Being a mom can be really stressful. There’s so much that pulls us in different directions. It’s hard not to feel overwhelmed most of the time. Work, kids’ schedules, running a household and the countless other things we need to do can be hard to juggle. And while some things are non-negotiable, there are others we don’t have to do because they just add to the chaos of an already complicated life.
Over the past few years, I’ve been working on simplifying my life so I can focus mainly on things that are essential (i.e. things I can’t get out of) and activities I enjoy. As I think back at what I’ve changed, these five things stand out as the most important to help quiet some of the mom life craziness.
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1. Limit the Kid Stuff
Yeah, I know…this one is hard. Kids come with so many toys and accessories, especially when they’re little. It’s also tough because we all want to give our kids the best of everything. Maybe we want our kids to have what we didn’t have growing up. But most of us have limited space and all those things can really add up.
I struggle with this. I want my boys to have all the good things. But I have a hard time getting rid of so many of their toys and drawings because they represent special memories. I shared a little about my attachment issues in this post. It’s one of the reasons I started blogging. I needed to limit the mountains of kid stuff accumulating in my home.
When I finally came to terms with this tendency to hold on to everything, I was able to slowly come up with techniques for letting go. And to be honest I found that even working on this gradually has been really helpful. If you’re at least moving in the right direction, doing a little bit at a time can go a long way in alleviating the stress of a cluttered house.
Having fewer things is also good for your kids. We all know on some level that giving our kids too many choices can leave them feeling overwhelmed. And living in a chaotic household is stressful for them as well. They need limits and order and being surrounded by an absurd amount of stuff makes this a lot harder. Having less can also lead to more appreciation for the things they do have, which will have all sorts of benefits as they grow up.
I know we have plenty of our own stuff that can pile up, but I’m willing to bet that focusing on reducing the kid stuff is probably more than half the battle.
2. Limit Social Media
Technology is awesome and brings so many positives into our lives. Just think about what life was like before the smartphone if you can even remember that far back. One of my favorite things is social media, but it does have a dark side.
First of all, keeping up with it can seriously feel like a job sometimes. Even if you only use a few platforms, you can fall into the trap of spending countless hours browsing the latest Pinterest pins or scrolling through your Instagram feed. And don’t even get me started on Facebook. I’m in 75 Facebook groups! There’s no way any human can keep track of conversations going on in that many groups. And I don’t even try.
I get that after spending an entire day taking care of kids you need a break, and social media can be a nice escape. But spending too much time plugged in can lead to some problems.
We can get a false sense of what life with kids should actually look like. If you’re basing your idea of mothering on what you see on social media you can start to feel pretty crappy about your parenting abilities. But it’s absolute madness to think you need to cook meals from scratch, plan perfect theme-based birthday parties and have a home that looks spotless all the time. I don’t actually know anybody who does these things. The problem with social media is that you only get to see the pretty stuff. As we all know, there are lots of really unglamorous things about being a parent and nobody is posting that anywhere.
Studies also show that too much time on social media can lead to depression and loneliness. It’s good to remember that parenting is super hard and we need to hang out with real people in the real world who share our frustrations about it. We’re hard-wired for face-to-face interactions. Real connections can actually help us get through the daily parenting struggles in a way that social media can’t.
I’m not suggesting you abandon social media altogether. Have fun with it but give yourself time limits. And every now and then call a friend and go out for coffee. Spending time with other moms who are supportive and “get it” is good for you. And while you’re out being social in real life, don’t look at your phone.
3. Limit TV Drama
Have you noticed how mean and petty people are on reality TV? These shows do well because we seem to enjoy the drama. But it turns out watching all this negativity isn’t just harmless entertainment.
Watching violence or someone being abused has psychological effects on the person watching even if the situation is fictional. And this doesn’t just apply to kids. (Game of Thrones is a good example!)
The things we focus our energy on can have a real impact on how we feel and how we view life. Even though you aren’t personally involved in these situations, you’re experiencing negative emotions while you watch. And your body can’t really tell the difference between a stressor from your own life and one that you experience by watching a screen.
At some point, I figured out that watching shows that focused on negativity, whether it was reality TV or fictional drama, was taking its toll. Now when I watch something, I want it to be instructive or uplifting. Why watch stuff that makes me feel bad on purpose? No, thanks!
We all have enough going on in our own lives we can feel bad about. There’s no point in feeling negative emotions when you don’t have to.
4. Limit Commitments
It’s hard to schedule playdates for my boys and it’s usually because the kids we want to invite over have an after-school activity every day of the week. Yep, every single day.
Then I read a book by Jennifer Senior called All Joy and No Fun and it started to make sense. Apparently, families who have their kids enrolled in activities all week long are pretty common in the US, and there’s even a name for it. It’s called concerted cultivation. In a nutshell, parents who use this parenting approach try to provide a variety of experiences for their children hoping these will enrich their lives and also give them certain advantages as they grow.
There’s nothing wrong with wanting the best for our kids. But all of this busyness can really stress them out. Not only does it cause stress for kids and parents, but it also turns parents into social coordinators and chauffers. When you’re running yourself ragged trying to keep up with all these activities you’re going to be overwhelmed.
The book explains how concerted cultivation is a relatively new concept and only started after WWII. I definitely wasn’t concertedly cultivated and I don’t feel that I was irreversibly damaged because of it. And since I didn’t suffer any negative effects, I’m pretty sure my kids won’t either.
My boys take music lessons at school and sometimes have Cub Scouts on the weekends. That’s about it. We’ve tried sports here and there but they lost interest after a while and I was fine with that. On the weekends, we come and go as we please and sometimes we stay in. It’s awesome! Oh, and we also don’t do summer camp because they hate it.
Maybe I’m too relaxed about the whole thing but I’m a lot less stressed than some of my mom friends. And as an added bonus I get to spend lots of uninterrupted time with my kids.
5. Limit Free Information
The internet is great for getting information about any topic under the sun in a matter of seconds. Even beyond looking something up in a search engine, you can get content via social media, or the millions of blogs on the web. And if that’s not enough, you can sign up for free webinars, printables, and ebooks. The amount of available free information is endless.
But realistically, there is no way you’ll ever have enough time to read or consume all that info that comes your way. I didn’t understand this until very recently. My background is in publishing and free reading material is something I have a really hard time saying no to. At one point I was signing up for so much free content, I literally had thousands of articles, ebooks, and emails taking up space on my computer that I knew I was never going to read.
I was drowning in a sea of free content, feeling guilty that I wasn’t taking advantage of it. Once I realized signing up for every freebie I saw was just stressing me out, I made a conscious effort to be more selective about what I let into my inbox.
I’m sure you’re literally bombarded on a daily basis by pop-ups and pretty graphics that entice you to get a freebie that will change your life forever. But do yourself a favor and take a minute to really think about whether you’ll have the time to actually use it. It will save you hours of going through endless emails and files that you may never have a chance to read.
Enjoy the Simplicity
I’ve worked on eliminating these things over the span of a few years. I don’t necessarily recommend cutting everything out all at once….unless you’re ready and really fed up. Even eliminating one of them might free up enough space in your life to make things more manageable. Raising kids is hard but slowing down and forgoing some of the nonessentials can make it a little less chaotic and a lot more enjoyable.
Do you have any nonessentials you’ve cut out of your life? Please share them in the comments.
I am SO that way with TV. I have to pace myself with any Drama shows. It is so emotionally taxing! If I do watch something dramatic I always have to follow it up with a Sitcom or something.
Megan- Me too! I was getting way too upset about characters that got killed off, etc. Now I only watch comedy or Youtube. 🙂