I’ve always been a busy person. I like to be busy. Even when I’m not busy, I’m busy. It’s both a strength and a weakness. Things get done but, often, I struggle to switch off. Being a naturally busy do-er is actually a bit of a hindrance, I think, in my role as a mum. I have a warped sense of what is manageable and, instead of just focusing on being a mum – making tea, breastfeeding the baby, doing the school run, playing with the kids etc – I try to pack in a million and one extra tasks as well. Making the tea while answering emails, doing the school run while planning work deadlines, playing with the kids while doing the laundry, for example. It means I’m never really focussed on the task at hand, and it’s left me… frazzled.
Recently, I’ve been drowning a bit. A mixture of cumulated sleep deprivation, increased work loads and squeezed time have left me sapped. My usual motivation to get stuff done has withered and died. I’ve let laundry pile up, dust settle and my inbox is fit to bursting. It seems like I’m constantly chasing my tail, often trying to focus through a haze of treacle as my tired brain attempts to create some sort of order in the chaos of life with two children. I hate chasing my tail.
Part of this is all my fault, of course. If I had a normal job then I’d still be on maternity leave. I wouldn’t need to factor work into life with a small baby and a school-aged child. If I worked in an office, with childcare, then I’d leave the house to go to work and, when I was at home I’d be at home, proper. As it is, it feels like I’m never really off duty. I’m trying to cram work into baby nap times, after I’ve rushed around stuffing endless laundry into the washing machine and shoving a hoover around the place occasionally. “Lower your standards!” my husband tells me. But the truth is, I can’t. I don’t feel happy living in a messy, grubby house. I see the chores that need to be done and I can’t turn a blind eye to them. I wish I could be more laid back about this type of stuff, but it’s in my DNA. It probably doesn’t help that part of my income comes from writing interiors features…
Anyway, something snapped yesterday morning. Baby Girl is teething at the moment and has had a string of bad nights on top of bad nights. It was 5.45am and I was done in. I’d spent the previous two days in Bristol with the baby, to speak at a blog event (check out the #BlogCampUK hashtag by the way) and I was tired to my very bones. “I can’t do this!” I wailed at the (self-proclaimed) Northern Love Machine. “You’re not giving me proper support!” I accused him. “I NEED SLEEEEEEEEEP!”
He promptly took the kids downstairs and left me alone to sob in the bedroom. I cried myself to sleep and slept for two hours, waking up in just as stinking a mood but, at least, feeling a little less tired. As I showered I started to mull over all the things that I needed to achieve that weekend. I worried about finances and school history day costumes and unwritten features. The time I needed to do all of these things was squeezed into a tiny space, as I realised it just wasn’t possible to get everything done. For the first time in a long time I felt anxious, on the verge of a full-blown panic attack.
I ended up shouting at my four year old when she asked me a simple question. I refused to pick up the baby who was crying. I told my husband I just needed a break and seriously considered walking out of the house and checking into a hotel under an anonymous alias, to sleep for 24 hours straight. Then I wondered if I had post-natal depression.
I don’t have post-natal depression. I know that, in my non-tired, rational state. I just need a bit of help to cope with the growing demands of work and motherhood. It’s not realistic to think I can do it all, on my own. I can’t cram 30 hours of work a week into unreliable baby nap times. I can’t expect to get hours of work done every evening when I’m exhausted and the baby wakes up and needs plenty of cuddles. I can’t keep a clean house when the only time I get to clean is when the baby sleeps – which is when I need to be working.
This post is fast becoming a long tirade of moans, but there is a point to it all. I want to say that if you’re struggling to cope as a mum then don’t beat yourself up. YOU ARE NOT ALONE.
For me, talking about the way I was feeling really helped yesterday. I sat down with my husband and poured it all out. I realised that a lot of the panic I feel is due to not being in control of things. I know I have lots of stuff to do but I don’t know when I’ll find the time to actually do it. That makes me feel anxious. I don’t feel organised and on top of things, which adds to the stress. If I wasn’t a planner this would be fine but, again, DNA.
So we made the decision to pay a cleaner to do a few hours for us a month. We discussed the possibility of finding a child-minder to look after Baby Girl for a few hours a week in the autumn. Then I sat down and wrote up a load of email templates, making the job of dealing with my bulging inbox that bit easier. The NLM compiled a two week meal plan. We agreed that we’d do an online weekly shop to make it easier to keep track of what we were spending. We looked at our finances and realised they’re in pretty good shape, we just need to get better at being organised (like we used to be).
