If one of the names you answer to is "mom," chances are good that you live a decent portion of your life feeling overwhelmed. As if the responsibility of caring for another person's (or people's) every need isn't enough, you most likely also have a house to maintain, bills to pay, perhaps a job to go to or a business to run, a blog (or two or three) to keep up, a partner to cheer on, organizations to volunteer for, classes, activities or meetings to attend or to shlep kids to, and the list goes on and on and on. If you don't feel overwhelmed, then I call shenanigans and want to know what your secret is!
After reading a blurb on 5 Minutes for Mom last week announcing that a blogger who's name I recognized - Anissa Mayhew - was on an episode of Oprah, I checked my TIVO and was happy to find the show was still there. I didn't heed Janice's advice to keep tissues nearby as I turned it on, but I should have. The episode was called "An Overwhelmed Mom's Deadly Mistake" and focused on a woman named Brenda Slaby, a mom of two daughters and assistant principal who tried her best to be "supermom." Her world came crashing down when, on a hot afternoon in August 2007, Slaby accidentally left her sleeping 2-year-old daughter in the car when she went into work. Her daughter died of heatstroke. Slaby "went from being a good role model for children, a good administrator and a good parent to being the most hated mom in America."
I can only imagine what this mom must have gone through and continues to go through every day of her life. But as many others said on the show, this could happen to any of us. We've all done things (or not done things) without thinking about it. And like many moms on Oprah admitted, I've made my mistakes too. I've forgotten on a couple of occasions to buckle my daughter into her carseat. In my case and in Slaby's case, it was a break in routine that brought about the mistake. In her case, she wasn't the one who usually took her kids to school and daycare in the morning, but her husband had a dentist appointment which required her to do it that day and break her routine. And in my case, I didn't buckle Ava right when I put her in her seat which I usually do, but went into the front seat to assemble a toy I'd just bought for her. Thankfully in my case Ava was fine, and in most cases these mistakes don't prove to be anything more than a wake-up call for the parents, but they are always followed with thoughts of "what if."
The topic of moms being overwhelmed is really nothing new. I wrote Confessions of a less than perfect mommy just three months ago when I confessed that I was having anxiety attacks from biting off more than I could chew. I just recently found myself in that place again and, thanks to a reminder from Julie at Chez Artz who said, "recent events have lead me to believe that I’m juggling so much that I’m truly at risk of serious injury," (and boy, do I hear that!) I am forcing myself to slow down and reevaluate. But I digress.
Anissa, during her brief Oprah appearance, did a great job speaking about the unattainable bar that we've set for moms. She said we put pressure on ourselves to do more and be more and we lose focus of what is supposed to be the most important thing, our children. To which Oprah replied, "Yeah, being able to be present for your children," which ironically is the theme of a blog carnival over at API Speaks this month.
The recurring theme of the show was that we as moms need. to. slow. down. Jodie at jodified designs. the blog. watched the episode of Oprah and confessed to leaving her kids in the car on several occasions. "Yes I leave the car running with the air on and yes I'm always just running in somewhere, but that's just it. I'm always RUNNING." She decided to share Slaby's story on her blog "because what happened to her could have happened to any one of us. We're all overwhelmed. Emotionally, physically, financially, mentally. Exhausted." She encourages all moms to slow down.
Sharon at Whoa, Momma! confessed "one time while I had a break in my routine I was driving to work on autopilot and I had a momentary lapse where I was heading to work and forgot to take a turn into the neighborhood to drop off my baby at day care. I have since had terrible thoughts of 'What if?'" Ever since that day she started putting her purse in the backseat so that she will always look in the backseat before leaving her car. She also refers to a scientific study "about how our efforts to keep kids safe has put them in the back seat where Momma is more likely to forget they are there."
Natalie at BitchBuzz recently wrote a great post called Why Mothers Can't Always Be Superwoman. She said, "I've never believed that women can have it all. I've rarely, if ever, seen a solid example of it and Lord knows many of us try our hardest to be and do everything, but somewhere along the line, something suffers." She reminds us that it's so important to take care of ourselves.
I speak to my many 'mama friends' and almost all are going through the same thing. We're like zombified sheep on the trail to multitasking mecca where we expect to find nirvana and have everything slot into place. It doesn't matter whether we're working or not working; it's a real challenge to get that balance of being mother, partner, employee/business owner, and 'you'.
If any unexpected things get thrown your way, which is highly likely when you're a parent, you can be sure you're dropping balls in one of those areas, and the likeliest casualty is you. As women, we almost expect not to treat ourselves well, but we'll work hard to be and do everything as a parent, partner, and worker.
She admits there's no perfect answer, but notes, "I put too much pressure on myself, too much expectations, and don't say ‘no’ often enough."
I think, unfortunately in this day and age, being a mom and being overwhelmed just go hand in hand. The trick to handling it all is knowing when you need to slow down and reevaluate your priorities. Or as Janelle from Heathy Child, Healthy World told me on Twitter, "I think if you're not an overwhelmed mom, you're not doing your job, but when it gets real tough - stop and cuddle... and when cuddles don't do the trick, find a dark, isolated spot and scream. It's very cathartic. Always breathe deep."
Posts from other overwhelmed moms:
- Ninotchka of Cease Cows, Life is Short writes about being Busy
- Jennifer of The Smart Mama writes Yep, I'm that mom: the late, slightly crazy, difficult mom and I finally did it: I committed the number one fashion mommy don't on Los Angeles Mom Blog
- The mommy blogger at My Life in Type writes about Wanting Life
- Annie at PhD in Parenting writes A Working Mom Seeks Balance
Contributing editor Amy Gates blogs about green living, attachment parenting, activism and photography at Crunchy Domestic Goddess.
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