I’m in the kitchen frantically trying to throw a dinner together. My daughter is calling from the dining room asking for homework help. Middle boy has just come in from an outside play with a trail of mud and three friends behind him – they are hungry and want a snack. {Like now!}. Youngest is having a tantrum on the floor, flailing and grabbing at my ankle. He is 4. He is tired and hangry. My husband is calling for a second time, wanting me to confirm a (much needed!) holiday booking that will expire in less than 10 minutes. My blog draft is waiting to be revised and published. {Deadline: 1 hour.} My mother is waiting for a call back from earlier in the day. She wants to update me on her most recent Doctor’s appointment. It’s important. And just then I remember that there is a flashing light on the car’s dashboard that needs attending.

Most modern Moms have found themselves in situations like this.

Situations where we look around and for just one second ask ourselves how we got into this mess. Moments where we say to ourselves: Whoa. Slow down world. I want to get off.

We might find ourselves negotiating whether or not a bathing suit and tutu are appropriate attire for school on the first day of snow, while packing up lunches from scraps in the fridge, reciting the work presentation-of-our-lives in our head (scheduled for 30 minutes from now) and demanding that teeth get brushed.

Or, ask ourselves how we ended up hosting an $800 (?!) Birthday party for a 3 year old that is crammed in between their older brother’s soccer practice and their older sister’s dance recital, on a day the car decided to break down.

For some of us, these moments have come to feel normal. (This is especially true if we have multiple children under 6.) But I refuse to believe that for any of us, these moments feel natural, or good.

Personally, it is these times when I question my choice to have mothered children at all.

These moments make me feel overwhelmed, simultaneously stretched and claustraphobic, frazzled and at a loss. I find myself feeling resentful, frustrated and angry at everything and everyone.

And sometimes (alot of the time) I explode. I find myself yelling, blaming, shaming, threatening. Then I feel horrible and guilty. And that night, when I fall into bed, I feel like a crap Mom.

“I really lost it today”, I tell my husband.
“It’s ok. It happens”, he says.
“I’m such a bad Mom. I’m f&cking them up.” I say teary-eyed.
“You’re the best Mom in the world. It’s hard. I don’t know how you do it.” he says.

And I melt away, exhausted, into a deep sleep that I know will undoubtedly be interrupted by one of my kids’ bad dreams or wet bed.

The thing is that in addition to the fact that taking care of little people, managing a house and job is hard…us Moms also happen to be hard on ourselves.

I mean how many times have you made {what you perceive to be} a parenting mistake and let it not only linger, but grow into a doubt about your child’s future emotional, psychological, economic success?

My research and experience working with mothers points to 5 key reasons that we end up suffering from overwhelm.

But before I jump into these, it is worth noting that motherhood today is not what it used to be. The pressure is on in a way it never was before.

Three significant external factors that have helped to design the pressure cooker in which we mother, include the fact that child development research – for good or bad – points to the importance of children’s emotional and psychological well-being. This is not something generations past have worried about. The fact that parents f*cked up kids was either accepted, hidden or irrelevant.

Today, however we hold the weight of ensuring that our children are not only clean, fed and decently educated, but are emotionally and psychologically healthy, thus requiring a whole new set of parenting skills.

Some may argue that these skills require parenting ourselves into a place of emotional and psychological well-being (a ginormous painstaking task in itself!). And let’s face it, who even knows where to begin with the parenting section at the library, or even worse, on Amazon.

Second, our roles are muddled. Mothers and fathers are navigating unchartered waters.

For most of us, the way our parents parented and managed households does not provide ideal role modelling. In some cases, it is an example of what we don’t want to do. Whereas the roles and responsibilities of our predecessors were clearly defined, mothers and fathers are having to create and learn these on-the-job. As any parent can attest to, this is not easy.

So not only are both parents working more often, but the working day now permeates into family time. While emails allow for us to work from home, they have also created a culture where immediate responses in the evenings and weekends are expected.

Technology designed to save time, has actually created a culture that sucks time – quality time – away from families, drawing parents attention and presence into their devices and too often, away from their children.

Does knowing all of the above help us Moms to manage our overwhelm? Maybe a little bit…

But at the end of the day, mothers are part and parcel of this modern world and have internalized some of it, transforming it into habitual ways of thinking and being. Keep reading to learn what the top self-driven not-so-healthy mistakes Moms make regularly, to inadvertently feed our overwhelm.

HABIT #1 – Shoulditis

What is shouldlitis? Shoulditis is a condition where we allow ourselves, our choices to be driven by a sense of obligation, duty or a sense of correctness. A sense of should versus a sense of need, want or desire.