And then I felt better. Sometimes you need a meltdown to get things back into focus, it seems. I could breathe again and the urge to leave my lovely life for a bare hotel room didn’t feel so appealing.
How about you? Can you relate to any of this at all?
PS. I’m a finalist in the Best Pregnancy Blog category of The MAD Blog Awards. You can vote for me here.
Mandy Lee Miller says
I absolutely feel you! I work from home (business, technology & accounting articles), and I could absolutely NOT do it without my mom here 4 days a week to give me the solitary quiet time needed to do research, write up interview questions, attend meetings, run competitions on the blog and do all the writing needed. I also have a cleaning lady in once a week without whom I would be living under a pile of, well, everything.
I have said many times before that trying to divide yourself into too many roles means that none of them get the attention they deserve, and for personality types like you and I, that is just not manageable.
Hubby and I keep meaning to set up online shopping and budgets and just never seem to get there ???? good luck with it all mommy and you are NOT alone x
Thank you Mandy – it’s so great to hear there are others in the same boat. I’m currently trying to find someone to do the cleaning. I have everything crossed!
Hannah Budding Smiles says
Oh Molly I cried reading this because I’ve done exactly the same thing this weekend! I only have 1 child but family, friends, random acquaintances and uncle Tom Cobbly have all asked me why I want another when Toby’s such a challenging child. Thanks folks! So add a house, husband, blog, freelance work… Basically I know how you feel and I hope that your plan works, I’m sure it will really help *hugs* xx
Oh so very yes! I think part of the issue for me is that I can’t plan to do xyz because I don’t know whether there will be nap time and if so for how long, and even in the evening there comes a point where Pip will only sleep in my arms and that’s it, that’s bedtime. For me a plan makes me feel in control so recently I’ve been choosing just one thing each day and trying to let myself relax about the rest of it – easier said than done!
I heard some great advice at Blog Camp on Friday in a business talk about choosing just one big thing to get done each day. I’ve taken to writing a list in the morning and including things like “hang up washing” or “unstack dishwasher” just so I have things I can actually cross off it! Your method sounds like very wise advice.
Molly I relate to every word. It sounds like you are doing the right thing though by talking it through and deciding on a plan. As you I pretty much gave up freelancing a couple of months ago. After doing it four three years I just couldn’t hack it anymore. I do miss it though! X
There are days when I miss being about to physically go to work and know that once I’m there I’ll just be able to crack on and get the job done. I do wonder if I’ll ever go back to working in an office / newsroom / studio. It would mean actually having to factor in thinking about my appearance though, which isn’t something I have much time for at the moment!
Yep! As I was reading this, I was thinking “I have been there so many times!” and like others above, I only have one child, so I can’t imagine how much more hectic it must be with two. Every 2-3 months I find myself with work piled up, a messy house and end up getting stressed and working all hours to get stuff done. I think it’s an inevitable part of being a freelancer and mum (and blogger). The only advice I have (apart from what you’ve done: talk it through) is to try to prioritise and set realistic goals. I realised I was giving myself unachievable to do lists each day, so I would get to the end of each day and only be able to cross off half of my list. It made me feel like I wasn’t doing enough, so I’ve started putting fewer things on my to do list and numbering them in order of urgency. It’s SUCH a hard juggle at times – I really feel for you. The good thing is: you’re an ace mum and writer. Imagine struggling and being a bit of a crap mum/writer… that would REALLY suck 😉
I do love you Alison. You just made me do a proper laugh. That’s an achievement with the mood I’m currently in! x
Jess @ Along Came Cherry says
I can totally relate to this!! I am always in the middle of about fifty things and get stressed because I’m not finishing any of them quickly enough. Luckily I’m not very house proud and mess doesn’t bother me because that is the thing that I usually ignore. Mr C usually gets home to the kitchen looking like a bomb has gone off. It is so so hard to try and work as well as being a mum but the plus side is that my job enables me to be here and not go out to work so if I have to work while the kids are playing sometimes then I try not to feel guilty about it, although of course I still do! x
One bonus to being so busy – there’s no time for Mother Guilt! x
YES!!! SO at this point right now…. babies, work, children, homeschool, moving house… somedays I think my head is about to explode.
