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You probably saw the title of this post and audibly groaned. It’s a visceral reaction you can’t help. If you’re a mom, you’re almost certainly overwhelmed. Period. Overwhelmed moms are constantly looking for ways to make their lives a little easier, and we’re here to help reduce some of that stress.
Mental health for parents is a big deal and struggle, as we often feel guilt, overwhelm, and worry.
We can’t make parenting easy (sorry!), but we’ve come up with tons of tips and resources to decrease your feelings of “mom overwhelm.” It’s time to stop feeling bad and start enjoying motherhood more!
*Note: This is a sponsored article on behalf of 2ULaundry, meaning I have been compensated for this article. All of the content included is my honest opinion. I only work with brands and recommend products I personally use and love.
Why We Feel the Need to “Do It All”
Research shows that moms are exhausted, feeling “physically and emotionally overwhelmed by one’s parental role.” This news is surprising to absolutely no moms. Zero. Zilch. None.
We know we feel like we’re supposed to “do it all.”
So let’s talk about why we feel that way. I think it has a lot to do with being a “modern” woman in today’s society. Hear me out.
If you weren’t privileged enough to go to college, you likely entered the workforce early and are still working your ass off to this day, while also raising a family and managing your home. Kudos to you, mama. You’re a badass.
If you were privileged enough to go to college, you may have gotten a degree and started a career.
Some of you always knew you might stay at home with your kids later in life, and some of you hoped to have that luxury. But either way, for most (not all) of us, work life played a role before parenting.
Once you had a child, you were suddenly pulled in multiple directions. Do your job, raise your child, be a partner (if you have one), manage a home, maintain friendships, take care of your body, practice self care, the list goes on.
Basically: we were taught that we could have it all, and that’s the best part of being a modern woman, but it’s also a double-edged sword. No wonder there are so many moms feeling overwhelmed!
“Doing It All” is a Lie
You see, our grandmothers, and even some of our mothers, had more clearly defined roles. In World War II, women entered the workforce out of necessity while the men were away at war.
And you know what was provided when these women entered the workforce?
- Childcare facilities
- Premade family meals
- Grocery & meals provided when the child was picked up from daycare
Sure, their plates were full and their lives were hard, raising kids, working full time, keeping a tidy house (because I somehow feel like people were better at that back then), and doing it all without a physically present partner.
But still, it’s clear that the systems trying to keep our society running knew women couldn’t do it all. This message got lost somewhere along the way.
After the men returned from war, women’s roles in the home became, in many ways, more ingrained than before.
Not only did they stay home and raise children, but many of our grandmothers canned their own food, made every meal from scratch, and were all-around bad asses.
“Doing it All” is a Modern Lie
Now, fast forward sixty or so years, and their granddaughters and daughters (us!) are living in a world where we’re still supposed to be Pinterest moms who do all the baking, cooking, party planning, and organizing, while it’s also normal to have careers, success, and families.
But while many of us relish being able to have a career that is fulfilling, we’re also stuck shouldering the hefty load of parenting, too. We are spread thinner than ever before.
No wonder we feel like we’re going to lose it. Parents feel overwhelmed because they’re expected to do too much.
We feel like we need to do it ALL. But we can’t. We get overloaded by the madness, and we HAVE to outsource some of our tasks to someone, or we might spontaneously combust.
So let’s figure out if you’re near your point of combustion and how to overcome it.
Mom Overwhelm Is My Everyday
If you feel like you’re doing it all right now, we’re with you. Let me tell you a little about all I’m doing:
- Running a website and a women-based community of over 50k women
- Writing a book
- Pitching myself for podcasts & other interviews (and recording those podcasts and interviews, which requires setup, preparation, and the time of actually doing them)
- Writing articles for mainstream media
- Growing social media platforms
- Building products to help my community
- Searching for an agent
- Trying to eat healthily
- Being a support person for my husband whose job is far more stressful than mine
…All from my office basement while my preschooler is upstairs with his beloved caregiver, Kiki.
Note that I just told you I have a caregiver!
I’m not going to lie, I’ve taken some heat for that. But we must seek help where we can, and I could not possibly do all I’m doing without help.
I will not lie to you and pretend I do it all.
