Help For The Overwhelmed Mama

Who, these days, doesn’t feel like life is asking just a little too much of her? Nobody knows that feeling better than a mother raising children. No matter how you shake it, there never seems to be enough time in the day to get everything done and that can leave you feeling guilty, stressed-out and exhausted.

Frankly, there is no easy fix for this — you do have a lot on your plate and those kids are not going to raise themselves — but there are things that you can do to make life more manageable.

So next time you find yourself awake at 3 A.M. debating whether you should get up and bake those cupcakes for the Bake Sale now or at 6 A.M., meditate on these tips instead and pick up some store-bought ones on the way to school. The world will keep on spinning and that extra bit of sleep may allow you to enjoy it a little more.

Pace Yourself

Being a mom is a job that’s going to go on for the rest of your life. Believe me when I say this! I know that you cannot yet understand that even when your kids are in their late teens and early twenties you will still be needed to occasionally pick them up or drop them off at airports and train stations; move them into dorms and apartments; talk to them about problems late into the night; stay awake wondering why they’re late coming home; help them prepare for job interviews; and cart them around the country to look at colleges.

Then, someday, they will be calling on you to help them with their own children. It is a labor of love being a mother but unlike the labor you endured bringing them into the world, this kind of labor goes on — and on. In order to avoid getting burned out before things get fully under way, you must be smart and take the long view.

So when the overly ambitious soccer coach for the Under 8′s starts to needle you into making your second grader join the summer travel team so that he will be able to play with the “good players” next year, don’t be suckered into thinking it’s your duty as a mom to comply. Or, that it’s necessarily the truth. Or, that your 7-year-old son will actually care if he doesn’t do it. Weigh the costs to yourself and your family and remember that he’s not actually going to be a starter on the Major League Soccer team or a contender for the Olympics any time soon. Anyway, he needs the down time, too!

Learn How to Say No

The moment your child sets foot in pre-school, the requests for help begin. And basically they never stop. Sure, you can be the designated “go-to mom” for every single project that comes along and end up spending as much time doing for the school, the team, the library etc. as you would have had you kept your full-time job as Attorney General. Definitely do your share but understand that it’s okay to say no, too. It doesn’t make you a bad person and believe me, they will ask again.


We all occasionally get suckered into believing that unless we’re doing it all ourselves, we are somehow not doing it right. So we drive ourselves (and our families) crazy by working much harder than we need to in order to get the day-to-days taken care of. Learn how to farm it out once in a while, when you can. Hire the kid down the street to mow the lawn. Get your dry cleaners to pick up and drop off the stuff you normally cart down there yourself. Pay a kid to be a mother’s helper once a week so you can pay bills or cook dinner in peace. Order groceries online and have them delivered. These kinds of things will free up some of your time which you can then spend playing with your kids — or taking a nap!

And don’t forget to start early teaching those little ones how to pitch in. They need to learn that they are important, contributing members of a family, not guests at a resort. There is much they can do to help and they should. It will not only help you but will build their confidence and sense of self worth as well.

Take Time to Recharge

I know you don’t think you need it, but you do. When your anxiety or stress level gets too high you become much less efficient and much more crabby.

Figure out now what helps you to relax and make it a priority to include it in your week — not your month — but your week. Whether it’s daily meditation, going out to see a movie by yourself, locking the bathroom door and soaking in a hot tub surrounded by candles and soft music or heading down to a favorite spot in nature with a book and a snack, take the time to do it.

As busy as your life may be, everything won’t come crashing down if you get serious about taking this time for yourself. One week you may only have half an hour to spare, another week may afford you an hour or two. The key is to get in the habit of penciling it in regularly.

Schedule Weekly Exercise

We’ve said it before but it’s worth it to say it again: regular exercise has been shown to be as effective as antidepressants in treating depression. So imagine what it can do for you if you are “merely” stressed? It will not only keep you fit and gorgeous, it will also reduce your anxiety, prevent many diseases and give you more energy. Plus, it will show your kids that you are willing to put your money where your mouth is when it comes to taking care of your bod. Your actions regarding health and wellness will speak much more convincingly to them than any words ever could.

So there you have it, mama. Thank you for everything you do. The world (and your family) appreciates it and it really, really matters. But please, don’t forget to take care of yourself, too.  : )



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Ellen W. Schrier, LCSW, is a family therapist and the mother of three adolescent/young adult kids.

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