You just want to go to the bathroom without someone banging on the door or make it through a meal without a meltdown about food they disliked. Teaching children how to be human is a worthy, but also challenging endeavor. Exhaustion and discouragement are common. Children don’t have full control of their bowels or their emotions. All this takes an emotional toll on the mother.
Tips for Overwhelmed Moms of Young Kids
Emotional self-regulation is something that children must learn, and they will learn it from mom and dad. If you are stressed, the children notice that. Their responses could vary from more temper tantrums to full withdrawal. The first step to relief from being overwhelmed is to stop and consider what is making you stressed in the first place.
Figure out the cause of stress
Make a list if that helps. Is it the house not being clean or the process of potty training? Maybe it is something about preparing meals. Possibly you are receiving too much noise input from screens or electronic toys. Has there been sickness or does the laundry cause you tears just thinking about it? Do you just want to have a conversation about something other than dinosaur names and alphabet songs?
Breaking down the whole situation into smaller parts can help you identify the main problems. Once you have identified the problems you can produce solutions.Part of the stress could be that you are having to make decisions for yourself and small children all day, every day. The sheer volume of decisions you make each day is overwhelming. As you identify the problems that give you stress, figure out which ones are decisions that you do not have to keep making.
Maybe you decide that every Thursday is Pajama Day, to cut down on the laundry or so you don’t have to go anywhere. Having one less thing to decide each day could eliminate a lot of stress. You can apply the principle of deciding once to many different areas.
Here are some tips for a few principal areas that cause stress: food, chores, screens, and personal care.
Tips for Mealtimes and Snacks
This is a common stress among families with young children. They are still learning to manage cutlery, not spill from cups, and have rather simple tastes when it comes to food. An oft-repeated question is, “What’s for breakfast/lunch/dinner?” If this is a challenge for you, meal planning will be a lifesaver. You could google ideas about meal planning from weekly to monthly, elaborate multi-course meals, or cute little snack packs.
- what do they like to eat?
- what do they need to eat?
- how much work do I want to do?
You are deciding priorities and plans. Maybe your plan is simply to have cereal every morning, PBJ every lunch, and apples for the snack. You could say Friday is pizza, every week, and then you are relieved from planning that meal each week. Letting go of rigorous expectations from meals can be such a huge relief.
Tips for Housework and Chores
This area can be highly overwhelming for parents of young kids. Children make so many messes and are not able to clean much. First, take a deep breath and release your vision of how you think your house should look. You are in a particular stage of life and with it comes a certain messiness.
Second, start looking up information on what chores are reasonable for the age of the children you have. From teaching them to put toys in a toy box before bed to pulling clothes out of the dryer, there are ways to include them. Young children overlap playing and work.If the idea of working with your children is overwhelming, try another route. Set a timer for fifteen minutes to play with your child. Then tell them they need to play for fifteen minutes while you do the dishes or do some laundry. It will probably surprise you how much you can accomplish in fifteen minutes.
A bonus of this method is that by prioritizing your child they will feel that they have been given attention and be less likely to demand attention while you work. Over time they will realize that mom will also be able to help them again after fifteen minutes, which encourages them to solve their own problems.
Tips for Screens and Quiet Time
With so many options for screens, it can be easy to rely on them as a means of quieting children. It is a helpful tool, but like any tool should be used properly. If watching a thirty-minute show keeps the kids busy long enough for you to shower do so.
One thing that will delight your kids is watching a show with them. Maybe once a week you sit down and cuddle on the couch to watch their favorite movie. See what makes them laugh and laugh with them.
At other times, reading storybooks will be a far more calming activity than screen time. Figuring out some house rules for screens will help you not have to make too many decisions regarding screen time each day.
- no screens after 6 pm
- your child may pick a movie after lunch
- if you have multiple young kids, assign the day they will get to pick (child one on Monday and Friday, child two on Tuesday and Saturday, etc.) This eliminates a lot of arguing about whose turn it is.
- pick shows that don’t drive you crazy
- set time limits for your own screen time
Even children who no longer nap benefit from quiet times in the day. Start small, use a timer to set expectations for them to play quietly in their room at certain times. As they become accustomed to that, use the time for your own quiet activity, be it reading, napping, or scrolling social media. By setting the example of prioritizing your own rest, you instill that value into your children.
Have a plan for playing with your children. Hide and seek, puzzles, cars, or dolls, whenever you take a little time to play with your kids it sets you up for success. The work is not going anywhere, and you are likely to complete more of it if you have given your children some attention beyond caring for their basic needs. Again, setting timers is helpful for both you and the kids.
Tips for Personal Needs
When so much of your energy is spent keeping small children alive and well, your own well-being can feel rather neglected. If you are not doing a decent job with self-care, it can be easy to slip into a state of stress. Remember you cannot do it all and you do not have to do it all.
Placing too many expectations on yourself will lead to burnout and exhaustion. Once you have identified ways to handle the issues causing stress you may find that you have more space to care for your needs as well.
Plan to meet with a friend for some conversation. Let the kids watch a show while you shower. Learn what realistic chores for kids are. Implement a meal plan with your favorite dinner at least once a month. Pick up a hobby to do during the kids’ quiet times.
There is no getting around the fact that you are in a busy stage of life. Like all stages, it will pass. Finding ways to ease your stress can help you be present in the moment. This will lead to a calmer home with happy memories for all.
“Tiny Fingers”, Courtesy of Aditya Romansa, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “On the Beach at Sunset”, Courtesy of Guille Pozzi, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Momma’s Hands”, Courtesy of Alex Pasarelu, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Mother and Toddler in the Field”, Courtesy of Nathan Dumlao, Unsplash.com, CC0 License
DISCLAIMER: THIS ARTICLE DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE
The information, including but not limited to, text, graphics, images and other material contained on this article are for informational purposes only. No material on this site is intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please contact one of our counselors for further information.