A Love Letter to Overwhelmed Mums

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Sometimes motherhood can be suffocating.

There. I said it out loud.

To tell you the truth I just stared at those 35 little letters and wondered whether or not to declare them. Would child services be round to investigate me? Would people think I was a bad mother? Does it undermine the crazy amount of love I feel for my little Goose?

No. Of course not. Yet I still felt a huge amount of guilt admitting that parenting is not all sunshine and rainbows. But judging by endless conversations with other mothers as well as my beautiful coaching clients, I am not in the minority. A hell of a lot of mothers are feeling ashamed about being overwhelmed by the enormous task of raising a human.

I don’t understand this Supermum taboo. Most of us freely admit when our jobs, relationships, diets or exercise regimes are getting on top of us but when it comes to moulding a healthy and happy person we all get tongue tied.

It is totally fine to be a little terrified at the enormity of parenthood.

It is more than understandable to be a bit shell-shocked at the massive changes to your lifestyle (and that’s not just when they arrive – but every new stage they go through from birth up).

It is okay to miss the pre-child act of toilet-time; a once sacred experience that now entails being clawed, laughed or screamed at or (my favourite) stared at with an intensity that is confronting and odd.

Whatever you are feeling it is okay.

What I realised after a lot of self-examination and people watching  it that we put so much pressure on ourselves as mothers – a lot of it needless. A month or so ago I felt on the verge of a breakdown. I was exhausted from trying to play by all the rules and please everyone. So I made a decision to stop struggling and start living with flow, grace and ease. And my god what a difference it has made.

Sure I may not be crossing as many items off my to do list but I also don’t feel certifiably insane.

So if you are writhing around in an anxious flurry right now then I’d love to share these gems with you.

Are you happy and do you feel right as a parent?

I don’t like labels but for the sake of being succinct, I am an attachment parent. We co-sleep with Lucy, I spend a lot of the time wearing her, and she is with me most of the time. Apparently this goes against a lot of established conventions. I know this because a lot of people are more than willing to put their unsolicited two bob in on every facet of my parenting abilities. I have never had SO many people interested in the logistics and regularity of my sex life before.

I bowed down to the pressure at one point and decided maybe I was doing things ‘wrong’ – in particular regarding Lucy’s sleeping habits. So I tried controlled crying for 6 hours and absolutely hated it. It felt wrong and went against every fibre in my body.

I vowed never to do it again and NEVER to go against my own intuition when it comes to my child.

But this is not a debate about parenting styles. People make co-sleeping, controlled crying and every other sleeping style work for them. All I am saying is each to their own.

If something works for you and feels right – do it.

If it doesn’t – don’t.

And every time someone espouses their parenting techniques and disregards yours just ask these questions;

“Do I feel happy and right as a parent? Does it work for my family?”

Which brings me to my next point…

Be open-minded. Surround yourself with open-minded people.

Help out the sisterhood and don’t judge anyone else’s parenting style. If you are surrounded by people that judge you – get rid of them. If a relationship no longer serves you then cut it free and make some space for your tribe.

Express yo’self (not just milk)

On any one day I am juggling a million thoughts; blog ideas, chores, nutritious meal plans, budgets, developmental activities, socialising, entrepreneurship, fitness… the list goes on. And every mum could add a couple of million other subjects to the list; hopes, plans, dreams and fears. Living with that cacophony of internal chatter can be absolutely deafening!

Try and get in the habit of journaling every morning and night. Put pen to paper and just write to the bottom of your mind – get everything out. It doesn’t have to make sense, there needn’t be an order. You are just trying to release those thoughts and dull down the racket. Later on go back and read it and see if there are any gems that jump out at you – revelations, ideas or to dos.

Cannot tell you how much this helped my monkey mind.

Fuck rules

Ooops… totally shouldnt swear in front of the kids right? But the naughty word was warranted because my god, children come with a lot of rules nowadays.

Except most of them aren’t really rules – they are judgements.

Of course there are some good ones in there: do not allow infant to play with open flames is a corker. But other than that it is what works for you that matters.

