Lela was six weeks old when Tom left town for the first time after her birth. In a twist of cruel fate, I had to go back to work from maternity leave on that exact same day, and it was also my first time dropping tiny Lela off at a brand new daycare that morning. It was a trifecta of holy-freaking-craziness, I cried all day, and I went home that night feeling massively overwhelmed and wondering if life was ever going to get better. When I look back to the few crazy months that happened after that, I can definitely say it was the hardest part of motherhood that I have ever experienced. So, whenever moms ask me now what my secret to parenting is and how I’m so happy, I totally get where they’re coming from–there was a time when I felt SO far in over my head, too. And you know what, that’s totally okay to feel that way; we have ALL been there.
Parenting is tough no matter how many kids you have. Raising one kid is tough. Raising two kids is tough. Raising a dozen is probably tough, too. There are going to be so many days where you go to bed feeling completely overwhelmed and like the worst parent in the world, but the secret to not letting that feeling overtake your life is simple–control the controllables. You are feeling overwhelmed for a reason, and you need to work toward finding out the exact reasons why and tackling those issues one by one. I struggled for so long with not facing my problems head-on, and I would let them all build and build until I would have the occasional hysterical crying breakdown (just like on the day I had to take Lela to daycare for the first time). So, over time, for the sake of my own sanity and happiness, I developed a routine on how I handle the overwhelming issues that come up in parenting, and now, while raising my four babies, I have never felt happier or less stressed.
Every Saturday night, Tom and I pour a glass of wine, get out a journal, and write down every single thing that made life hard for us the week before. You can totally do it by yourself, but I find that including Tom really helps him to understand what is going on around our house and feel more involved. This week, a few examples from the list included: the girls’ sippy cups leak nonstop all over the floors, the downstairs toilet doesn’t flush well, and Luna won’t stop throwing our cat’s food everywhere all of the time. You literally just think of everything that made you frustrated or gave you an extra workload that week. Try not to turn your list into a nagging session, though. Sometimes I really want to include things like “You never throw away receipts or hotel shampoos, and I think you should be featured on Hoarders”…but the purpose of the list is to fix things together. Remember: control the controllables. If it’s completely out of your control, don’t even include it and stop letting it bring you down.
So, once we have the list of our most frustrating things, we brainstorm ideas to find solutions together. This week, based on the issues on the list, we decided to switch brands of sippy cups to ones that don’t leak, allocated time to fix the toilet, and we bought the cat a feeder that Luna can’t get her tiny hands into. EVERYTHING IS FIXABLE–YOU JUST HAVE TO TAKE IT STEP BY STEP.
We’ve been doing this since Luna was born, and I can honestly say I don’t stress about a single thing when I fall asleep at night now. I’m also much happier during the day, and I’m able to enjoy time with the kids, instead of letting every little thing get under my skin. Rome wasn’t built in a day, though; so try keeping your lists short at first. Our first list literally had two things on it: the floors never get clean enough from mopping them, and Lela always pees through her overnight diaper. We went out that night and bought a new brand of diapers and an electric mop (CANNOT RECOMMEND IT ENOUGH!!!), and my life was changed because I finally felt in control. For me, the list is a weekly reminder that every thing is fixable, and it empowers me to handle my stress.
So, if you’re feeling occasionally overwhelmed and like your parenting routine isn’t working, write it all out and work toward a solution. Something as simple as waking up an hour earlier everyday or scheduling more one-on-one time with each kid can really change your whole mood, you just have to figure out, in small weekly lists, what is weighing you down at that time and the baby steps to fix it. Parenting is tough for all if us, but you’ve got this, Mama!
FULL DISCLOSURE: Anxiety, exhaustion, and stress are common in parenting, but if you feel like you are having excessive amounts of them, it’s totally okay to ask for help. I ended up seeing a therapist for postpartum depression for several months after one of our babies was born. It took me a long time to admit that something was wrong, and if you feel like you could be experiencing anything remotely similar to the symptoms of PPD, I can’t encourage you enough to talk to someone. It doesn’t make you less of a mom, it could happen to anyone, and even though that was my only postpartum where I experienced it, it’s more common than you might think. ❤