I would wager a guess that the most used word in a child’s vocabulary is the word “mom”. And that’s just counting the first year they learn to speak.
No matter how much I tried to get our children to say “mom” in the beginning, I quickly learned to regret it once their speech caught momentum. Especially when said child repeated that same word a hundred times in a sentence, just because. (Cue the eye twitching.)
Don’t get me wrong, I love being called Mom. I love being a mom. I just don’t appreciate the endearing term on repeat. Even now that my girls are in double digits, all it takes is two or more of them trying to get my attention and I’m on the fast track to losing my sanity and my patience.
And I know I’m not alone in this. If you have a child older than a toddler, I’m sure you can attest.
Even though I can joke about this now, I remember a time when I really struggled to find the humor in it. Not the children needing my attention, but the overwhelm that came with it. The constantly being pulled in three different directions. The struggle to maintain my patience and be the mom I really wanted to be.
This topic is close to my heart because it was one of my biggest struggles as a young mom. Still can be, even though my girls are self-sufficient now.
I’ve learned a few things in this struggle that have helped me through the overwhelm and I hope can apply to you in whatever stage of motherhood you’re in.
(Check out How to be the kind of Mother you can be Proud of where I have more tips on this topic!)
Understand Your Limits with Patience
We are starting with a topic many people find taboo. But it’s vital to understanding some underlying issues that might affect our ability to cope with daily stress.
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, Anxiety Disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., and women are twice as likely to be affected as men. And depression affects millions of adults each year.
I am not a doctor so I will not be imparting any medical advice, but as someone who knows, let me convince you to get help if you feel out of sorts. I’m not talking about that “off” feeling we sometimes get, but the ones that don’t go away or that impair our daily lives.
I have experienced depression a time or two before and I know it’s not a walk in the park. I have friends, dear friends, who have suffered from Postpartum Depression and I’ve listened to their heart-wrenching journey of trying to navigate those waters alone.
Please don’t feel you need to do anything alone. There are more people on this journey than we might realize. And plenty of friends and loved ones ready to support us in any way they can, but they need to know there’s a need. People are wrapped up in the busyness of their everyday lives and sometimes fail to see those around them who are standing still.
As far as anxiety is concerned, we are old friends. I’ve had bouts of anxiety since I was a teenager and have struggled with it often in motherhood. Anxiety often causes overwhelm, which can inhibit mothers from taking control of any area of their lives. Including how they respond to needy children or outside pressures that affect their home life.
I would even recommend sitting down with a partner and learning together what you can about it. Ignoring this or brushing it off will only set us up for frustration and quite possibly worsening symptoms.
After giving birth to our youngest, I struggled with so many things mentally and physically. It took months and even years to fully recognize these struggles but once I did, I worked at understanding them. Only then could I help myself get better.
I’m in a totally different place now than I was 8-10 years ago, but that did not happen overnight. It took being proactive about my well-being. It took knowing my body and my mind enough to understand that what I was experiencing was not normal. And it helped to be open and honest with my husband so he could learn how to be there for me.
So if you are not feeling yourself, PLEASE seek help. At the very least, find a group of moms that are in the same boat and get in on their support. It really helps.
Recognize Your Triggers and Head Them Off
This has helped me SO much when I felt like patience was becoming an urban myth.
There were times I was doing great, feeling like I had this mom-life in the bag and then my little one would have a bathroom accident and all at once I had a carpet to clean, clothes to wash and a child to bathe.
Goodbye peace and calm. Goodbye, even keel. Goodbye patience.
Thankfully, my oldest understood me very well and could tell when I was hitting my limits. There were many times she put the clothes in the wash and start on the carpet while I bathed her sister. Just the act of her jumping in before I could break down and cry was enough to help me keep things together.
To be honest, I didn’t like the fact that one minor thing could put my mental state into a nosedive. But it was true. And it was happening often. I knew I had to fix this because it was not good for my kids to see and it definitely wasn’t a good place for me either.
This is one way I grew more patience and something I recommend you try if you are struggling, too:
Sit down with a piece of paper and pen and brain dump all the things that have frustrated you this week. Keep going until you have a nice-sized list.
Seeing these things written out might surprise you. You might not have realized just how many things there were. Or that some of what you added to the list were actually triggers, but now that you see them there among the others, they make sense.
Write them all down, and then, on another piece of paper, rearrange them in order of importance. Which are your worst offenders? Add those first. And so on.
Now pretend this is your friend’s list. If she came to you with that list and asked for your input, what tips would you give her? Starting with the first trigger, add some ideas next to it you would recommend her try that would help diffuse those triggers.
Removing yourself from the advice you give yourself can be more effective as you’re less likely to think of excuses why you can’t do them. Better yet, give the list to your mom, sister, or trusted friend and see if their tips aren’t exactly what you need.
