Getting Your Groove Back

I talk to mothers every, every day who are just plain overwhelmed.  They are single or their partners travel, they don’t have a community to lean on, their children are small, they are juggling so many things.

And when you are overwhelmed, you constantly feel scattered.  Disorganized.  Like there is not enough time. Perhaps you feel enmeshed with one particular child and out of balance in dealing with the needs of all of your multiple children.

I can only write these things as I have lived these things.  Life is not perfect, and parenting small children is not for the faint of heart.

The place to start, is yourself.   You are the key to your own overwhelm!   I read a list the other day, and it was kind of funny to me.  It was talking about the keys to a happy home, and I can’t remember the exact order, but “economically stable” was something like fourth or fifth on the list.  That amazed me.

If you don’t have enough money to make your bills each month, to buy good food, how are  you going to have enough time or energy to focus on your own health and the “extra” things in family life?  A roof over the head and a full belly of nourishing food is the most basic and important step to taming overwhelm, don’t you think?

Most of the homeschooling families I know are on one income,and sometimes on one income that is not very steady or very high.  Economics do count, and most of the mothers I know are already frugal and saving every which way they can.  I don’t have an answer for all this, but just to say I really thought fourth or fifth on the list meant that list was written by someone who felt financially stable!

Aside from economics and those most basic needs of food and housing, I often ask mothers about their physical health.  Again, this seems basic, but I know so many mothers who haven’t been to a doctor or dentist in years.  Some mothers feel overwhelmed because they have physical issues that are not being diagnosed or dealt with, and they are under immense stress which exacerbates their physical challenges.

Outside of these two things, I think about:

  • Mom, how many hours of sleep are you getting?  Seriously, what time are you going to bed and what time are you getting up?
  • What are you eating and how?  Are you eating standing up after everyone is served because you are up and down so many times and then someone is done and running around?  I talk to many mothers who end up eating standing up almost every meal, especially if they are alone with multiple children at meals.  That sounds awful, but I know from talking to mothers, it is true.
  • Do you ever get to exercise? No, not the toddler walks where a cute toddler meanders and stops to look at interesting insects every ten feet or so, but a real time of exercise and sweating.  If you live in a safe neighborhood, walking is free and good exercise.  At least it is a place to start.
  • What kind of order is in your home?  An home that has an order, a simplicity to where things live, reduces stress in the whole family.  I know this can be challenging if you live in a small space, but also gratifying.
  • What kind of order comes to you from your rhythm of the day, of the week and of the month?
  • Do you do any artistic work to nourish yourself?  Any at all?  How much in the last month?  If you value Waldorf Education, and can see the importance of teaching this way for our children, we must also admit that it is important for ourselves as adults.
  • Finally, but not least, what are your spiritual practices?  How does this nourish your soul and fortify you?  Where is your community in your spiritual practices?  A community can carry many things, that you as an individual,cannot carry alone.

I would love to hear from you:  put forth your very best tips for dealing with overwhelm.  How do you budget?  How do you work out exercising?  How did you tame the stuff in your house once and for all so it all has a place?   How did you find a community to love? Help other mothers who could really use your tips!


23 thoughts on “Getting Your Groove Back

  1. “Mom, how many hours of sleep are you getting?” ~ I go to bed anywhere between 12 & 2 AM, then get up between 8- 10:30 AM

    “What are you eating and how?” ~ I’m not eating well since food can be very limited in our house. I make sure the kids & husband get their fill first & get what I can in me.

    “Do you ever get to exercise?” ~ No. I should and need to!

    “What kind of order is in your home?” ~ It seem like chaos some days. Other days it’s go with the flow.

    “Do you do any artistic work to nourish yourself?” ~ No. (unless daydreaming counts.)

    “Finally, but not least, what are your spiritual practices?” ~ I pray to God often and Thank him even more, I hope. I love what I’m able to do with my kids and I know He’s a BIG part of that!

    I’m still working on getting my act together on some of these areas still and sometimes just accept it and move on. I found it better to move on since when I dwell on it I feel worse and then the kids sense it too, not good.
    A good “Girl’s Night Out” helps a lot too!