I’ve always liked to be busy too, I’m not one to sit and do nothing, yet I have ridiculously high expectations of what I should get done in a day. Just totally not possible with a baby on the scene. Like you, if I had a ‘proper’ job I’d be on maternity leave, as it is I’ve a baby and 3 other kids at home 24/7, too much work AND i’m packing the house up to move….
I think sometimes you really do need that meltdown to ocme out the otherside…
Polly you’re my actual hero. You are AMAZING to juggle everything that you do. Next time I’m having a moment I’m going to channel my inner Polly. WE CAN DO THIS!
Natalie Bailey says
Oh Molly, I can totaly relate to this. And I don’t even have the excuse of work yet as I am still on mat leave. I have been feeling SO overwhelmed by how much there always is to do, and how I don’t feel on top of anything. I have the usual list of things like housework etc, but then I stupidly add a million other things to my to do list that aren’t essential (have just decorated daughters room during baby’s naptimes!) then (I’m an event organiser, so also in my DNA) I also do silly things like organise ‘coffee mornings’ for charity and then realise I have to make shit loads of cakes (which all go wrong as I’m trying to do 8 other things at same time). Then, as a result, I feel guilty I haven’t soaked up my time with baby or listened to 4 yo read her school books enough etc. I seriously need to do something about it and find a way to accept I’m never going to be on top of everything, thinking about meditation?! But in the meantime, I’m sitting here writing a list of things to do this week. Arrrgghhh…
Oh blimey Natalie – huge respect for you to be putting on coffee mornings etc. Why do we do it to ourselves eh?! x
Hey Molly, nearly every time you post, I feel like you’re describing my life too. Mum of two (4 years old and 8 mths), self employed freelancer working from home (restarted my work this time when my second was 4 mths – maternity leave? What maternity leave!) and I know exactly how you’re feeling. I’m hopeless at this, but we need to keep remembering to stop and congratulate ourselves for how much we ARE doing (and doing well!) as opposed to worrying about the things we aren’t. The rest can wait: our kids are happy, healthy, and much loved. The work gets done – it always does. And I bet your house is spotless compared to mine! But thank you for reading my mind – it’s a non stop juggling act and we’re allowed to drop something now and then! Much love from one mummy to another! Rachel xx
You’re absolutely right. I don’t know why I tend to look at the fails over the wins, I suppose it’s another DNA thing!
Sarah Rooftops says
Oh yes! I only have the one but I’m still adjusting to the whole life-with-a-baby thing – 90% of the time, I feel like I’ve got this; 10% of the time, I’m looking at the dust and the hole in the skirting board and my bulging inbox thinking, no, I don’t. There was one night last week when I found myself wondering where the nearest cheap hotel was so I could run away and sleep for 24 hours – I am SO GLAD to see somebody else had the same thoughts!
You’re DEFINITELY not the only one!
Fritha Strickland says
I can so relate to this Molly (although I don’t have two, yet!) but I’m constantly focusing on two things at the same time and feeling like I’m never giving one my full attention. The past few months I’ve been forced to really reduce the amount I’ve taken on and although I wouldn’t naturally have chosen to do this its made me realise just how much I try to do and just how nice it is to focus on the moment at times. That’s not easy obviously with work (I wish I was the sort of person who couldn’t let my house become a state ;)) and I don’t know what the solution is really but I hear you! x
I hope I haven’t put a downer on the whole two kids thing. Most of the time it’s amazing!
Molly I can relate to every single word of this. It’s been this way for me since elsie was 3 weeks old. I also have Bella at home 3 days a week and a husband who works away. I constantly try to fit work in around everything else and yes j get the anxious thing too. We are also getting a cleaner and a childminder come autumn- great minds think alike eh? Other than that in not sure what the answer is. I love what I do so I keep doing what i do. Lots of love x x x x
You have such huge respect from me – to do what you do with four kids is AMAZING. Hurray to the cleaner! x
Yep, I can relate to a lot of what you wrote!! I have 3 kids, aged 5 years, 3 years and 7.5 months. I’m not back at work yet-but I’m in the midst of negotiating with my manager about what hours I’ll do when I return to work in a couple of months. I especially relate to wanting to be in control & to be organised, but feeling the exact opposite! And I’m bone tired when I finally get to bed-but then have trouble switching off, because I’m thinking & planning for multiple different things!
Finding the motivation to do anything other than sit on the sofa when you’re bone tired is tough, huh? I’m glad I’m not the only one!