Without listing all my triggers (we don’t have that kind of time) I’ll just add some practical things that helped me deal with overwhelm, chaos and the like.
- I started putting everyone on a schedule.
This was hard at first. I am not a scheduled person. Everything in me resists the feeling of being tied down. But there was no structure in our lives and I knew it was essential.
Kids find great security in knowing what to expect. Yes, there can still be moments of spontaneity, but the key parts of the day ought to be scheduled.
I read a tip once: It’s better to create a loose schedule and live by it strictly than to create a strict schedule and live by it loosely. That was such brilliant advice for this free spirit and it kept me from throwing in the towel on schedules completely.
Schedules have really helped our kids know what to expect each day, which keeps them from constantly asking all the questions, which in turn keeps me from losing my mind. Because three kids all asking the same questions is enough to make anyone lose their minds.
- I gave the kids chore charts.
The girls loved their chore charts so much. Being able to see what I expected of them and being able to cross things off their list were great feelings of accomplishments. They thrived on that hard work and structure. And they loved working towards the special rewards that we offered.
But as a mom, having the girls pitch in around the house did more for my mental state then probably anything else has. Being relieved of some of the burden of running a house allowed me to focus on other things, which helped me feel more in control of my life again.
So many parents struggle with giving their kids chores. Trust me, I get this. It’s hard to have a child help with the chores. It takes twice as long, their attention isn’t always engaged, and the finished project often looks less than ideal.
But TRUST ME, you want to take the time to teach them. Because they need to feel like they contribute to their family. They need to feel important. And they need to know how to work hard and keep a house. Because they will move out one day and they’ll appreciate knowing these skills.
Growing up, I watched more than one mom skip this part of motherhood and they ended up straining their health and always wondered why their teenagers never cleaned. Even as a kid I knew what the problem was.
By the time I was in Jr. High, my mom had taught us enough that she retired from cooking and cleaning until us girls moved out of the house. And I’m so thankful for that work ethic.
Now I am in that same stage of life and I can confidently say that our two oldest could run the house if they needed to, and our youngest is fast on her way.
And my mental health has never been better. Trust me on this one; it’s a game-changer.
- I kept a menu for the week.
There’s a reason takeout is so popular with moms. Because by the time we’ve put in a full day with kids, housework, and everything else that happens in a day, dinner is often the farthest thing from our minds. And probably how ‘breakfast for dinner’ got its start. Cereal, anyone?
But takeout was not an option in our budget, so I had to come up with something that would help keep things in order. Not only did having a menu help eliminate the stress of not knowing what I needed to make or prepare ahead of time, but it helped me save money at the store. Win/win!
Posting your menu can help fends off the “What’s for dinner?” question most moms get a hundred times in a day.
- I got away from it all.
Even now, with my workload ever-growing, I hit my limit from time to time. But before I lose my cool on the next person who has the misfortune of crossing paths with me, I put my work away, pull up Spider Solitaire, play some soft music and ask the girls to give me space.
Thankfully, I’ve gotten pretty good at seeing when I need a breather long before it becomes essential. I have used these measures many times because they work well for me. It’s important to have some go-to techniques that help you destress whenever you need them.
- I made time to work on me.
One thing I noticed when looking over my list of triggers was that I wasn’t making time for myself. And that was a big problem. Because how was I to work on becoming a more patient, loving mother when I didn’t even know who that mother was anymore?
After some serious soul-searching, I learned how to get back to myself, which has done SO much for me and my family. (You can read Rediscovering Yourself After Motherhood to learn valuable but practical tips to help you make time for you.)
- I slowed life down.
I live in what is considered a bustling suburb of Chicago and I’m telling you, life here can be hectic. Our personal lives are also very busy with work and school and church life.
Too many times I have ramped up the stress in our lives because I was constantly trying to keep up. And I hated it. I lived for summers when life was much more calm and relaxed.
But I knew if I was always living for the times when life was slower, I would never enjoy the times that weren’t. And that was nine months out of the year.
So I found small ways to slow life down every day so we could enjoy the here and now. It can be as simple as stopping for ice cream on the way home or as spontaneous as going away for the weekend.
Have Patience With Yourself
We can have all the tips and techniques at our disposal, but if we aren’t willing to practice it on ourselves, we might as well throw in the towel now. Because we need to accept that having patience is not something that happens overnight.
The harder we struggle with patience, the longer it might take to change. But these tips are some things I practice daily. It’s been years since I started implementing them and if I’m honest, some days are harder than others. But I keep working on it. Because having patience isn’t really a destination. It’s more of a journey thing.
As long as we decide to continue on that journey, no matter how many times we lose the path, then that’s all that really matters.