  2. It is so, so good to have these reminders. They come up regularly in your posts and I need them that much and more! Thank you, Carrie.

  3. I built a huge mountain range of “shoulds” that were constantly in front of me. I tried to climb those peaks every day and lay awake at night chastizing myself for not doing more. I thought I kept that self-judgment from my children but my stress was noticeable, especially when other factors made our days even harder (unemployment, chronically ill baby, extended family issues).

    So I lowered the expectations I put on myself, even backed away from my pretensions of the ideal homeschool lifestyle. As I did I began to see more and more the way my kids learned as they followed their own pursuits. I didn’t give up my own homeschooling goals, just put them on a more relaxing timetable. How we treat ourselves is how we teach our children to treat THEMSELVES.

  4. I agree with Abigail, I’m reading this post early in the am when I am knee deep in overwhelm. Thank you Carrie, I really appreciate your blog for the spiritual and emotional enrichment it brings me.

  5. Simplify, simplify, simplify! 🙂
    Exercising: Last year was the first time in my adult life that I did not exercise regularly-the result:25 pounds and a lot of stress! This summer, I made the decision that it is ok for my kids to go into childwatch for part of the day. I speak to them about exercise all the time but they do not see me doing it. Now they know I exercise daily. I also have started running in the mornings with my oldest son (at 630-it is a wonderful thing to run and watch the sun rise with him).

    Eating healthy: Isn’t this a part of homeschooling? I put this in our curriculum. The kids learn about healthy eating at every meal! They have input in almost everything we eat.

    Budget: Still working on that. I feel like I am always at the very end of my budget without any extra.

    Trying to stay on the budget has helped us simplify! This year, we have all gone through our things. We have decreased the amount of clothing we all have (everyone has enough to make it through a week-thus, everyone gets one day for laundry. This makes for a terrific laundry schedule and there is no sorting the clothes. On your day, you bring your clothes, towels and sheets to the washing machine. By the end of the day, you have a basket of clothes and clean sheets). We have just plain decreased the amount of stuff we have allowing everying to have a home. It was a process. I also have a one time paper policy. If the paper hits my hand, I have to deal with it-pay the bill and file it, throw it away or put it in my binder of keeps.

    Terrific post! I used to feel overwhelmed all the time. I had a friend tell me one time-things don’t have to be perfect but they should be fun. This took a while to sink in but it has made a huge difference in my life!

  6. Thank you so much!
    Lists and reminders like this are such a supportive form of community too! I agree and am always trying to rework how it is for us in our home, to help things go better for me and my son. Finances are a huge part for me, as a single, work-from-home mom and crazily trying to home school! Often I crash with my son but sometimes I prop my eyelids open to do some research and soul searching on line to find some solutions to implement at home to help me with my struggles( as your posts help tremendously!) Order and simplicity is so important! I go crazy not being able to find things and really work on having a system…but….life is full! I came across this wonderful article last night about “peer massage” from the Waldorf Today newsletter, but I received it as a useful reminder of a way to reconnect at home when things seem chaotic and stressful and how important touch is( I think for the giver and receiver) for the production of serotonin and I have seen the classic “when your child needs you the most is when they are behaving the worst” syndrome and have felt like avoiding him or creating some kind of “timeout” and remembering how it breaks the connection…so this really well written article surely helped. here is the link:

    Thea Blair the author, has a nice website and a nice manner that feels so supportive and nurturing.

    and here is the link to the newsletter itself for it also has two other great articles:

    Best to you all!


  7. My kids are a bit older now and I wish i had listened more to my own needs when they were little. Not having any role models and feeling uncertain about my parenting kept me from paying close attention to myself. It would have made me a stronger mother.

    Now that they are 12 and up there is more time.
    Each morning wake up before anyone else and journal/draw/collage for an hour.
    Get the kids to school, then take a long walk.
    Then I get to work, clean up the house, and do my job.
    The rest of the day is full of taking care of work and children.
    I go to bed very early, by 9 pm, so getting up at 5 is possible.

    Rhythm and routine is important. I have more energy for others when I make time for me first.