This would be all good and fine if our sense of obligation, duty and sense of correctness were mindfully aligned with the values we hold most dear to us. And if that sat nicely within what our bodies tell us feel right.

However, because most of us busy Moms.

a) are constantly bombarded with external demands and expectations (thank you for that iPhone)

b) do not take the time to check in with ourselves regularly, our “shoulds” are often driven by external standards and points of comparison. I.e., the PTA Mom (with the Angelina Jolie body) who has a designer home and the polite 7 year old twins being sought out by Yale, or the Pinterest Board Mom who makes organic Star War figurine shaped cupcakes for afternoon snacks.

We feel lost navigating these uncharted parenting waters, and so we look for references that tell us what we should be doing to be a good Mom, to be a good wife, to be a good house manager.

And because it is easier to look outward than inward a lot of the time, we find those references in the crazy world that we wish would slow down (so that we could get off – just to take that one deep breath).

I mean, how many times have you found yourself falling down on the coach in exhaustion at what feels like the end of a long day saying

“I’m just SO tired, but I really should finish that PTA email, or tidy up the den, or check the kids homework, or….”

How would it feel to say: “I’m just SO tired. I guess that means it’s the end of this long day. My body is telling me I should go and relax now.”?

Affirmation Remedy for when Shoulditis kicks in:

“I will stop now, check in with mySELF and listen to what I need, want and desire – to what works best for me. This is the living pattern that I want to model to my children. This is who I am.”

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HABIT # 2 – Not Enoughitis

The condition of Not Enoughitis is closely related to Shoulditis.

If you suffer from one, you likely suffer from the other. Because like Shoulditis, Not Enoughitis comes from externally driven expectations and standards that have been internalized. In many ways, Not Enoughitis, feeds Shoulditis.

The primary symptoms of this condition include guilt, self-criticism and a perpetual sense of incompletion.

If you suffer from Not Enoughitis, you likely get down on yourself if you do not try your absolute best at everything, take yourself to the limit and be everything for everyone. You castigate yourself if things don’t go as planned or turn out perfectly (both impossible goals with small children, as far as I’m concerned).

When this happens, somewhere deep down inside of you, your Not Enoughitis voice says: “you are not enough…you need to try harder…you need to do more…because if you don’t…you are not worth loving”.

Ouch. I know.

Imagine what it would feel like to know that you are SO worth loving just for being you. Imagine feeling like you were Enough irrespective of how much you do.

Affirmation Remedy for when Not Enoughitis kicks in:

“I will stop now, hug myself and remember that I am enough. I AM ENOUGH just by virtue of BEING ME. A mother who is herSELF is what my children need and want. This is the way I want to model BEING for my children. This is who I am.”

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HABIT #3 – Perfectionism

Again, very closely linked to the above two ailments, Perfectionism is something many women suffer from. In her TED talk Teach girls bravery, not perfection, Reshma Saujani talks about how girls are raised to be perfect and how boys are raised to be brave.

She talks about how aspiring perfection and being overly cautious gets in the way of our taking risks, of persevering, of making mistakes and not getting it right. You probably know if you are a perfectionist Mom.

You strive to get EVERYTHING right:

  • meals are organic, freshly made
  • children are clean and well dressed
  • your house is similarly clean and well decorated
  • your body weight and muscle tone are ideal
  • and if you work outside the home, your work projects exceed expectations.
  • It is painful to eat at Chipotle or not make the bed just right.

However, the thing with motherhood (and with life, really) is that perfection doesn’t really exist. I mean, what is it really to be a perfect Mom? A perfect wife? A perfect house manager?

Again, our answers too often lie somewhere in a magazine, a Netflix series, or a Pinterest board. They lie in what we perceive The Jones’ life to be like.

We don’t look around at how perfect imperfection actually is – the child’s drawing, or sloppy kiss. Or how mistakes end up being the best life lessons ever.

Notice the perfect in imperfection, Mom...your child's drawing or sloppy kiss.Click To Tweet

And as with those suffering from Not Enoughitis, Perfectionists have a tendency to keep going for gold, without celebrating and enjoying the gold that shines around them already.

Sure, it feels good to get things right. To throw that party without a hitch, to write that kick ass blog that resonates with every single Mom out there, to make that nutritionally balanced, yet delicious lunch that your child comes home wowing about. And I would NEVER take these moments away from anyone.

But, it’s also ok to make mistakes.

To lower standards, to double book, to lose your cool with a toddler, to be late for school. To NOT make the bed just right.

So, if you ever find yourself thinking that if you don’t get it perfect, you are not worthy, rewind and remind yourself that as a mother, perfection does not exist and mistakes are part of the game (a big part). And that this is ok.

