Have kids? Reduce the overwhelm!

Ready to erupt? Hang in there!

By Barbara Pierce


If you’re a mom, you’ve probably had that “Gaahh!” feeling? Like your brain is about to explode, and you’re ready to scream if someone asks you one more question.

You’re not alone. Living with kids is hectic. Kids are messy, uncoordinated, overly dramatic, and need your help to do almost everything.

With kids, life feels overwhelming at times — maybe most of the time.

“Since I became a mom, my days of laying on the couch watching the latest runway show on the E channel were pretty much over!” says Kelley Salamone in her Parenting Guide for the Mohawk Valley, MV Parent (https://www.mvparentonline.com/).

“My days are filled with running to the grocery store, preschool drop-offs, practices and then trying to find time to keep up with all the laundry and housecleaning. Let’s just say I rarely sit, let alone lay, on the couch to watch TV,” she said. “Being a mom is tough, there’s no doubt about it.”

Overwhelm may feel like being bogged down and depleted. You can’t catch your breath, physically or mentally. You forget appointments or always run late. You have trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or getting enough sleep. You feel like your attention is pulled in all directions. You’re distracted and frazzled.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed and your family life is chaotic, it’s bad for you and for your kids. Research finds links between household chaos and poor academic outcomes, behavior, sleep, and health in children.

With so many of us feeling overwhelmed, with chaotic lives, we’ve begun to accept it as the new normal. But does it need to be that way?

Life is unlikely to get slower. Stop, take a breath, and get some perspective. Here are simple ways to reduce overwhelm in your life:

— Figure out what’s important: Prioritize. Think about where you’re having the most trouble and attack that first. Is your house always too loud for anybody to think? Figure out how to reduce the noise level. For example, have no-TV hours, or set times for noisy activities like watching TV, playing games or banging away on that drum set.

If it’s about clutter and crowdedness, throw out items you really don’t need. Keep going through and throwing things out. Make it a habit to keep things in their proper places and involve every member of the family in the process.

Here’s what works for Salamone: “Each night, after bath time, the kids and I play the pick-up game. We walk around and put every item back in its place.”

Gear it down

— Slow down:  Avoid over-scheduling, and you’ll gain more opportunities to make memories together as a family.

Cancel everything you don’t need to do. If you’re having trouble juggling things because everyone has all sorts of extracurricular activities, seriously consider cutting some of them out. You can’t get Bobby to chess classes at the same time as you get Susie to her coding class. Cancel both and you get to spend time with Susie and Bobby. How great is that?

Choose to do the things that fully engage you — the things that bring you a sense of purpose and wellbeing. You’ll get far more value from fully experiencing one thing than trying to do five things at once.

Learn to say “no” to the things you don’t want to do. If the thought of saying “no” makes you reel in horror, try taking baby steps by saying, “Let me think about it,” or “Can I get back to you?”

— Create a routine: Design a basic structure for your family’s day, with predictable, regular times for you to do the everyday stuff — like getting ready for the day, doing homework, exercise or more. Having a set of activities everyone can count on will help you and your child meet daily challenges and free you up for more leisure time.

On her blog, “My life as a mom,” Salamone describes her routine, including encouraging her kids to make their beds every morning, doing a load of laundry every morning, and making lunches, coffee and cleaning the kitchen before bed.

“The constant feeling of housework hanging over my head has disappeared,” she says. “I now have extra time during the day and in the evening to spend time with my family.”