    When they were little I still had strict routines, and my husband took total care of them for one hour as soon as he got home from work. That hour was so precious to me. I would leave the house and just walk. I also tried to get up before them to have a small amount of time to write.

    It was also helpful to breastfeed them for a long time! I got so much reading and resting time in because I was forced to lie down for long periods of time to nurse!

    • I wanted to echo the extended nursing and down time. My 27 month old still nurses to sleep for his nap and at night. Those are two times that I’m guaranteed to sit and connect with him and then read for myself for 20 minutes or so before I lay him down.

  8. I have a budget tip….or really a software that I love! I have played with many different budgeting tools from quicken to spreadsheets and this is the best I have found. It is called YNAB and it has cut the time I need for managing our finances in half.

    Great post, Carrie!

  9. Great post Carrie!!! This happens to all of us to some degree or another. As we walk through and gain more skills hopefully it happens less and less. I do believe with all my heart that there is strength in a rock solid rhythm. That is such a basic need.

    What do I do when I feel off and overwhelmed? It can happen to me just like anyone! I step back. BREATHE. NOTHING HAS TO HAPPEN RIGHT THIS SECOND. Breathe. Take stock. What can I do right now? Slow it all down. We get overwhelmed because we believe the LIE that we can’t do this. Of course you can!

    Triage. Where are you now? What can you do today? Keep breathing. Do the best you have with the tools you have. Don’t have organic? BREATHE and PRAY. Don’t have all the school supplies you want? Look at what you do have, bless it, even if it isn’t want you wish to have. Make a Christmas list, a teeny budget, set aside $2 here and $5 there. You will have it eventually.

    Breathe. You are awesome, you are wonderful!

    If you are stuck with school, we are doing a boot camp that starts Friday morning. Come join us!


  10. I have a few things to work on in this list but I discovered that clutter in our home needs to be constantly worked on, it is not something that one can do once and is done with it to be honest, at least not for me. We de-clutter twice a year regularly, as during the year more and more things enter our lives.


  11. I liked your post. I’m a 47 year old solo dad, have had my kids (now g-9 and b-8) living with me week-on-week-off since 2006. I don’t homeschool, I work part time as a professional. My kids go to a small country school where they are thriving. Luckily my work is reasonably well paid. I go to the gym 2-3 a week during my lunch break, which is awesome for keeping up with the kids, and as an antidote to my desk job! I like the house tidy, daily rhythms include laundry and dishes. I struggle with cooking. My kids have become quite disciplined. We attend an Anglican church, but gotta say my spiritual life pretty non-existant at the moment. Anyway, thanks for the blog…

  12. Thank you for your reflections. I appreciate the attentive and mindful approach here. For myself, I feel so grateful to enter this path of mothering. I am an older mom who waited unit l was fully ready to dive into this adventure. My career was fulfilling and wonderful. One day I will return to putting my energy into teaching, doula work, and chaplaincy. Right now, I focus on my 10 month old boy and feel amazed by the wonders of each day. Of course, things are really repetitive. Yet, as a meditator and yogi, I am reminded that I can approach all of this like a sacred mantra. That helps! I also love breastfeeding and find such calm/nurturing energy surrounds naps and sleep that I feel very restored spiritually at key points in the day. The one thing I am working on now is making more conscious time for my husband.

  13. Your posts have really been speaking to this over stressed, overtired mom! We’re trying to figure out why our toddler has been waking every 30 to 90 min at night for the last 8 months or so, which has been awful for our family. I’ve really seen how destructive lack of sleep is. It’s impossible to get up early and hold a good rhythm when everyone’s exhausted. Our house is a total disaster and we can’t find dhat we need, which is very stressful also. Im the poster child for this!

    I will say that I find several hours of outside time to soothe all of us and create a bit if rhythm. I put them in the stroller and bring a snack (which extends hiw long theyre happy)and try to walk some (because walking while your toddler is, I agree, not exercise). It fills a lot of needs.

    I’ve also just figured out that I have a food allergy sapping much of my energy and feel much better eliminating the offender! It’s worth a try for some of you who might be chronically tired! And it can be triggered by stress!!