Affirmation Remedy for Perfectionists:

“I look around in gratitude at what is. Half-ass is enough sometimes. I forgive myself. I embrace mistakes. Life is perfect in its imperfection, and so am I.”

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HABIT #4 – Too Nice Syndrome (aka T.N.S.)

Any other women out there raised to be polite, well mannered, giving, sweet, smiley? Yes?

If this is you, it is possible that you have, at some point in your life, experienced TNS.

You know you have TNS when you find yourself asking yourself: “Why did I say yes to this?” And then you find yourself answering: “Because I’m nice”. And then there is a sneaky voice that you promptly shut up who is whispering “too nice…too nice…”

For whatever reason, girls are great at pleasing others and at giving. As both girls and women, our value and worth in society is founded on our caring nature and capacity. There is nothing more disconcerting than a selfish, ill-mannered  woman (a.k.a. bitch).

There is a lot written on this.

The point is that most of us work hard to be nice. So hard, that it becomes second nature. This is true even if it means giving up what is important to us, or that small part of ourselves.

Now, I am ALL for manners – in boys and girls alike. And I’m all for giving. What I’m not all in for is doing it without reverence for our own well being and personal development. Ugly self-sacrifice.

THIS is NOT ok, because this makes us unhappy and miserable.

The remedy for TNS lies in mastering the art of saying YES and saying NO. Saying YES to what works for you, and saying NO to what doesn’t. And isn’t it funny to say that doing something so simple requires a deep level of self-awareness and courage?

Self-awareness, because we need to know what works for us and what doesn’t, and this requires regular check-ins with SELF. Courage, because it may mean that others perceive you as “not nice” or “selfish” or, (heaven forbid!) “ill mannered”.

Affirmation Remedy for T.N.S.:

“I live in kindness to myself. I say YES to what works for me. When my soul is nourished, I give my authentic and loving SELF to the people and things I value most.”

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HABIT # 5 – Go-go-going Addiction

The culmination of the above 4 habits make for busy living. After all if we are taking care of small human beings driven by standards of perfection that are guided by externally born Shoulds, a need to be nice and a sense that we are never doing enough, then of course we are busy.

Life with children often starts this way, just by virtue of a baby’s daily needs. I mean, let’s be honest, just getting through the day (especially when sleep deprived) with the basic tasks of cleaning, eating, washing (be it ourselves, our baby/ babies, our clothes, our dishes) and holding ourselves (baby and Mom) together emotionally is a job and a half.

But then they grow and day by day, become more self-sufficient. However, somehow, our pace either remains the same or accelerates.

And one day we find ourselves answering an email, feeding a toddler and helping a child with their homework simultaneously. This is our “down time” after our busy day at work, and before we do the soccer practice, piano class run. (Which precedes bedtime, laundry time, tidy the house time and finish-up that report time).

There appears to be no rest for the busy Mom. But appearances can be deceiving.

In Brené Brown’s best selling book, Daring Greatly, she categorizes busy-ness as one of the many ways we numb ourselves:

“We are a culture of people who’ve bought into the idea that if we stay busy enough, the truth of our lives won’t catch up with us.”

And so we keep going, avoiding downtime that would otherwise force us to notice a painful truth. That we hate our job, that our relationship is failing, that our children miss long, solid moments of connection, that what we do isn’t aligned with who we are. That I’m-scared-to-stop-doing-because-then-I-need-to-dive-deep-into-me – beyond the DOING and into the BEING.

Scary stuff.

But of course staying busy and in the dark has worse consequences. And while one can always make the excuse that “the list never ends” and that “there’ll always be another load of laundry”, one cannot deny the fact that life passes by quickly. And that the meaningful moments that make up memories during which we feel joy are not those spent rushing around.

Meaningful moments that make for sweet Mom memories ARE NOT those spent rushing aroundClick To Tweet

They are those spent connecting with yourSELF, with those you love, with nature or with art, or with another passion of yours. Moments of clarity. Moments of BEING.

Affirmation remedy for “Go-go-going addiction”:

“I am slowing my world down. My mind is clear and I am present in the here and now, with me and with those I love. It is ok to stop going and to simply be, and feel.”

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Final Thought:

Remember, while it is easy to succumb to external pressures of motherhood, it is important to remember that social norms and standards are driven by well-meaning mothers like us.

We read, we watch one another and then we act, often judging ourselves unforgivably.

The way you can ditch overwhelm and take ownership of your own motherhood experience is to become aware of the habits that feed our overwhelmed lifestyle, and to work through these towards a greater sense of self-love and self-acceptance.

Doing this does not take many of the motherhood challenges away, but it will quieten that harsh judging voice inside of you – making the path and journey easier and the load lighter.

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