Whenever I hear a rule I ask the question – would my grandma have worried about it?

Would my grandma have freaked out if her child didn’t nap at the same time every afternoon?

Nope.

Would my grandma have flipped out because she fed her baby egg before they turned one?

No.

Would my grandma have been upset at the fact her bub wanted to fall asleep on her chest most evenings?

Hell no.

Decide on what principles are right for you and then follow your goose guidance and stick by them. Any other rules and expectations are null and void.

Downtime is essential

Never feel guilty about needing some time to yourself. Try and schedule in a daily or weekly time to be alone. This might mean waking up 30 minutes earlier to meditate, booking a day or two at day care, asking a family member for some help or just stealing away while the kids are asleep to read some trashy magazines.

You will come back from that small break away rejuvenated and better. Your child benefits from a healthy functioning parent.

Surrender

Accept the fact that there will be days that you will get nothing done.

Your day will be totally out of control. And I can guarantee you that it will be the day that you have a million deadlines.

Your child will decide that the only thing that will stop them from screaming is sitting on your lap and looking deep into your eyes. For 8 hours. And don’t you dare look away.

I used to wrestle with those days until I decided to just surrender to it. Ignore the to do list and just delight in your child – play with them, go for a big walk, build a cubby in the lounge or just sit and study their features while they sleep on you. I am calmer and happier and in turn, so is Lucy.

Consider those days a long life lesson on the importance of presence.

Enjoy it

Last and most important rule. It may sound trite and clichéd but you only get this moment once. These years when you are your childs’ entire world are fleeting. And really beautiful.

So when you feel the crush of the To Do list just remember that everything on there is there to facilitate your baby’s best life. Actually consider what that is. They won’t remember the messy lounge room. They wont remember the blog post you didn’t write the new dress they weren’t wearing. They won’t remember the time you were so buggered that they got a stodgy dinner. They certainly wont remember a little excess baby podge on your body.

They will however remember playing in the park, walking on the beach, playing under a colourful sarong and spontaneous picnics.

They will remember feeling loved.

Tell me, do you have any secret weapons for overwhelmed mums? Or are you feeling stressed yourself and just need to vent? I’d LOVE to hear your motherhood stories or revelations in the comments. 

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  • You got it in a nutshell lady!!
    Parenthood is f-ing hard! Don’t get me wrong, I love my baby more than anything, but sometimes I don’t LIKE the whole motherhood thing! I hate the books and the unwanted advice… what works seamlessly for one baby and parent, does not mean it works for us! I decided not to try and be a supermum and have decided to use all the help I can from my own mum, my husband and friends. I take time out for myself and get to my pilates class and catch up with friends for shopping or drinks (yes non-alco though as I’m still breastfeeding)- without the baby… without feeling guilty. It might sound selfish, but it helps me be a better mother. I actually enjoy the feeling of being baby-free and feeling like my old self again for a moment. I can recharge. I have chosen to start a business from home to remain a SAHM, but that is a challenge too and finding the balance is very hard. No one else can tell you how it will be or how it should be because every situation, family dynamic, support structure and ways of raising children are different. Great post Em and from one exhausted mummy to another… keep up the amazing job!!! xxxxx
    PS: I know I said I don’t like unwanted advice – but because you mentioned controlled crying (hate it too!!) my Aunty who specialises in trauma and is a clinical psychologist, said that every bit of scientific research has shown that CC is very damaging to a baby and should never be a form of sleep training or “teaching” as it doesn’t teach a baby anything other than helplessness & insecurity. Just a fact and putting it out there… 🙂

    • You exactly right! Sometimes you just want your old life back where you could go on mystery day trips without having to worry about expressing or babysitting! And when you do get that little bit of time off you come back SO much clearer and so ready to be patient and revel in your child.

      And right back at’cha… you are doing an amazing job!!!