  14. How many hours of sleep are you getting? Generally around 9 hours 10p-7a
    What are you eating and how? We eat a mostly “real” food diet with as few processed/packaged foods as I can manage. This means I end up cooking a lot, but I enjoy it for the most part. I’m constantly working on my sugar intake – I feel so much better without the sweets, but then I slip up and before I know it I’m grabbing a cookie here, a cookie there.
    Do you ever get to exercise? I need to put more effort into this. During the gorgeous summer months, my 27 month old and I spent many hours outside – walking, gardening, playing kick the ball. But as winter approaches, our outside time is shrinking and my waistline expands. My husband works a random order of shift work – no week is ever the same – so I haven’t been able to consistently depend on his help. I’m slowly coming to the conclusion that I may need to sacrifice some of my “me” time during my son’s nap to fit in exercise.
    What kind of order is in your home? We have fairly good order within our home. Almost everything has a place. We try to limit the toys to a manageable level. I actually rotate toys about once a month so that everything isn’t down at once and it helps with keeping everything picked up. I have a plastic tote on my son’s closet shelf that I use for this purpose. We will be moving in about 3 months to a potentially smaller home. I’ve been slowly cleaning and clearing out our current belongings.
    What kind of order comes to you from your rhythm of the day, of the week and of the month? We have a basic daily rhythm that works fairly well for us. I don’t really have a weekly or monthly schedule. The day is always more difficult when we get out of our waking/napping/sleeping routine.
    Do you do any artistic work to nourish yourself? I like to knit but don’t have a lot of time to put toward this. It mainly happens at nap time, but that crafting time will shrink even further if I start using nap time towards exercising. I sometimes play with my son and his play doh. Letting go of the stress and rolling and squishing with my son can be therapeutic. I’ve been trying to get into more crafting as seasonal decoration. This will get better as my son gets older too.
    What are your spiritual practices? How does this nourish your soul and fortify you? Where is your community in your spiritual practices? I don’t really have any spiritual practices. I wasn’t raised in a home that emphasized spiritual practices/religion and it’s been difficult for me to pick that up as an adult. Walking in nature and taking that peace into myself if I slow down enough to enjoy it is very calming to me. I struggle with community. We live 2000 miles away from immediate family. I am a stay at home mother, which makes it more difficult for me to “meet” people as opposed to connecting with people in an outside work place. I am also an introvert and feel a bit awkward/shy in social settings. The small town everybody knows everybody interaction appeals to me, but I really struggle to create anything like that for myself in our current location.

  15. Great post Carrie, thanks for the reminders. Like you, I love flylady for inspiration about keeping our homes beautiful and peaceful – without driving ourselves and our children crazy! I think vigilant decluttering is pretty key 🙂
    Also, finding some safe, simple activities for your kids that allow you some time to do a 10-minute house re-organize, or meal plan, or time to sit and draw or pray, etc, is crucial. For my daughter, a warm bath is great (She’s 5), or playing in sand is also almost always appealing. I totally agree that getting going and really exercising (sweating!) does a lot for us – my two current favorites are yoga (usually early am before everyone else is up), or if I need to get my kids moving too, just plain running around the house! Makes us all giggle and gets out some crazy energy.
    Blessings to you and yours.

  16. Oh, this is ringing true now. I am single, adoptive mom (so I know I ‘brought’ it on myself). I have a great job bringing in more than most 2 parent working families in my neighborhood. It is a tiny bit flexible so I can take my 2 boys to multiple appointments every week (both are special needs–Fetal Alcohol Syndrome-ADHD-ODD-mild MR and multiple missing limbs-highly gifted(IQ over 140). I feel like I have no time!

    I suspect I have early heart issues and perhaps thyroid or maybe I’m just fat (~50 lbs over weight but any minor exercise winds me–like mowing the grass for 20 minutes and I get chest pains, gasping for breath, 3 days of knee pain, and huffing/puffing for ~1 hour after I’m done). BUT, I have no time to schedule my MD appointments — every week there is some kid tragedy. Eldest has a court date for ‘responding to a bully with aggression and leading to the bully tackling him into school computer that broke’ (seriously that is how the police report for disorderly conduct reads!). My youngest broke his prosthetic AND told another Kindergartener he would ‘beat you up’ so I have to go to a parent meeting and prosthetists next week AND my eldest court date AND my eldest had 3 teeth chipped when bully beat the tar out of him and has a dental appointment.

