When Mommy Gets Overwhelmed
I received a heartfelt email from a mother who was feeling overwhelmed. She agreed that I could write my answer in a blog post so other moms could benefit from the situation. I'm not able to solve anyone's problems completely, especially with limited information, but I'll make the intention to share the tips that help me the most when I become overwhelmed.
"I am a mother of 3 children, 3 and 1.7 yr boys and a 5 mth old girl. My husband and I are full-time students at a University. Mashallah I really like your blog and am hoping you can give me some tips. Allhumdolillah, I am a very organized person and have a routine for my kids, and housework. My children go to bed early and that is the time I have set aside to study. I try my best to spend time with my kids which is very little on weekdays but more on weekends. I give my children healthy home cooked meals and avoid ready-made frozen store-bought food.
I can't help feeling overwhelmed and always stressed out, and rushing to stay on top of things. I feel I don't spend quality time with my kids. I sleep for about 4-5 hours in one 24 hour day, interrupted because my 5 mth old is teething and wakes frequently at night. Lack of sleep is making me irritable and cranky and I feel I'm too rough and harsh with my children.
My relationship with my husband is also suffering as I'm usually in a bad mood (so he says) and not much can be said about our love life either :-/, and there is hardly anything ever I do to pamper or beautify my skin or body. I feel I'm trying to cope with things and stay on top of everything and that I have stopped enjoying my kids. I feel they are getting defiant and all of a sudden I seem to be having a lot of behavioral issues with them, especially my 3 yr old!
Please tell me what can I do to not feel so overwhelmed? I feel like I'm losing control, They behave very well with their father and both the boys and my husband always seem to be enjoying themselves having fun, while I walk around calling out instructions and reprimanding them for their actions :-(. Looking forward to your response."
Reading the mom's plea, I can immediately pinpoint that she has too much on her plate. It's a fact, many mothers go through feelings of overwhelm most of the time. Motherhood has its ups and downs. Some days you manage to keep the house tidy, your kids listen to you, and hubby is awesome. Then some days the house is a mess, the kids drive you crazy, hubby is being difficult, and you want to drop everything and drive somewhere. The first thing I want to say is;
"Welcome to motherhood and the life of this dhuniya. But know dear mother, that Allah recognizes the struggles you're going through."
Sahih Al-Bukhari Hadith 8.2 Narrated by Abu Huraira
"A man came to Allah's Apostle and said, "O Allah's Apostle! Who is more entitled to be treated with the best companionship by me?" The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, "Your mother." The man said. "Who is next?" The Prophet said, "Your mother." The man further said, "Who is next?" The Prophet said, "Your mother." The man asked for the fourth time, "Who is next?" The Prophet said, "Your father."
The duties of a mother are not easy and that's why the sacrifices of motherhood are greatly rewarded. However, feeling overwhelmed all the time means that some things in your life have to be rectified. What I suggest and use myself when the going gets tough are these steps:
Steps To Avoid Feeling Overwhelmed
Firstly, you have to accept your role with grace. When you accept that you are a mother to young kids and that this choice isn't easy and comes with commitment and responsibility, your mindset will be better prepared for tough times and you'll have more endurance.
Increase your faith and ask Allah for help to your problems first, before asking anyone. Pray to Him for guidance from your worries and burdens and you ask His help anytime, not only at prayer times. When you place your trust in Him SWT you will notice your load immediately seem lighter.
Empower yourself by reading the rewards that are promised to mothers for their sacrifice and this will help you handle your ordeal with more forbearance. Learn about the rights of women in Islam and this will help you know what's expected of you and what is tradition, so you can remove the burdens that are not required and gain relief.
Assess your life from a third person's perspective and pinpoint your problems so you can get an unbiased view of your situation. Write down solutions to the problems you see. Problems that you can solve - solve it. Problems you can't solve - communicate it to your partner.
