The conversation was sweet and harmless. Ya know, the kind that gave no indication it would lead to a heart-wrenching conclusion. She asked, “Did you like us better as babies, or now?” I laughed and shared that each stage of a child’s life has a special thing to love, but she wouldn’t give up. “Will you still like us when we move out?” she continued.
I did what any mother would do and I joked about how fun it would be if we all bought a big ranch and built houses for their families there. What happened next was not at all what I expected. Her sister belted out, “Well, I had better get a husband first to help me build that house.” And she snapped back, “What? I don’t want a man. It’s not worth the risk. I can do it all on my own, like mom does.”
My heart sank at the blatant lie. All at once I felt glad I was driving where no one could see my reaction, and yet anxious in knowing I was going to have to say something. An eternity of silence separated the next few moments. I wanted to tell her so many things, correct what seemed like a million wrong things in that tiny statement.
I wanted her to know that this is not how God intended things to be and how He designed men and women to complement and help one another. I wanted to tell her that all people make mistakes, but that a godly marriage is worth the risk. Instead, I settled on the simple truth.
“Baby, I don’t do it all by myself. God makes up what is missing when things are broken.”
Oh friend, what a sweet truth that is! What a sweet blessing God has given us in the brokenness. Friend, you might not be a single mom, but I know you face challenges. I know your life faces the reality of a broken world. And I know you, too, sometimes feel like you are grasping to “get it all done.”
And I know you might also hear that silly question. The one I hear at least a few times every WEEK!
“How do you do it all?” The answer is simple. I don’t.
Of course, I know that isn’t very helpful and I know that you know I have figured out some things to make this life thing run a little bit smoother. After all, if my kids think I can manage this on my own, it must not be as chaotic as it feels, right?
7 Strategies for Overwhelmed Moms
1. Don’t even attempt to “do it all.” You can’t. If life’s circumstances are crazy, you are going to have to let things go. This isn’t really negotiable. But remember, God gives us the grace and the strength to do everything that He wants us to accomplish today. Pray and ask Him what things you should lay aside.
I know for me, I had to let go of cleaning the kitchen and bathrooms every day. I had to be ok with some dirt on the floor and a not-so-perfectly made bed. But in exchange, I get time with my kids. I promise, no child will ever think back about the amazingly clean house he had if he had an amazingly absent mama. My kids may not remember an empty kitchen sink, but they will remember the stories we read and the cuddling on the couch.
2. Start believing in the schedule. Every single time my life starts to get out of hand, it’s because we’ve gotten away from our schedule. Trust me, the schedule really changes things. I’m not saying you need to micromanage every 5 minutes of your life. You can work in chunks of time. That used to be my preference, but I’ve found that the busier life gets, the more detailed my schedule needs to be. These days we follow this schedule more closely.
3. Get up before the kids. Believe me, I know tired. My 4th child gave me a run for my money when it came to sleepless nights. Plus, I was a single mom by the time he was born, so trust me when I say that I could sleep every day for a month and still feel tired! But I’m telling you, this one thing will make or break your day.
Even if I’m just up 15 minutes before my kids, I feel like I’m ready to conquer the world. When I wake up to them piling in the bed or worse, fighting in the living room, the day is off to a not-so-wonderful start. Of course, part of this process is actually starting your day with God. I promise, if you give Him the first and best of what you have to offer, He will match that with grace and strength that you can’t even imagine! Need support? Try Hello Mornings.
3. Keep lists. You need every minute of your day, so why not budget it? You can use those 5 minutes if you have a list ready with things you need to accomplish. Without a list, you will find yourself wasting those 5 minutes. I keep a list with 3 columns: things I can do in less than 10 minutes, things that need 30 minutes, things that need a few hours. Then when I find myself with a little time, I can easily use it instead of spending the whole time trying to think of what I need to get done. Don’t like paper? Go digital with Wunderlist. It’s an app, plus it has a desktop version. I use it 100 times a day!
4. Multi-task. If you are no good at this, don’t do it. We want quality over quantity anytime. But I find that there are many things I must do in my day that are good candidates for this. For example, teeth brushing. It takes about 3 minutes twice a day. Seems like it wouldn’t help much, but it really does. I generally use this time to straighten the counter space in my bathroom, read something online (laptop), or even to do a few squats. Also, I often call out spelling words while I’m chopping veggies for dinner or listen to someone recite a Bible verse while I wash dishes. Think outside the box on this one. You’ll be amazed at the time you can redeem!
5. Have less things. I know this is a hard one. We live in a culture where we are constantly bombarded with messages and images that make us believe we need more. But we don’t. In fact, there aren’t many material possessions we absolutely have to have. I would challenge you to get rid of as much as possible.
In the course of my life’s trials, I have downsized over 2,000 square feet. In that time, I have gained another child and the other 3 are getting larger. Space is at a premium, but I’ve learned that less really is so much better. I truly enjoy the smaller house and I enjoy having less things. Plus, it’s not just about keeping things cleaner. It actually helps my children to have less. Read Why I Took My Kid’s Toys Away for inspiration and tips on how to do this!
6. Do it on the go. There is nothing we can do about doctor’s appointments, piano lessons, and other activities that take us away from the home. However, there is no reason to waste this time. If we plan ahead, this can be a powerful tool for getting that to-do list completed.
When we have a doctor’s appointment, I will take a read-aloud and take care of that part of our school day while we wait. Many times my kids will bring some of their school with us so they can work while I talk to the doctor, too. It amazes me that so many people sit in waiting rooms with nothing to do. Bring a book you need to finish (or want to). I sometimes even bring my laptop and spend some time writing.
7. Don’t do anything twice that you can do once. What do I mean by this? It’s simple. Combine trips, meals, and ideas to make your life easier. On Tuesdays when my girls go to piano, the boys and I drive 3 minutes down the road to Publix and do our weekly shopping. That way I don’t drive home for the hour. It’s a waste of valuable time!
Oh, and note that I said we go shopping weekly. Sometimes even less. This business of running in for a few things will kill your wallet and your schedule. Make a plan and go once. Period. Another thing I handle this way is food. I’d rather cook once and have multiple meals. Instead of 1 meatloaf, I make 4 and freeze the other 3. This is where my Breakfast Station idea came from!
Your turn—> Which one are you going to try first? Remember, baby steps. Just pick one and get started!