    AND so true about Economic stability! Even though I should have a surplus after paying all bills I seem to never have any money! I did a detailed budget and have over 1500 every month after every conceivable regular bill (including the 15/month in dog food!).. Yet my bank account is now overdrawn until NEXT Friday (7 days)! I sit here at my nice professional job with high salary and not that much to do and try to plan how to squeeze another appointment in—making lists and schedules and I have some great ones! I just never seem able to implement any.

    • Oh, Failing,
      I don’t think you are failing, I think you just have an incredible amount to handle on top of work! Do you have any support? Anyone who can help you at all?
      What a challenge, and I so feel about your health…that, to me, is the hardest piece we as mothers have to take care of because to try to get the time to go the doctor and all the possible follow-up appointments feels overwhelming.

      In my state, there is a non profit organization that offers respite care to families of children with special needs…I wonder if something like that exists in your state so you could get a break and maybe get that doctor’s apppointment in…

      Please keep me posted as to how you are doing, and many blessings,

  17. i feel like im so overwhelmed i barely get time to read things like this and have a moment to do things like respond.. Ive been trying to notice these things in my life recenlty. Im a postpartum night doula so my sleep is horrible and ive realized i just cant raise an active toddler with no sleep. Career change!~!~ I keep getting the message that if i learn the ropes of waldorf i will gain a rhythm and things will flow more. Im a single mother now and community has also been super high on my want list.. even when there is two of us its still alot.. feels like everything is so fast pace and you can barely breathe.. im trying to stay present in my love and my stillness and yes always asking for my creator to aid in this process.. i know we have help around.. and i am keeping my vision strong of what i need knowing that it shall manifest and help in this amazing process of guiding my children slowly through dream world,,,,it feels good to know that im not the only one or one of the few that feel this intensity.. knowing this we can send more energy into the group and ask for support.. blessings on your journey mothers~~!~

  18. I am a single mom working outside the home – my transition between the demands of my boss and the demands of my child (who has not seen me for 10 hours) is the 15 minute car ride from the office to the daycare. I get about six hours of sleep at night – getting up at 5 a.m. for my only “me time” the whole day. I tried implementing exercise but that only meant huge expense (the gym fees plus the babysitter) and longer days away from mom for my child. The timing doesn’t seem right yet, she is just five now. I’ve started to date here and there but just like the exercise, it costs money and time, which we don’t have – so that might drop away again. We struggle paying our bills each month. I shop thrift stores and live in a small apartment. But the one thing I have finally managed is organic whole foods…it’s not always consistent but I’m trying. Since she turned two we have not eaten fast food and for the last year we have been increasing our use of CSAs and farmers’ markets and reducing packaged foods. I’m learning to cook and it is an adventure. And for my own enjoyment I plan her birthday parties, handmaking the decor and party favors (that’s what I do at 5 a.m.). We practiced attachment parenting as much as we could (she nursed until 2.5 and we still cosleep.) We are striving toward simplicity (and at least have eliminated most branded and plastic toys – now mama is working on letting go of her stuff) and unconditional parenting. And I hope to put some spirituality back into my routines – we’ve added inconsistent prayers and practicing gratitude and then I hope to add meditation back in. I have a college degree and a solid professional resume but now only earn what I did fresh out of college twenty years ago… but support two. I am not available or willing to work evenings or weekends like my colleagues. I think the most overwhelmed I felt was when she was two and we nursed all night and I worked all day and it physically pained me to leave her at daycare to be raised by strangers each day – especially when the daycare cost more then I was earning at the time…but we made it through…I have affirmations all around my house stating my intentions and reminding me to be present, patient and grateful. The one on my front door as I leave reminds me that I am safe and the universe does provide. I repeat that to myself everyday.

    • Mommy108 – I am so glad you are here! The reality is that many single parents are going through just what you are, and I want you to know what a good mother you are, and you work so hard.
      I hope you feel encouraged in this space, many blessings and peace to you,

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