Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Overwhelmed by the stress of motherhood? Here's four questions we can ask ourselves.

We are sick and tired of "doing it all." We're exhausted at caring for our kids 24/7 and meal planning and grocery shopping and cleaning and being contributing members of our parishes and society. We know that we're supposed to fit time in for that elusive "self care" we hear so much about, not to mention spending time to nurture our respective marriages. Oh, and running a side hustle would be beneficial, too. After all, it would show that we aren't just lazy freeloaders who sit at home all day. We can earn money! Because THAT is what proves our value. Right? 

And as we cook, clean, entertain our children, run errands, chauffeur our children to playdates galore, and fill orders for the Etsy store, we become weary. Admirably, at some point we decide that we will chug back another cup of coffee and open our eyes to the chaotic and tiring life that consumes us. We take our gaze off the Instagram feed and place it on each other as we talk. We share our struggles and grief, and we find solidarity-yet we fumble for solutions. What can we do? we ask each other. We don't live in a village or "the good old days" anymore, but we don't want to live in this insanity any longer. How can we change?

I don't know.

I don't have a one-size-fits-all solution for the expectation that we need to "do it all." I don't have an instant remedy for the burnout and desperate loneliness that so many stay-at-home mothers face. I don't know when or how we can fix these problems, but I do know that we need to do something. We can't just expect that the problem will magically go away. When you've spent the past 16+ hours being touched and/or barraged with questions by small humans, I'm sure that the last thing you want to do is sit around for a brainstorming session. But, dear fellow mother, we need act. Here are just a few questions we might ask ourselves:

Can we try talking with our husbands?
There's an image I've run into, of the "perfect" 1950s household, where the wife and mother does everything at home. Her husband returns from his job and falls asleep in the living room while she cleans all evening. His work ended when he left the office, but hers continues long into the night. She is encouraged not to talk with her husband about issues she faces, because she shouldn't add stress to his life. Many women today recoil at this image-yet we unconsciously perpetuate it in our own homes. Instead of silently letting issues and resentment build, could we try openly communicating with each other? Could we come to a mutual understanding that both spouses need to actively contribute to the household and family life? Could we, as couples, make solid resolutions of steps we will take to ensure that neither person's load is continually overbearing-and regularly revisit how we each are doing?

Can we try being present in our neighborhoods and local community?
If we stop rushing from the house to the car, and instead spend time in our yard and neighborhood, could we experience a deeper community with those who live around us? If we begin walking to some locations instead of driving, could we grow in our awareness of the local area? Could we intentionally slow down the flow of daily life? If we open our eyes and notice the people around us, could we realize that we are not alone?

Can we try scheduling breaks?
During a discussion with your husband, could you take out the calendar and schedule times for you to get out of the house by yourself? Perhaps there's a morning each week when you could visit a coffee shop or local park for a couple hours while he watches the kids. Maybe there's a book study, art class, or discussion group you could join. Or, you could schedule a "mom's night out" (if nights don't work well, it could take place in the morning or afternoon). Think about what rejuvenates you, and put it on the calendar so it will actually happen (and if something unexpectedly comes up-like you getting sick-pull out the calendar again and reschedule it until it does happen).

Can we try getting help from others?
Instead of women across your community all trying to "do it all" (and feeling very alone and burned-out in the process) by themselves, could you try sharing the load? Perhaps you could take turns watching each other's kids during the day so you each could get a break. Or, you could even take turns swapping babysitting so you could get a rare date night. Could you reach out to your single friends and see if they'd be willing to come play with your kids for a couple hours in exchange for dinner? Look at the daily responsibilities that you struggle to accomplish, and find ways to lighten your day. Could you begin eating more simply, so that you spend less time meal planning, cooking, and grocery shopping? Could you order your groceries to be delivered or picked up at the store? Could you hire a nanny or Mother's Helper to watch the kids while you catch up around the house? Could you hire a housecleaner occasionally to do the deep cleaning that you never seem to accomplish but you know needs to be done? 