Living my life and parenting my child are exhilarating and frustrating and satisfying and HARD…and so many other things all rolled into one. For the most part, I keep it fairly balanced. But I’m still an overwhelmed mom!
Because Jack spends more time than I’d like to admit to standing at the door of the basement yelling for me while I work and feel overcome with mom guilt.
Because I fall prey to the lie that I’m supposed to give my child all my time and attention to the detriment of my own health and work. I work every single day to overcome that feeling.
How Do You Know if You’re Overwhelmed by Parenting?
I know I’m often overwhelmed by parenting, even though I’ve done my best to seek help where possible. I could always do a better job, but without that help and structure, I would break.
So how do you know when you’re balancing things, and when you’re losing it? Honestly, it’s a fine line, but take a minute and ask yourself the following questions:
- Have you been less patient with your children, or more prone to snapping at them without realizing you’re doing it?
- Have you been sleeping poorly?
- Have you been crying throughout the day, sometimes without understanding why?
- Are you eating more or less than normal?
- Are you becoming better friends with your nightly glass (or two) of wine than usual?
- Do you find yourself desperately wishing you could get away for a few days? (I don’t mean a fleeting dream–every mom has those–but a real, serious yearning.)
- Do you take frustrations out on other people, snapping or being impatient without understanding why?
If more than a few of these apply to you, then it’s likely time to stop and take a hard look at all the things you are doing for your family that you could possibly outsource to make your life easier.
We’re not talking about drinking a miami vice by the pool in Bora Bora easier (although that sounds amazing).
We’re simply talking about taking some of the burden off of you so that you can actually be a better caregiver to yourself and mama to your children.
Are You a Mom Feeling Overwhelmed? 6 Tips to Reduce Your Motherload
The following are ways to take a good, hard look at the things you do on a daily basis for your family and to find ways that you can reduce that load!
We don’t promise that everything will get easier from here on out, but allowing yourself the space to figure out what you can change is worth it.
(1) Make a Task List
We know, it’s one more thing to do, but it’s worth it. For 3-5 days (depending on how routine your life is or if it varies throughout the week), keep a list going in your phone as you do a task.
This includes ANYTHING that takes your time that someone else could potentially do. It’s not that you’re going to give it to someone else–if you let yourself think through it that much, you won’t put anything on the list–but just that it’s possible for another human being to complete that task.
No one else can shower for you, or brush your teeth, so leave that off the list.
But dropping the kids at school? Goes on the list. Making lunches? List. Adjusting the family calendar? List. Loads of laundry and putting the kids to bed and meal planning and making lists and grocery shopping and bathing the kids and keeping the house perfectly clean and . . . and . . . and . . . LIST!
By the time you’re finished, you’ll be shocked by all you accomplish on a daily basis.
I hope you’ll have already started to feel better about your impressive productivity and by realizing that you’re AMAZING. But I also hope you’ll be willing to release some of the madness so you can be less overwhelmed by parenting!
(2) Organize the list
Divide it up, use emojis, print it out, and color code it. Whatever works for you. But the goal is to figure out…
- What on your list gives you energy
- What on your list is just okay
- What on your list drains you
Everything that gives you energy is yours. Keep it and own it, mama!
The things that are just “okay,” you can figure out last.
The things that drain you, or that you just really hate for no apparent reason (and it’s TOTALLY okay to hate things you do for your family. Seriously.) Those are the things we’re getting rid of.
(3) Talk to people who can help you
If you have a partner, this person is your go-to. Our partners, especially if they don’t work from home, have no idea how much we do each day, so simply seeing the list will likely blow them away.
If you’re a single parent, take some time to think about who you can ask for help.
Maybe that means trading duties with another mom–you do school dropoff, but she’ll have lunches ready for both kids.
Or you’ll cook enough dinner for the other person’s family twice a week, which means that for 2 nights, you no longer have to cook and clean.
You can also talk to family members and friends who are willing to help, and if you have hired help, like a nanny, babysitter, or housekeeper, this is definitely a great way to delegate appropriate tasks to them.
Note: I want to emphasize the word “appropriate.” If it’s in your nanny contract that she’ll do light housekeeping, do not ask her to scrub toilets. But if you have someone who comes to clean once every few weeks, asking this person to pick up extra tasks like doing dishes may be totally appropriate.
