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Sometimes, I feel, an awful lot of motherhood is just about coping.
About keeping going.
And battling through that never ending to do list.
When we’re exhausted.
And beating ourselves up for the stuff we’ve definitely screwed up.
And doubting and second guessing ourself.
For everything else.
Maybe motherhood was always like this. I don’t know.
But it does feel that we’re ALL overloaded just about all of the time!
We are all trying to do too much.
And there are definitely times I feel like I’m not coping.
The to do list is just too long!
And I can’t keep going. And I’m at breaking point.
But I’m getting better – I hope! – at spotting the signs of not coping early.
And I’m learning – slowly – to say a big fat NO to things.
AND consciously to ditch stuff off my to do list.
Rather than just accidently dropping them – eeeek! – when it all feels too much.
And I have found there are some apparently small things I can ditch, that actually make a big difference to how well I feel I am coping.
1. Stuff That Drains Me
The biggest thing I’ve learned to ditch is the stuff that drains me.
But what drains me, doesn’t necessarily drain you.
We have different personalities.
And we get our energy from different things – some of us need lots of people around, some of us need intimate one to ones, some of us need quiet time alone. Some of us need physical activity. Some of us need to read a book. Some of us need to make stuff.
Personally, I need quiet time.
So when I’m struggling, the last thing I need is a big meet up with friends.
No matter how much I love those guys – and enjoy their company! – it’s draining when I’m tired.
Recognising my personality and learning to say no – when I need to – has made a big difference.
OK. So number two on my list of stuff to ditch, is the ironing.
And yes I know, it’s nicer if clothes and sheets are all fresh and crispy.
But when you’re barely sleeping, 3 hours a week is too much time to spend on a nice leg crease!
And even if you pay someone to do it, it’s crazy.
£1,500 a year. £30,000 over 20 years. Madness.
But you know what, ditching the ironing isn’t just about the hours. Or the money.
For me it was acceptance.
That I can’t do everything.
I have to let stuff to go.
Even if it means we go out a bit crumpled and wrinkly. Most days.
3. Some Of the Laundry
Whilst we’re on the subject, another thing to ditch is the laundry.
Now obviously not ALL of it!
But we all do soooo much.
And despite our fancy washing machines, spend just as much time on it as our grannies did!
‘Cos we wear everything once and chuck it in the laundry.
Rather than using technology to save time, we’ve used it to do more.
So I’ve rediscovered the lost art of sponging dodgy marks off school uniform and wearing again.
And you know what?
Just doing one or two loads less a week does make it easier to keep going.
4. Fancy Meal Planning
Now some people claim meal planning will magically transform your life.
And help you cope much better with all the demands of motherhood.
Hmmm … you know what? I’ve been there. I’ve done it.
I’m no longer convinced.
I reckon the answer is ditch the recipe books.
And get right back to basics.
Most kids love jacket potatoes rubbed in oil & salt, all crispy from the oven.
Omlettes with a few veg chucked in take five minutes.
And tomatoes on toast, mushrooms on toast, cheese on toast are all perfectly healthy and filling meals as long as you’ve got good old fashioned bakers bread in the cupboard.
The trick I reckon is just to stock the essentials. With potatoes, eggs, good bread, cheese and milk in the fridge, pasta, rice, tins of tomatoes and pulses in the cupboard plus a few essentials – like chicken and ground beef – in the freezer we can knock up healthy meals up for our kids quickly.
WITHOUT the stress of a fancy recipe OR complicated planning.
And no they won’t be glamorous, exciting, Instagram ready meals but they save time.
AND they save head space.
And head space is a pretty precious commodity when you’re a mother, isn’t it?
5. Your Kids Social Schedule
And kids social schedules are another thing these days that takes up far too much head space!
How did it get so complicated?
Oh for the times when we all just played out on the street. Out of sight of parents.
And looking out for each other.
Unfortunately, that just aint possible these days.
But one thing that does help is a park day.
You just let friends know that once a week – every Monday? – you’ll be at the park.
And anyone who turns up is welcome.
Sometimes there’ll be a crowd. Sometimes just you and the kids.
It doesn’t matter. It’s fun either way.
And the big bonus is, it lets you ditch micro-managed individual play dates.
6. New Stuff
The other brilliant thing about park days are they give kids both freedom AND routine.
And they need both don’t they?
But as mothers it’s all too easy to get obsessed with new stuff.
And tracking down the latest special fancy cultural event or sporting thing for kids.
Or going to the latest opening.
When alot of the time our kids are really happy doing the same thing over and over.
And yes, if I’m honest, that bores me some times.
But it takes much less time and mental energy to revisit well loved old haunts.
Than to be constantly chasing the latest new thing.
7. Whizzing Around
I guess the reason we all chase new stuff for our kids, is we’re scared of them missing out.
And I guess it’s also the reason we all whizz around shlepping our kids from this club to that with barely a minute to spare. Every evening. And every weekend.
But all that whizzing around plays havoc with our hormones.
We run on constant adrenalin to get from one place to another.
And our bodies aren’t designed for that. Not long term. Day in, day out.
I’ve found ditching just one or two things we have to rush to, makes a massive difference.
It may be only an hour freed up but it FEELS like much more.
Because we’re not left exhausted from ever pumping adrenalin.
8. The Gym
Which is why I also find ditching the gym – or running – actually helps.
And I know, I know, that’s controversial because exercise is important.
And exercise can help us deal with stress.
But we all seem to be in a crazy situation where we take real exercise out of our life – we drive rather than walk, we pay other people to do our physical work or use machines.
And make exercise something separate from actually living.
Turning it into yet another thing on our to do list.
To worry about. And fit in. And beat ourselves up for not doing.
I’m actually fitter since I stopped running, and freed up the time to walk everywhere.
And walking, I’ve found, is the most brilliant stress buster.
It lets you connect with your kids and the people and world around you.
And it doesn’t get you all fired up with anxiety inducing adrenalin.
9. Responding Instantly
Finally, the last thing I recommend ditching is responding instantly.
Just because technology lets us respond to everyone and everything instantly.
It doesn’t mean we have to.
It’s impossible to get anything important on our never ending to do lists done, if we’re constantly batting back e-mails and texts and social media.
Switching off for large chunks of the day – like for most of the day!! – and just taking half an hour at the end of the morning and the end of the afternoon really helps me.
And I actually find I drop less that way.
So there you go, nine simple things to ditch when you’re struggling that I’ve found really help me keep my head above water. I hope they help.
If you’re looking for more simple ways to slow down and enjoy parenting more – whether you’re working or not – do sign up for my newsletter.
And do check out this fantastic post from Katie at Pick Any Two which has some really useful thoughts on how we can all stop feeling less overwhelmed.