You feel like you’re drowning 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 – too much of the time – 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 all our hard work and ideals 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.
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Simple Self Care Rules For Mothers
1. Cherish Sleep
I read something recently claiming “successful 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 and whilst a little bit of stress is good, the long term unrelenting stress of motherhood overload is not.
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.
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 and “cope” with overload by doing even more.
Some of us become hyper focused on one thing at the expense of everything 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 and 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 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.
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. But, we will.
And as women – as mothers – we need to watch out for the “busy, busy” trap 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 and what we really value and what really makes us happy because that is near impossible in an always on world that insists everything is urgent!
4. Urgent? Really?
We are bombarded everyday by email, texts, mobile, voicemail and messages about every single aspect of our life, at work and home!
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.
And do less of it.
Only send that message if it’s important and respond slowly at certain times of the day.
5. Keep Shop Hours
Keeping “shop hours” as much as we possibly is critical to our well being because if we are on the whole time – if we can always be reached for a supposedly urgent response – our brains never rest and are always alert for incoming unknowns.
And when we’re always alert like that our bodies release our old friend the stress hormones that trigger all that horrible self-destructive behaviour we’re so good at.
So despite all the supposed wonders of flexitime for working mothers, it’s actually really important we keep shop hours.
That means leaving the phone at home, at times and not being available on 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 and 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 millennium. 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 womankind.
It’s what rich women have done throughout time.
And I’m sorry, but it’s stuff all use as advice if you’re a teacher or a nurse or a carer or most mothers everywhere who can’t afford to pay someone else to do mothering for them!!
Delegating also doesn’t challenge all the busy stuff with which we’ve crammed, work and parenting and living, so in fact most of the mothers I know lucky enough to pay for help are still overloaded.
And are 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 and reclaim our lives for our families and ourselves.
For little changes that make a big difference read these …
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Original image: Rawpixel, Mommy & Milly
This answers my deepest question and strenghtens me in the need to want to simply and slow down.
I am so so happy it helped Mirjam, it really means a lot to me. I am not totally sure how – yet! – but we do all find a way to do less, don’t we?
Today was a really bad day, and this truly has given me hope to make this weekend full of love and relaxing time with all the boys. Thank you for taking your time to make such an heartfelt post.
I am so glad it helped in some way. Have a wonderful weekend x
I know it’s a few years old and not sure if this will be read. But thank you so much for writing this! Has really given me food for thought, I just want to spend more time with my babies and I hope this will help me.
Thank you so much for leaving a comment Charlotte, I really do cherish the feedback on this post because it was absolutely from the heart and the comments are always a helpful prompt for me to go back and read those thoughts again and remind myself not to get caught in that prison of endlessly being busy.