Communicate your feelings to your hubby and don't accuse or blame him for them, but tell him how you are feeling. Talking to your partner is an important aspect of your relationship, remember it's his children and home too and you don't need to solve the issues alone. If you are unable to solve your problems with dear hubby or want to solve it on your own, read the next steps.
Prioritize your duties by writing down everything you need to accomplish. Divide your "To-Do's" into "Very Important" and "Not Important." Focus on the "Very Important" and leave the "Not Important" duties for when you have more time. According to the sister's situation, we can use this example.
Assuming you put your three young kids needs under "Very Important" and your studies under that heading too, you will run into issues. You need to realize that even though studying might be important to you, it needs to be put on hold, unlike raising your young children. Moving your studies to the "Not Important" section for another year, or two, or three, will free up time you need to take care of your 1.5-year-old, your 5-month-old's teething, and dealing with your 3-year-old's discipline issue. Your children are young and their needs are unavoidable, which make it fall under the "Very Important" category. Also, when children act up a lot, it usually means they need more of your attention and this may be part of the problem as well.
Personally, when I have children under three, I prioritize my life and put many of my ideals on hold. I make a commitment to "just be a mom." That is a full-time job on its own and if I had to add studying or working to that without the help of a nanny, I would be pulling my hair out, which brings me to the next step.
Setting boundaries for yourself is essential to keeping up with mom life. I would love to feed my kids healthier foods and have a perfectly organized home, but sometimes we have sandwiches for dinner and I have piles of stuff around the house to sort for later. We all have ideals, but you have to set boundaries on what you can do in the moment that you're in. Understand what is possible and what is wishful thinking.
Self-care is a must for a mother to thrive. If your baby is teething at night and keeps you up, you need to make up for lost sleep somehow. Let your hubby watch the kids, or take a rest when your kids have their nap time, or go to bed earlier at night. If you are unable to do this, then your schedule is too full and you need to cut some things out that are taking too much of your time. When you have young kids and no one around to help, your days can be extremely difficult, so either get a helper or get enough sleep to cope. Sleep deprivation causes one to get irritated quickly which leads to irritability and ill-health.
When a woman feels tired all the time, the last thing she feels like doing is beautifying herself which adds to feeling down-in-the-dumps. I know it is hard to look refreshed when you have young kids, but besides looking good for your hubby's pleasure (which is recommended in Islam), do it for yourself as a woman. A woman feels confident when she feels good, which makes her more competent. I recommend watching YouTube videos on new hairdo's and makeup tips or play some romantic music to chase your blues away. Once you get your "oomph" back, your relationship with hubby will get spicy and the closeness you feel is lacking, will fall into place inshallah.
Do not be afraid to say I need help. You are unable to do everything yourself without feeling exhausted and resentful and then you end up doing nothing well. You have to again refer to your "Very Important" list and realize that seeing to your crying child trumps over cleaning the kitchen. Learn to say, "I need a hand because I'm no superwoman". If money is a concern, cut out something else from your budget. Most times one can find something less important to cut in order to keep some peace of mind.
As a mom, we tend to want things done a certain way and so we set high standards for ourselves even when life adds more on our plate. Sometimes you need to take a step back and think. All your things are "just stuff" and isn't as important as the people you love. Realize how petty things are and "don't sweat the small stuff." Join your family in the fun and stop worrying about what needs to be done all the time because as you know, the work will never end.
Lastly, look at your life and think, would I change it or be without my kids? Your answer will be "no way!" Think of what you went through to get to where you are and you will see that it took fortitude and determination. If you came this far already, you can see it through till the end. Notice the blessings you have in your life by looking at someone who has a harder life than yours (there is always someone). This mentality will keep you smiling more often than not.
I hope and pray these tips help any mom and especially the reader who sent me the email inshallah. Remember when you feel overwhelmed, you don't need to suffer alone in silence. There is no quick fix but with time, change, and support, you can beat it! So hang in there mom and may Allah grant you ease.