A few weeks ago, I became acutely aware of just how deep I was drowning.
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We moved three times last year, coming to rest in this 127 year old house by July. Every room still has boxes in it, and our daughter still sleeps in a pack n play in our room, her toddler bed in pieces in a room filled with toys and clothes and more boxes. Wallpaper needs to be stripped, tattered carpet needs to be ripped out, every dark paneled wall painted. With being the entertainment for a single toddler, I’ve been counting it a great day if the laundry gets mostly folded before she whips it onto the floor, and the dishes got washed, let alone getting to a box to unpack. In September, my husband lost his job and although he quickly gained two new positions that filled most of our income back in in October, I found myself delivering papers overnight to account for the rest we needed. As such, instead of having the Little’s naptime to get things done as well-meaning people advise, I often nap with her as the only sleep I see in a 24 hour period. I felt incredibly guilty for either not spending time with her giggles and teaching her all of the things, or spending that time with her while everything else sits taunting me. What do I do in the few precious hours available during a day? After working two jobs a day, the last thing my husband wants is to be nagged to put those dishes away, let alone much of anything else as he winds down from the 13 hour workday before he goes to bed. Meanwhile, my perfectionist eyes look at a to-do list longer than our neighborhood block, a toddler to teach, and they fight off tears as I had no idea where to begin.
I found myself overwhelmed. Tapped out. Fighting depression. Drowning.
Are you feeling overwhelmed too, mama?
I caught myself a few weeks ago, and decided I couldn’t live like that anymore. So, I came up with a plan, and hopefully you can take away a piece or two for you.
- I said something.
I said something…to a couple of trusted friends, and guess what? I found out I wasn’t alone. I mean, I knew that I probably wasn’t alone, but to find out that ladies I think have it all together, actually thought I had it all together and they were fighting off their own demons. Funny, right? Many of us feel like we need to have it all figured out, and if we don’t, we should get it together and present a cute little package for everyone. But, you should have seen the relief on the face of one friend and then another, when they found out I was losing it too.
I said something to my husband. As a guy, he isn’t wired to do life how we are, and they typically need a wind down period. I get it, and I won’t bother him on his long days. However, on the days where he works just one job, he now often asks what I would like help with that day. Hey, if he doesn’t mind folding the laundry while he watches a show, that frees me up to do something only I can do. He actually asked for a to-do list, so on Mondays, I put up a list on the fridge of a few things he could do at his leisure during the week that would take my stress level down – things like “put dishes away when you see them in the drainer, sweep downstairs floors, organize the board games, take out all trash and recycling, pick up toys when in livingroom.” I change it every week so he keeps looking at it. It helps to know his shortcomings. 😉 He loves crossing things off, and I’m freed up to get other things done that he can’t do or doesn’t do well. Reach out to those around you, we aren’t meant to have to do it all.
- I prioritized my to-do list and broke it down.
I spent several minutes brain puking onto a piece of paper my wishlist of productivity. I went room by room in my head and wrote down everything I could think of on my quest for peace in my home. If you haven’t guessed, I’m a very task-oriented person, and just doing this helped ease my energy.
From there, I prioritized everything. Putting the Little’s bedroom together is more important to me than ripping down wallpaper. Likewise, painting the kitchen cabinets would allow me to get rid of most of the boxes still downstairs, as I could finally put my kitchen wares away. Then, I actually prioritized by area, from looking at where the most priority tasks were.
THEN, I broke that room down. Instead of looking at “put Olivia’s room together” for months upon months and self-loathing myself that I was never going to get it done, I was looking at a checklist that included things like “switch out 12mo clothes to 18mo, pack away 12mo clothes, put toddler bed together, figure out a toy box, buy stuffed animal hammock, organize hairbows, print off verse printable and frame”. Each of those takes a different amount of time, and even if it took a few tries (switching out her clothes took three days to accomplish), it was a MUCH smaller ordeal than the original idea. Quicker gratification for accomplishing something too, which is always a great thing for the self esteem AND motivation.
- I’m outsourcing.
I simply can’t do it all, and it was freeing to actually understand that. I used to own a cleaning business, and quite honestly most of my clients were stay at home mothers! Very, very overwhelmed moms, at that. Granted, I’m not in a place where I can outsource like that (however if you are, you totally should, see number one in this post for the why).
What I AM doing however is hosting a painting party next month. Ever since we moved in here, so many of our friends have offered to come over and help strip wallpaper, rip up carpet, paint, hang photos…anything! Instead of continuing to have an “I’ve got this” attitude, I’m going to take them up on the offer. Oddly enough, they’re ecstatic, and that’s before I mentioned that I’d feed them for their trouble. Even if we just get one room done, that’s one room that I can retreat to when everything else is chaos around me, and that’s an awesome thing, plus there will be plenty of fellowship with friends I don’t see often enough. Is there something you can “outsource”, even if it’s just once?
- I got started.
In order to have that painting party, I’m going to need rooms cleared of boxes and clutter, right? While I could sit and self-loathe that I can’t get it all done, I decided to simply start. Easier said than done right?
I designated three hours throughout the day to the Little, where we read books, I ask her where her eyes are, show her how to count to five, do a sensory activity, and anything else I can think of. I give the dog some attention, and my husband usually takes her for a long walk when he gets home. We nap another three hours a day, and the rest of the time the Little is content with hanging out in her playpen with several toys and books, but she’s often dancing to the music I play throughout the day, laughing when I look up at her with funny faces. We’re both introverts, so this works for us, but find a balance that works for you, and don’t feel guilty if it’s not absolutely perfect!
I have been steadily moving through my priority list for the last few weeks – not quickly, mind you, but moving nonetheless.
- I cut myself a break.
This has been the hardest, if I’m being honest. Those of you who fight seasons or lifetimes of depression are with me here. Listen. You are only one person, and although I’ve been praying for years that God would grant me at least 36 hours in each day, it has yet to happen for either of us I’m guessing.
Motherhood is a difficult, often incredibly lonely season. Invite someone over to get some adult conversation in and have them either keep an eye on the kiddos or help you fold laundry while you chat over a mostly hot cup of coffee. You’re accomplishing so many things right there, mama!
But seriously. I realized I can’t fill everyone else’s cup when mine is an empty shell of nothing. If you’re drowning in life, divvy up that stuff and share! Don’t worry about a hard timeline – just see progression, in whatever goals you have, as a success. You’re looking at one of mine – be comfortable enough to talk about failure (to strangers even), check!
I’ve been promised that it gets easier but with new challenges. In a short time, she won’t need me to open her cheese stick, and I can do something else instead. But, she’ll instead tell me about a mean kid at preschool instead. The constant need of you will get easier, but the need of you will always be there. Hang in there with me.
Your turn: What’s your story? What’s missing for you? How can you be encouraged today?
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