  • Oh my beautiful friend, this made me cry! I know that you know that I know NOTHING about being a Mum and I am forever amazed and inspired at your ability to do it. You are such an incredible role model to Lucy and she adores you with every fibre in her being. I really cannot put into words just how inspiring you are to me (as both a Mum and as a friend) and I am so proud of you for showing up and for putting this out there. I know there will be so many women who will appreciate your honesty immensely. xx
    Claire // This is Lifeblood recently posted…Nourish, Explore, Create: New Directions for This is Lifeblood [video]My Profile

    • Thank you my darling lady… that made ME cry.

      And right back at you with the inspo. You are totally one of my fave dudes in the world. xxx

  • 🙂 BEST. POST. EVER. That pressure to be the “perfect mother” and to LOVE every single minute of it. I love my boy with every ounce I have – but gosh he can be whiny and annoying sometimes !!

    I love that women are starting to talk about this. Especially in a time where we are desiring to do so much more in our lives and to grow and expand and … so many facets of us.

    I think I could chat to you about this for hours 🙂 Much love to you for being brave – it takes guts to tell the truth about how hard it can be to no longer be the centre of your own Universe ! Love you XO

    • Isn’t it funny. I think before I had Goosey I actually said “I want to be Supermum”. I still do I guess… but the definition has changed!!!

      One day – when we are in the same state – we WILL chat about this for hours!

      Thank YOU for being wonderful xxx

  • Darling girl, thank you! Thank you for your honesty – motherhood is farken hard sometimes… And the more we all stand side by side together on this journey, instead of placing judgement and expectation on each other, the better mothers we will be!
    Power to each and every beautiful mama out there! xxx
    Amelia {Nurture and Shine} recently posted…My “whatever balls”My Profile

  • I don’t have any personal experience with motherhood, but I still appreciated this post. It is solid, down-to-earth, wonderful advice. It also helped to remind me how to be a good friend to those of my friends with bubs – open-minded, non-judgmental, and supportive of their choices all the way x
    Kylie recently posted…Wednesday Wisdom: BusyMy Profile

  • Em,
    You have just written a wonderful piece on Motherhood – for someone so young you are amazingly wise and mature and a great inspiration for all first time mums. There is no getting away from the fact that it is a HUGE responsibility nurturing another human being and there are so many times that we doubt ourselves and feel guilty – but as long as we always remember that these children (and teenagers) of ours need and love us unconditionally and need us to love them unconditionally too, things will always work out. You are a wonderful product of your super caring mother and father and Lucy is already a happy, contented child as a result. We must all remember to give credit to our partners and caring parents, relatives and friends who complete the package! How sad for those single Mums who have no support network – I think there should be a surrogate grandparents scheme!
    work out.

    • Thank you Barbie. You are totally right – Love is all you need.

      And I am SO lucky to be blessed with the family I have. I have said it a million times, I have SUCH respect for the single parents of the world. I think you are onto something with the surrogate grandparents thing!!!

      Can’t wait to see you in December!
      xxx

  • Beautiful piece. I look forward to being a mother one day, but equally, the thought terrifies me a bit. What if I’m not patient enough, what if I don’t care enough, get too stressed out…see, I’m already worrying about a hypothetical. I love and admire that you are trying (and succeeding) at going with the flow when to-do lists and days with ambitious plans fall in a big hole. Lucy is so lucky to have such a wonderful family. xxx

  • Emily, you gorgeous woman! How I wish I could hug you in person right now. Loved this post. Xx
    I know that old mate overwhelm, coming crashing down on us. That’s when my computer and phone get turned off (literally) and I remember what it is all about, my little Jack man. because when I focus on him, and make him my priority, everything else restores order, like a magical domino effect.
    X

  • Parenting is an amazing experience, but it’s also completely terrifying. I still remember all the nights I spent crying thinking I’m not capable of making my baby happy. It was a very dark moment, and I am happy it turned out I was wrong. Every new mom should remember that whatever happens, it’s just a moment and it will pass.
    Jane @ Modern Housewives recently posted…Custom Housekeeping Chore Charts Based on Your Cleaning PersonalityMy Profile