How I learned to give myself a little bit of grace as an overwhelmed stay-at-home mom and how you can, too.
The laundry’s piling up.
Dirty dishes in the sink.
Crumbs on the floor.
I forgot to thaw the chicken in the freezer for dinner tonight, and now it’s almost 4:30 pm and have no clue what to cook.
I’ve been spinning my wheels all day and have almost nothing to show for it.
I fed three hungry kids, wiped sticky fingers, broke up arguments, nursed the baby, kissed boo-boos, changed dirty diapers, picked up toys, and swept the floor (only to find more crumbs under the table minutes later).
I catch a glimpse of myself in the hallway mirror – messy bun, stained T-shirt, and all – and wonder if all moms look like this.
I put out fires (not literally, don’t worry) and live in survival mode each and every day.
I call it a success when the kids are fed, (relatively) clean, and asleep before 10pm, where I then crash on the couch to spend a few minutes with my husband before dragging my tired body up to bed and mentally preparing myself to do it all over again the next morning.
Overwhelmed doesn’t even begin to describe how I’m feeling.
“This isn’t right,” I think to myself. “There has to be a better way of doing all of this.”
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Does this sound familiar to you at all, mama? Do your days sound at all like this?
This had been my life for quite some time, and up until a couple of years ago, I thought things would never get better.
I thought I’d be a sleep-deprived, when-was-the-last-time-I-showered, disorganized, overwhelmed, always-in-survival-mode, mommy until my kids were grown.
How did other moms seem to accomplish so much more? Seem so much more put together? What were their secrets, and why couldn’t I seem to get a handle on my completely chaotic life?
Now don’t get me wrong – I absolutely LOVED being a mom!
I knew that I had four of the greatest kids on earth (in my own biased opinion), and I was also aware of being blessed with a super supportive, hard-working husband.
I cherished the fact that I’m able to stay home with my kids. To raise them, nurture them, and homeschool them.
I recognized the fact that I’m very blessed.
But still…I had asked myself why the days were always so hard? So chaotic?
I didn’t expect to have a perfect, flawless life.
But why couldn’t I ever feel as though I had at least some control over my days, some sense of order?
Why did I always feel like I was drowning in housework and motherly duties, always several steps behind instead of just one step ahead?
I used to think the answer to this was to just work harder.
Get up earlier, stay up later, burn the candle at both ends, never giving myself time to rest.
Surely if I just pushed harder and tried my best to get more things done in less time…to multitask….to not allow myself a break lest the dirty dishes overtake the kitchen….then I could finally get one step ahead of the game and bring some sort of order to this chaotic home.
But I was wrong.
I was blind to what motherhood actually was – I had missed the point completely. I was fixated on the wrong things, giving myself undue stress, and losing focus of that which truly mattered.
I came to the realization one day that I desperately needed to give myself some grace.
And, sweet mama, you need to give yourself a bit of grace, too.
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Grace for the Overwhelmed Stay-at-Home Mom
Some very important things I have learned in this realization…
This is not a competition.
There is no prize given to the best, most organized, most put together mom out there.
Why beat yourself up, comparing your perceived failures to the perfectly spotless homes and flawless, filtered selfies shown on social media? That’s not real life. Not all of it, anyway. You only see a snapshot of someone’s life on social media, not the whole picture.
Every mom struggles in one way or another (most of us in several of the same ways), whether it’s seen by the outside world or not.
So take heart, mama, and realize that you are not alone, and it does you no good comparing yourself to others. Remember that comparison is the thief of joy.
Be realistic about what you expect to accomplish in your day.
I’m not sure where you are in your current season of life, but I do remember being a young, inexperienced first-time mom with a teething, nursing 5-month-old who JUST. WOULD. NOT. SLEEP.
I walked around like a sleep-deprived zombie, running on coffee and fumes and only 2-3 hours of (very interrupted) sleep.
I felt like a failure when I couldn’t keep up with the laundry, there wasn’t a clean dish in the cupboard, I hadn’t showered in two days, and dinner wasn’t ready at a reasonable time (or there was no plan for dinner at all).
I started dreading bedtime, wondering if I would ever get a decent night’s sleep again. Wondering if this was my new normal, and would my house (and life) always be such an overwhelming disaster?
Here’s the thing.
I didn’t stay there, in that mess (both literal and figurative). That was just a season of my life, a short snippet of time that would soon pass as I entered into a different season of life.
Of course, at the time, it felt like it would go on forever. There was no end in sight, no signs at all that things would get better.
But then one night, my son slept longer than he had in months. And it happened again the next night. And the next. And before I knew it, that season was over.
I slept again. I was able to function better. The laundry was getting caught up, the house looked better, and I was able to have dinner on the table each night without as much effort as before.
I could finally breathe again.
I’ve gone through many different seasons in my life as a mother, and each time my life shifts in one way or another, I have to take a breath and remind myself: “I am not perfect, but I am doing the best that I can in this current season of life.”
This, too, shall pass.
Strive for progress, not perfection.
Think back a bit – maybe a few weeks ago, a few months ago, or even a year ago. What have you accomplished in that time?
Take a good hard look and be honest with yourself. Resist the temptation to be critical of yourself, as us mamas so often are. What sort of progress have you made in your life from then until now?
Nothing? Still coming up short?
Let me help you out there, mama.
You have a little one (or maybe even a few little ones) whom you have cared for all this time. They are growing and thriving…all because of you.
Don’t ever, for even a minute, think that what you’re doing day in and day out is unimportant, too small, or insignificant.
→ If you are currently pregnant and feel guilty for taking an afternoon nap instead of folding the laundry…don’t feel guilty, sweet mama. Your body is busy growing a human being, and it is hard work. Lay your head down on your pillow tonight and feel content in the fact that what you accomplished today mattered.
→ If you have a newborn at home, and you’re beating yourself up for sitting on the couch for hours today doing “nothing” but watching TV while your baby nursed for hours on end….be kind to yourself instead. You just nourished your child with breastmilk that your body made. Feel proud of that!
→ If you’re feeding your 6-month-old a bottle of formula, while crying tears of frustration because no matter how hard you tried, you just couldn’t get breastfeeding to work….wipe those tears away, brush your hand against that sweet baby’s chubby cheek, pinch his chunky thigh, and gaze into his beautiful eyes as you feed your baby the best way you are able to. Let your guilt melt away – don’t let it have a place in your mind or in your heart. Your child is thriving because of YOU!
→ If you’re up to your eyeballs in laundry and dishes and you’re stressing over that nagging, never-ending list of things you needed to finish, like, yesterday, don’t fret. Take a deep breath and soak up this moment. Snap a mental picture of your sweet babies exploring their creativity with finger paints and play dough, proudly creating masterpieces just for you.
They are only this little once – blink and they will be grown.
Ask yourself: “What do I want my children to remember most about their childhood? That the house was spotless and impeccably organized, or that I took time out of my day to play with them?”
Cherish this time in their childhood, and have peace knowing that not only are you creating beautiful memories with your little ones but that you will one day miss these moments with an aching heart and long for this time with them again.
If you’re looking around your house and your heart sinks over the mess and disorganization, just remember that you ARE making progress, even if you don’t feel like you are. You are doing THE most important work – caring for and raising little humans – and that doesn’t require perfection.
If you can relate to anything I have written here today mama, then I know you’re meant to be here.
I would love to have you stick around awhile and see how else I may be able to speak to your heart. If you like what I’ve written here today and if my words have at all resonated with you, then I invite you to spend some time with me on this lovely (and a bit crazy!) journey of motherhood while I share my heart with you and hopefully speak words of wisdom and encouragement to your weary soul.