I am a "doer," and I feel good when I see that I've accomplished a lot of tasks in a day-but I'm learning that if I don't make time to slow down and recharge, I WILL grow overwhelmed, and I WILL become stressed-out, and I WILL become a very grumpy person. Try as I might, I can't "do it all" over a long period without suffering greatly. So, I'm going to stop trying to "do it all," and I encourage you to join me. For those who are not mothers, I ask this: Reach out to us. When a woman has been caring for other people for hours on end, she may not have the mental space to realize what she needs and to ask for assistance. So, don't just wait for her to come ask you for help. Let's all work on finding ways in which we can love and support each other. Through trial-and-error, and with hope and solidarity, let's continue to look for ways to support the mothers who fill our communities. Let's end the burnout and reach out in hope. 


  1. These are all great!! I especially love the parts about building local community/neighborhood support, and simplifying things like meal planning and cooking (esp in certain seasons!). I have come to realize that women are wonderfully at "doing it all" THROUGHOUT different seasons of life but should NEVER try to do it all at once! I think that's the pressure that's out there-- you have to be raising kids, homemaking, working, and pursuing a hobby/talent ALL in the same season. Maybe you'll work if the kids go to school someday. Maybe you'll do a hobby while you have littles who all nap at the same time. Maybe you'll clean the house once the baby is a year old, haha. But seriously.

    The only part that I would just slightly reword if it were me is that "if you're not a mother, reach out to us." While I definitely, definitely think moms need a ton of support, I don't want to give people the impression that moms have it the hardest. It's also really hard to be a single person or an elderly person, etc etc. So I think it's a mutual reaching out-- people can reach out to moms but we can also get out of our little stress bubbles and remember how hard it was emotionally at times to be single and alone (which you kind of touched on the mutual thing by saying single friends could watch kids and then join for dinner).

    1. Oh my, yes!!!! I did not think of that, but you are totally spot-on there. I think I struggle a lot with thinking that I need to "do all the things" right now. But God's plan is different for each of us, isn't it? And while one friend may totally be able to run ministries and be a distance runner, that may not be MY specific calling at this moment-it's hers.

      I like how you note the mutual reaching out. I think (and going back to the idea of "seasons") there are some moms who are deep in really hard seasons where it may not be very doable for them to reach out and give to others. But, that's not the case for everyone, and it is a good challenge that we each have-to realize that we aren't the only ones with exhausting and difficult lives. And that we do need to get out there and serve. Several of my neighbors are retired, and even the ones who have family close by still experience some loneliness and other challenges.

  2. Or how hard it is to be infertile, elderly, etc.

  3. AnneMarie, I love this article, it’s so good

    1. Sarah, thanks so much for reading! I'm so glad you enjoyed this.

  4. Talking to my husband is so helpful. He doesn't have the magic answers either, but he is a massive help to me at home with housework and letting me get out on the weekends by myself. I need to be better about returning the favor!

  5. I'm definitely feeling overwhelmed! I've actually been thinking about hiring a "Mother's Helper" during the summer months. I don't like to leave my kids with others, but I'd be home so I'd feel comfortable.
    I've also done online grocery ordering recently and it is wonderful. I actually enjoy grocery shopping (even with my three kids with me), but it does take time. Online ordering for pickup has been a time saver.

    1. Hang in there, Shannon! I'll send some prayers your way. I'm so glad that you've been able to benefit from online grocery ordering.
      I think it's wonderful that you've been thinking about hiring a Mother's Helper! I've been hearing about Mother's Helpers from one of my local friends, and it sounds like it has been really good for her. Plus, I think it's great for the opportunity for girls/teens to get extra experience caring for children and spending time in another family's environment (where they can learn another perspective on homemaking and parenting, that kind of thing). I don't currently think I need a Mother's Helper, but it's definitely an idea that I want to revisit in the future.