Show these people your list, but only the items you want to get rid of. See what they can pick up, or trade off.
Don’t show the items you love, or they just might try to scoop those items up, which doesn’t really help you much.
I, for one, HATE giving Jack a bath. I don’t know why. He’s in a bath-hating stage, which makes it worse, but I’ve never enjoyed it, even when bath time was adorable.
So I often ask our nanny to give him a bath, or if we do bath at bedtime, Husband gets him in and I only do the hair washing (which Husband hates more than me.)
But I LOVE bedtime. It’s my very favorite. So Husband does bedtime 1 night a week, but on the whole, the rest are mine. And I want them to be.
Do NOT try to take bedtime away from me. I will happily come downstairs to the dishes having been done (another task I hate) after doing bedtime each night.
Now that you know who can do what, assign tasks to people.
“Every Monday afternoon, my mom will take the kids so I can go to the gym.” This is just an example.
I know what you’re thinking. I’m thinking the same thing. It’s frustrating as hell that we, as moms, have to manage this mental load and do all the organization, delegating, and planning…just to be able to go to the gym.
But that’s a whole different article. For now, let’s recognize that we make our long-term lives easier by creating the structure.
Assign tasks to people on the list, and then leave them to those people. Make sure they know their responsibilities, and let it go.
Important note: if you delegate loading the dishwasher to your partner, and then you critique how they load it, you’re undermining your goal. When we choose to delegate, we HAVE to let people do what we asked them to without commentary. This is super hard for control-freak me, but seriously, LET. IT. GO.
(5) Set Deadlines
Let’s stick with the most recent example. Let’s say that I tell Husband, “Hey, Husband, it’s now your job to make sure the dishes are washed.”
Well, knowing Husband, they’ll pile up in the sink for days. It works the same way if they’re my responsibility because, as I mentioned, I despise doing dishes.
So what’s reasonable?
“Husband, please make sure the sink is empty and cleaned every night before bed.” That’s a tangible task. I shouldn’t have to bug him about it each day. He has plenty of notice because it’s his job.
We love the AnyList app for task delegation. We can mark off what we’ve done each day, and then still see what needs to be accomplished.
Trust me here. Deadlines > annoying someone with reminders.
(6) Revisit the list
You’ve shortened your list. You’ve delegated. GOOD FOR YOU! That alone is hard work.
But there are still items on your list that may be more than you can handle. What are they? Mark the ones you really want to get rid of, or that take the most time, and see if there’s a way to outsource.
Yes, this requires employing outside help, and I realize that isn’t always an option monetarily. But if it is, you can really use it to help you.
ALSO, did you know that there are things you can outsource that really don’t cost you more?
For instance, if grocery shopping takes up a lot of your time, do price comparisons for different grocery delivery services (or for services that let you order and have a shopper get the groceries, but you still pick them up). You save on tip and service fees by picking them up yourself, but that’s probably 1-2 hours a week you don’t spend in the grocery store.
If you’re a working mom, you can also do a cost/benefit analysis. By paying someone to do my laundry, I am spending more money. But how much time goes into laundry and ironing, and will I make that money back by working?
Let’s talk more about outsourcing.
Outsourcing Tasks that Contribute to Mom Overwhelm
There are tons of ways you can outsource different tasks that contribute to “mom overwhelm.” One of my biggest ones, that doesn’t cost an extra dime, is having dry cleaning picked up and delivered.
Going to the dry cleaner does not, theoretically, take that much time. I gather clothes, put them in the car, drop them off while running errands, and I’m finished until I need to pick them up. Easy peasy. Or so it seems.
But the reality is that dropping off my dry cleaning reminds me that I need to go to the bank, put gas in my car, and stop by the grocery store for just the few things I don’t have at home. These few things do not usually warrant a trip to the store, and yet, it always seems to happen, and to the store I go. It’s a strange version of “if you give a mom a chore.”
The same problem occurs when I pick up my dry cleaning, so twice in one week, I unnecessarily waste time on tasks that could be accomplished differently. At least, that’s what I used to do.
Not anymore. Once I started having 2ULaundry pickup my dry cleaning from my front steps, I no longer wasted time on these extra tasks. Those few grocery items got added to my grocery delivery order for later in the week, I started asking Husband to stop by the bank on his way home from work since he passes it, and now all I have to do is keep gas in my car.
