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On Wednesday, we did a major brain dump onto paper. Getting everything out onto paper does you no good if you don’t DO anything with it, so today we begin the process of doing something with everything we’ve written out. Don’t forget, if you’d like to join in on the discussion, join our Facebook Group.
First, go through your brain dump list and find anything that has a specific date or deadline connected to it. Move those items to your calendar, including time needed to prep for those items. For example, if your child has an invitation to a birthday party on Saturday, you would place the party time on the calendar, and you would block out 15 minutes to RSVP early in the week. If you could text the RSVP instead, do so right now. If you teach a class, mark out the time you’re in class, and appropriate prep-time in the days beforehand.
Mark these items off as you place them on the calendar. They are now out of the way and you don’t have to worry about them until it’s time to handle them. They are officially off your plate, you just have to pay attention to your calendar to know what to do when.
Straight Talk for Moms
Next, you’re going to schedule in some time each day for self-care. If you don’t take care of yourself, who will? After all, when the airplane plummets and the air masks drop out of the ceiling, you have to put your own mask on before you can help others with theirs, even your own children. You can’t adequately take care of your family when you’re totally neglecting yourself, and you’re setting one heck of a bad example to your kids in the process.
Let me be clear- this is not indulgence, this is self-preservation. We’re mothers, not martyrs. Your children shouldn’t see your wrecking your own health for the sake of their whims or their fun. No child should think they have an expendable parent. Their mental health doesn’t benefit when you’re always strung out tired, irritable and cranky. They should see you seeking balance.
I know it’s hard, I’ve been there, and the cultural pressure is strong to make everything perfect for your kids and sacrifice yourself in the process. But it isn’t Godly, nor is it the right example. Unless your overwhelm comes from something like massive upheaval or illness of someone in the family, you are likely in this situation of being overwhelmed at least in part because you’re not taking care of yourself and giving yourself appropriate margin. And if you’re in massive upheaval due to family illness or emergency, you need self-care to help preserve yourself and your strength to see your family through this trial.
Schedule in your showers and bedtime. Food and time to prepare it comes next. Adequate sleep and regular, nutritious meals are your best ally to get you through overwhelm mode and out the other side. Even with eating real food, I try not to spend more than 30 minutes prepping any one meal. There are plenty of real food dishes you can do without a ton of prep work. If you can block out an hour or two when you come home from the grocery store each week, you can prepare things then to help cut down on that prep time even more.
I know a set bedtime is difficult if your children are small. Many women fall into the ‘me time’ trap of staying up wayyyy too late at night on Facebook after a hard day with the kids to vent and commiserate. I know, I’ve been there. Mama, you’re only hurting yourself by not getting enough sleep. Without enough sleep, you become impatient, irritable and you’re already in overwhelm mode before your child even wakes up for the day. Every small thing becomes another irritation because your ability to cope is low, if it exists at all.
Consider setting a bedtime no later than 10-10:30 each night. This allows your adrenals to rest and recharge, and gives you a better advantage to getting out of overwhelm mode. Sleep is one of the most critical factors to getting out of overwhelm mode, and if you don’t’ get adequate sleep, chances are high you will not be able to overcome the issue and dig yourself out.
Block out enough time at night to get adequate rest. If this means you’re up and down with a baby or toddler at night, you block out 10 hours for that. Go to bed earlier if necessary. The dishes will wait, I promise, and when you do get to them, you will have a FAR better attitude about it. Many women have observed they feel more rested if they sleep from 10-6 versus 12-8. It’s something about circadian rhythm and adrenals.
Showers are necessary– when you’ve had a shower within the last 24-48 hours, you just feel better. Cleanish clothing, too. Block out a little time before the kids get up or after they go to bed to shower, even if it’s just a very fast, 15 minute shower. If your husband can watch them, 30 minutes. Better yet, you take the shower while he puts the kids to bed if he is home in the evenings.
Don’t forget to brush your teeth and comb your hair while you’re in there, too. In the mornings, get a routine down where you comb your hair and brush your teeth with the kids.
While we’re talking about you, when was the last time you got a break from the kids? Or had a date with the hubby? Had sex? Did something with that hobby you haven’t touched since your oldest was born? Schedule in some margin time. Give yourself a break. If you don’t have regular breaks, you’re more likely to go back into overwhelm mode.
Yes, it’s hard when you have kids at home and have yourself pulled in a million directions. But it’s going to be harder when your kids leave home and you realize you’re living with a stranger with whom you have little in common. Make time to connect NOW, so you don’t wake up beside a stranger in ten or twenty years. That’s part of having margin, and providing your own happiness.
Next, look at your priority list, and block out time for your priorities in their order. For example, if God is your top priority, you will want to block out time for your worship services and daily prayer or Bible reading. If your husband, you would want to consider a date night or at least scheduling some time during the week for intimacy. Then work your way down your priority list.
For my, our church times are blocked out, as is my time each morning for prayer and Bible reading. I have time blocked out each week to spend with my husband. I block out any needed doctor’s appointments and other one-time needs that require appointments. I block out the needed time for self-care, meals and cleaning. Then the kid’s activities and school needs are blocked out and assigned to the appropriate adult. My job is then blocked around their activities and time for my husband.
We will block out what to do during your job/cleaning/flexible times later in the week. For now, just earmark time to each thing according to its priority.
Also schedule in some daily margin as a family. Personally, my daily schedule stops each day at 7pm, which for us is the end of after dinner clean-up, so if anything got backed up during the day, I have adequate time and space in which to accomplish it, and I’m available for whatever the kids might need for homework or special projects.
If you homeschool or your children aren’t yet school age but don’t nap, I highly recommend you schedule in an hour of quiet time during the afternoon. If your kids are old enough to stay in their own rooms and play quietly without supervision, do so. If your children aren’t yet able to be unsupervised in their room, do quiet activities like reading to them or put them in a safe zone while you rest.
I strongly recommend you don’t run your schedule for 6am to 10pm each day. Give yourself some flexibility to over-estimate or under-estimate the time needed for projects, allow for some downtime, and always have some flexibility should something come up.
If your children are very small and require constant, complete supervision, turn one room in the house into a safe room. Baby gate it off so no child can escape, put a mattress on the floor, a comfy chair and remove anything out of the room that your child shouldn’t have access to or you wouldn’t want to clean up. Legos, crafts and crayons don’t belong in this room. Soft toys, board books and things that are quick and easy to pick up are what goes in this room. When you hit overwhelm as a mom, someone is sick or you just need a nap to keep from being impatient, gate everyone in and take it. When it’s quiet time, use the chair to read to them, then let them crawl down and go play while you doze lightly or recharge your batteries with a good book you want to read. The benefit is that you know the room is safe and you can read without having to keep one eye on them.
You should NEVER feel guilty for trying to meet everyone’s needs, including yours. If you were up all night with a sick child or a family emergency, you need a safe place to nap where your child can play without worry. This gives you that space to meet your needs and theirs at the same time. Until your child is old enough to not pull a stupid if you have to nap, this really is a needed safe zone for every mom who does not have someone they can call on to help.
If this isn’t an option, consider finding a friend for whom you could swap child care on short notice when things get really tough.
On Wednesday, we will look at what to do with the rest of your brain dump list.
Photo credit- From Chaos to Order by Sebastien Weirtz on Flickr