Not being available on hangouts and Whats App the whole time.
Either when we’re working or with out kids.
Or heaven forbid relaxing on our own!
It means not being contactable after a certain time at night.
Not checking email the minute we get up.
And yes that’s hard to do proactively and positively but it’s massively important to us mothers.
As women we really need boundaries to our expectations of ourselves.
Because lurking in almost all of us is little Miss Goodie Two Shoes.
And she, I’m starting to think, is our worst enemy of all!
6. Goodbye Goodie Two Shoes
It’s the little Miss Goodie Two Shoes in all of us – our inner Hermione – who sits down with her lovely neat list. And says tickety, tick, tick, tick, tick look at me ticking off my list.
Send 10 emails. Tick. Colour code calendar. Tick.
Book up playdates for the whole office sometime in the next millenium. Tick.
Aren’t I a good little Miss Goodie Two Shoes?
Well, yes. But it would be so much more helpful for the overload of motherhood, if you could manage a vanishing spell on the whole list so we could all go and hang out with Hagrid instead!
And the thing is, Hermione could. She has that vanishing spell in her.
But she’s been rewarded – told she’s a good girl – from her first days at school for being neat and organised and doing things when they’re meant to be done and ticking them off. Tick, tick.
So she – we – all think, deep down, if we just write that list, and work really hard, and tick it all off, we can crack this motherhood malarky.
Before it cracks us. But we can’t.
Because we’re right back where we started … if we just work that little bit harder, it will be OK.
If we stay up late. If we get up early. If we just stick to the list. We’ll get it all done.
We won’t! However hard we work, it will NEVER be enough.
In fact, the secret – I suspect – to successful motherhood is to learn to be lazy.
And that doesn’t mean – despite what we’re told – to delegate.
7. Don’t Delegate, Ditch
Because – uncomfortable truth to tell – rich mothers paying other mothers to clean up after them and care for their kids is not a historic victory for feminism and the sisterhood.
It’s what rich women have done throughout time.
And I’m sorry sister, but it’s naff all use as advice if you’re a teacher or a nurse or a carer.
Or most mothers everywhere.
It doesn’t challenge all the busy stuff with which we’ve crammed, work and parenting and living.
And in fact most of the mothers I know lucky enough to pay for help are still overloaded.
They’re still drowning.
Because it’s only when we ditch “the quick succession of busy nothings” – as the wonderful Jane Austen described it – that we can actually free ourselves from the overload of motherhood.
And enjoy living again.
It’s not easy. But it’s worth it.
And I have found there are simple ways, little by little in which we can ditch the busy busy.
I’ll be sharing some of them every week so do sign up for my newsletter to hear more.
And please do share your experiences – are you struggling with the motherhood overload?
Do you feel like you’re drowning in urgent stuff?
What have you managed to ditch?
I would love to hear from you.