My husband came home after being away for 4 days. I craved a micro-break, some peace and some uninterrupted adult conversation. I jumped in the car without any plans. I called a friend and asked if she was interested in a child-free walk around the block. She agreed.
As we were walking, I marveled in the freedom I felt. The lightness was lovely. I needed this little moment. We were chatting. She mentioned something her husband had said… “Why does she (referring to me) need a child-free walk… isn’t she a super mum?”
First things first… (I’m laughing as I write this) I’m definitely not a supermum. I could easily list 5 million reasons why. Do supermums even exist?… I strongly doutbt it.
Something about this innocent comment played of my mind in equal parts of annoyance and inspiration… hence this article… here goes…
Just because a mum looks likes she ‘has it all together’ doesn’t mean, not for a second, that she ‘has it all together’… nor does it mean that she isn’t permitted to take a break or feel overwhelmed.
All mums feel overwhelm…
It’s normal, natural and okay.
What to do when overwhelm strikes. 4 simple tips.
As mothers, we can agree…. overwhelm strikes us all. Even the most relaxed, all-together mums feel the waves of overwhelm. It sneaks up on us; responsibilities slowly built, unforeseen events collide with our expectations. Our hormones are always changing… birth recovery, breastfeeding, menstruation. Hell… even the moon has been proven to influence our moods.
I will be the first to admit. Overwhelm feels horrid. I remember my last wave of overwhelmed clearly. My limbs were heavy, I wanted to stay on the couch and watch tv. I would then feel guilty about not doing enough. I would do the bare minimum and only move to make sure my kids were fed and clean. I felt like crying over nothing. I would overthink everything. I cancelled plans… not wanting to talk to anyone but not wanting to be alone at the same time. I couldn’t be bothered getting ready to leave the house. I was snarky with my husband and my kids. My motivation for anything had all but vanished into thin air.
Breaking free of my overwhelm funk?
1. Name it for what it is
I know that overwhelm can happen to anybody. I feel that life is tidal and there are natural highs and lows. It’s important to name it and embrace it for what it is. Mothers have a unique mixture of high-responsibilities and ever fluctuating hormones. It’s normal, and naming it for what it is usually lightens the load.
‘This is overwhelm and it’s okay to feel this way, it’s my bodies way of telling me that I need to slow down, it’s okay to rest more today’
*If you’re feeling overwhelmed day in and day out. If you’re sad and quick to cry and it’s relentless and feels like it’s lasting too long… you may be depressed and I highly recommend that you reach out and seek some professional support. Over 1800 Australian parents each week are now diagnosed with antenatal or postnatal depression (source).
2. An honest look at current responsibilities and strip everything back to the necessities
Taking a step away from the current pressures surrounding you and having a look at what’s going on from the outside can really help. A strategy is to pretend you’re a friend, what would your advice be? In other words, if your friend was in your shoes, what would you suggest to them after observing current workload?
I stood back and had a good look at what was happening at the time. My husband was away for 4 days. I had additional responsibilities of the things he usually takes care of when he is home. He also took the car, I was stuck at home unless I was prepared to walk which wasn’t a viable option with the kids in the hot sun. On top of this, my youngest wouldn’t sleep, nor would she stop crying. The previous two nights were pretty wakeful.
I had a significantly higher workload compared to usual, I was more isolated, and I was drowning in noise…..and I feared that I was starting to get a cold.
No wonder I felt overwhelmed!
My tip to myself would be to slow down and enjoy a guilt free rest day (or days). Yes, the girls still need me but I’m stripping back everything else (like washing) and resting, I might watch a decent TV series. My future, less overwhelmed self can deal with the housework (and everything else) then.
3. Take action to connect
Reaching out and talking about it will help more than you realise. We thrive as a community, we need to feel connected to feel happy and content (Source). Initially it will feel difficult, you might fear rejection or have some limiting beliefs about worthiness. Do it anyway, it will help.
I called my husband and we gently talked this through. This did two things. I felt somewhat better after connecting when him. Also, the next time he goes away we agreed to go to great lengths to ensure I have access to a car if possible. I felt a little better. I then reached out to a support person, in this case it was my mum. I picked up the phone… “Mum, I need a sanity break, can you come over….” She came over carrying some much needed, delicious coffee… Just what I needed.
A couple of days later, I called my friend for a child-free walk around the block.
4. Take action to do something for you
Taking personal time for you is about giving your mind a break from the constant stream of thoughts. The weight of watching a the kids, constantly assessing the safety of the surroundings. What we need for the family to run smoothly. School notes, lunch boxes, appointments, bathroom soap, wine supplies. The never ending questions from the kids… interrupting your planning ahead, mentally packing bags, organising, sorting. Making a mental list of this and that. Not to mention the little voice passing judgments on how well you’re going as a mum.
This constant mind chatter is draining and relentless. Taking time alone will help this. Try walking, meditating, visiting a café, riding or running or even a nice hot bath. Watering the garden or going to yoga.
We all feel overwhelm, it’s normal and natural. If your are in the midst over these feeling remember to recognise and identify that you are feeling overwhelmed. Look at everything you’re currently doing and stripe it back to the basics. Reach out and connect with your friends and family and tell them how you’re feeling. And finally, try to have a little time away from the noise (external and internal).
From one mum to another… you’re doing an amazing job.
Kirstie Stockx is a self care educator, she’s passionate about helping mums with young kids to create/live/embrace truly amazing lives. You can follow her on Facebook and Instagram. You can also follow Kirstie by joining her Self Care MAMA Tribe by clicking here. She’s also the published Author of ‘Self Care for New Mums: A Practical Four Step Guide for First Time Mothers’.