I’m not spending any more money than I did when I delivered and picked up my own dry cleaning, but I am saving time. This, mamas, is how we work to beat the overwhelm!
If I’m extra stressed and am willing to spend the extra bucks to get rid of some overwhelm, I send out my laundry, too. This is admittedly much more expensive than doing laundry myself, so it’s a rarity and a luxury, but in desperate times, it helps so much!
Regular Tasks that’s Easy to Outsource
There are a lot of tasks we’re able to outsource as moms, and it makes our lives so much easier. Pinky promise.
Some cost more money, but some don’t–do your cost/benefit analysis and decide what’s right for you.
(1) Grocery Shopping
I’m a huge fan of Instacart, especially since they listened to their employees during the early days of social distancing and improved their working conditions. I’m also known for ordering groceries through Amazon’s Prime Now service.
I also love online services like Thrive Market (perfect for buying groceries in bulk) and Crowd Cow, where I get most of our meat (I love that it’s sourced from small farmers and I can trust that good animal welfare practices were used.)
You also have the great option of placing your order online and having it loaded into your car. Target is my favorite for this (plus I can get way more than groceries), but tons of grocery stores offer the service!
(2) Meal Planning
Delivery services do a ton to help with meal planning, which is basically my nemesis. Services like Hello Fresh, Blue Apron, & more help save you the time of meal planning and grocery shopping, even though you still cook (which is the fun part!).
Want to save yourself even the cooking time? Freshly sends ready-to-heat deals straight to your door each week, drastically cutting down on the time you spend meal planning, at the store, and in the kitchen!
There is nothing I enjoy less than cleaning a shower. Except maybe dishes or meal prep.
Keeping a clean house is not something you can do in 15 minutes. So having someone come in every two weeks or so and clean can be a game-changer. It literally saves an entire day per week.
If this is an option for you, ask around and hire someone local. There are also tons of services you can use, and you can hire using Amazon Home Services.
If you can’t swing this luxury (it’s definitely a luxury), see if there’s a way to budget having someone do a deep clean every ½ year. That will save you some major time and a seriously sore low back!
(5) Picking up prescriptions
Did you know that most pharmacies these days actually deliver? This was news to me when I was trying to find a way to get my medications without venturing out in the early days of the pandemic.
Unless you take controlled substances, there’s a decent chance your pharmacy will deliver prescriptions straight to your door. You can also use mail-in services, like PillPack by Amazon.
(6) Fixing things around the house
If you spend too much time putting together kid toys, tightening the toilet paper holder, and making sure the banister stays sturdy since your kids insist on scaling it, having help with those tasks can be huge.
Amazon Home Services can do all these things for you, from sending a handyman to a plumber to furniture assembly, & more.
I mostly do my own laundry, and my nanny is also amazing and is willing to help with it if time allows. Jack is actually obsessed with doing laundry, but you can imagine how helpful he actually is.
This is also the kind of thing you can ask for help if a friend or family member is coming over to help out.
But if you want regular help, jump on Google and search for laundry services in your area. This is probably the most expensive item on the list, but when you need it, it can be really really helpful.
(8) Dry cleaning
I’ve already told you how much time 2ULaundry has saved me, but I truly can’t emphasize it enough. I was shocked when I realized how much less time I waste by simply having dry cleaning picked up and delivered to my doorstep.
Currently, they’re available in Atlanta and Charlotte, and I highly recommend them! But a lot of dry cleaners deliver, so if you aren’t in their service area, do a little research and you can probably find someone to take that item off your plate!
What’s the most frustrating task you tackle that makes you feel all the mom overwhelm?
Katy Huie Harrison, PhD, is an author, mom, recurrent miscarriage survivor, & owner of Undefining Motherhood. She lives in Atlanta with her husband (affectionately known on the internet as “Husband,”) son (Jack), and dog (Charlotte). She believes our society puts too many expectations on women that make womanhood and motherhood restrictive. Her goal is to shift the paradigm about what it means to be a woman and mother, giving all women a greater sense of agency over their own lives. You can find Katy and her work featured in places like CNN’s Headline News, Romper, Scary Mommy, Demeter Press’s Motherhood and Social Exclusion, & more.