To the mom who is overwhelmed

Encouragement for when life gets hectic

It’s the end of the school year for many of us. Whether you have little ones or big ones finishing out the school year or school isn’t even on your radar right now as you change one diaper after another, I’m guessing you know what overwhelmed feels like.

Being a mom is so incredibly awesome, but it’s also draining and hard. And sometimes we are just plain overwhelmed. Currently I wish I had one more day each week and a couple of extra hours each day. Then maybe I could get closer to conquering everything I have to do. Know the feeling?

Today I’m sharing an open letter to all of us moms who feel overwhelmed, no matter which phase of child-rearing you’re in right now.

Dear Overwhelmed Mom,

First, I want to thank you for taking time to even read this letter. I know how hard it is to find a spare second in your day. I’m guessing you’re reading this while hiding out in the bathroom or while flopping on the couch after the kids are finally in bed before you have the energy to actually put your own self to bed as well.

Second, I want you to know that what you do every day, every minute matters. It really, truly does. Your children will be better because you loved them. They will survive because you fed them, bathed them, taught them and disciplined them even while they fought you the entire way. They may not say thank you now (or ever), but you are not invisible or unappreciated. Know that your heavenly Father sees your daily struggle and honors you as a servant to the least of these.

Third, I want to remind you that are more than a mother. Don’t glaze over this point. Don’t skip ahead. Read it again: You are more than a mother. While being a mother is the most noble job you could have and what you do in motherhood matters, you are still a person separate from that.

You are a woman. You are a wife, perhaps. You are a daughter. You are a friend. You are YOU. You are still in there, underneath the exhaustion, underneath the yoga pants, underneath the fear that you’re screwing it all up. You are still in there. One day, you’ll come back more full-time, but for now, don’t forget yourself.  

Find little ways to let you out. Listen to music from a time in your life when you felt free and alive. Take 10 minutes after bedtime to paint your fingernails. Get a babysitter and do something just for you. Order pizza for dinner and take the night off from cooking. Turn the kids over to your husband and spend that cooking time reading your favorite blog, magazine or a book. Hide in the bathroom for a few extra minutes. Whatever it takes, do something to connect with who you are outside of motherhood and responsibilities.

Fourth, know that this will pass. This is twofold. Know that it will pass so that you can survive this really difficult phase where the baby tries to eat everything and yells when you deflect him from pouring out the dog’s water bowl while the preschooler is asking how to spell 20 random words for something she’s working on and lunch is burning in the toaster oven.

Know that it will pass so that you can survive this really difficult phase where one kid has a practice in one place, the other in another and they both have homework that has to be done — not to mention dinner that needs to be made.

Know that it will pass so that you can survive this really difficult phase where your teenager rolls his eyes at everything you say and barely speaks a word for two days.

It will get better. No parenting phase lasts forever. But, because it will pass and it will pass so very quickly, take time to appreciate the small moments of greatness. Stop to smile and remember the way the baby toddles around with a grin; stop to smile and take in the preschoolers’ look of determination as she practices writing.

Stop to really cheer on your kid as they’re playing a sport instead of listing the things you have to do on your phone. Stop to notice the way your teenager’s hair still curls slightly on his forehead just like it did when he was a baby. It will all pass.

Fifth, know that you aren’t alone. Scores of other mothers are struggling daily to somehow survive and still find some semblance of who they are at the end of the day. Generations of other mothers have somehow survived this daily fray and lived to tell about it. You aren’t alone.

Seek out support. Talk to God about it; He’s always present. Talk to your husband, your mom and your friends. E-mail them if you can’t actually talk freely without being overheard by the children and need to vent.

I say it again, you are not alone. You are not alone even when you feel so very lonely and like not only have you slowly slipped away and morphed into a whole other person but that no one has even noticed. You are not alone. If your support system is broken, do what it takes to fix it. You need it. No one should go through motherhood alone.

Sixth, don’t make apologies for taking time for yourself. So many of us have been brainwashed into thinking that we must do it all, all the time with a smile and an appreciative heart. It’s not possible. Take care of your family, but know that part of taking care of your family means taking care of yourself.  

Find a babysitter. Use the time to nap, read a book, see a movie or just plain regroup. Chores can wait. They’ll still be there tomorrow. Take time for you so you can take care of them. It’s OK. It’s normal. It’s necessary. If you don’t do this, you will become Grumpy Mom. Nobody likes her, not even you. Make it a priority.

Seventh, give yourself some grace. You’re doing the best you can. None of us can do it all. It’s just not possible. There are too many roles. There are too many internal pressures. You’re doing the best you can and that IS good enough.  

Stop comparing yourself to other moms or to some unobtainable ideal of the perfect mom you want to be. Yes, work to improve yourself. But, don’t beat yourself up. You’re doing the best you can. Some things may be slipping today. Other things will be slipping tomorrow. It’s just the nature of life. And it’s OK. Your children, husband and house will survive. Your extended family and work will survive. The world isn’t going to implode. You are doing just fine. Stop telling yourself otherwise.

Motherhood is a hard gig. It’s a gig we signed up for. It’s a gig we couldn’t fully understand until we were in the thick of it and it was too late to turn back. And it does have good rewards. It has great payoffs.  

But, the hard days are incredibly hard. The challenging phases are challenging to the core. It’s OK to recognize that. It’s OK to not always be happy about that. Just don’t get stuck there.

Recognize how you’re feeling right now. Recognize the overwhelming sense of failure and look at whether you can change something. Then pull up your boot straps and keep on keeping on.  

You are doing a great job. You are surviving. You are noticed. I see you. More importantly, God sees you. You will survive and come out of this on the other side stronger. You will come out of this with little people grown big who love you and who have been shaped into wonderful people because of your dedication to them. You are a strong, amazing woman! Never, ever forget that!

Love,
Stacey

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