What to do when you feel overwhelmed by motherhood

 “Honey, did you remember to grab more milk from the shops?” “um no sorry” I replied while rocking our four-month-old in my arms.  What I wanted to say was -  “I did go to the shops but my brain was just too full of all the “noise” of motherhood I could not even remember what I went to the shops for in the first place and totally forgot the milk and half the other things on the list, could you please go to the shops instead?”

I remember those early years well I came stumbling out of the newborn phase sleep-deprived, with hair falling out and milk-stained clothes wondering what just happened. Then just when I thought maybe now it will be easier,  I was suddenly get hit with the toddler phase!  Imagine trying to juggle flaming torches while wrestling clothes on to a squirming octopus - yep, that's what it can feel like! But guess what? It's totally normal to feel like this and if you're in this place right now. I completely understand. I’ve been there too.

 As a Mum of two energetic boys, I have often felt like I’m downing in the never-ending list of things to be done, things to remember, and people who need something from me all the time. The reality is in that this is all too common these days so if you are feeling overwhelmed by motherhood you are not alone.

 So what can we do to break this cycle and start feeling more on top of things? Let's pop open that imaginary bottle of 'You're Doing Great' champagne and chat about it.

 Clear your mind with a dump 

  1. A Brain dump!

When you’re feeling overwhelmed by the never-ending noise of the thoughts circling in your head, the first step is just to dump them out of your brain and onto paper or even the notes on your phone.

You can’t possibly tackle the never-ending to-do list when your mind is full of cluttered thoughts running a million miles an hour. From practical thoughts of what you still need to do to get ready for the BBQ next week to how you are feeling, just get everything out. Just start writing no need to worry about how neat it is or the order of things. This is simply about getting the thoughts OUT of your head and allowing your brain to regain some space. I do this most days and it helps a lot

  1. Focus on the essentials 

Now you have got everything down on paper take a step back and ask yourself. What do I REALLY need to do on this list for myself and my family NOW.

Don’t worry about the things that are non-essential. Focus on what must be done for now. You feel so much better once you tick off those things and know they are taken care of. 

  1. I like to move it move it!

If I didn't exercise I now my mental health would be much worse than it is. It is my calm space where I can escape everything and just re set. While exercise is one of the many things we are all “meant” to be doing  it’s not so much about how we should look or the outcome of the workout but more about the “me” time, the positive effects on your mental health and taking care of your body while it heals from a long pregnancy and the demands of motherhood.

There are no rules here, find something you love. Exercise comes in so many varieties and does not have to mean hitting the gym. It could be a walk, dancing, yoga, or swimming. Whatever makes you feel good and fits into your life easily. It should not be another stress or something you are worried about jamming into your already busy day. 

  1. De-Clutter

Nothing makes my overwhelm feel worse than looking at a cluttered space. Don't get me wrong I am by no means the tidiest person on the planet but I also can't stand all the "stuff" that accumulates when you have little ones. 

The calming effect of cleaning or organising can’t be underestimated.Tackle one organisational task at a time. Break down the areas of your home that make you feel the most overwhelmed and organise them one at a time. 

  1. Be prepared 

Feeling rushed and trying to throw dinner together at 5pm with a toddler pulling at your leg asking to be picked up,  trying to rush out the door but looking for the blankie your little one will not sleep without -  these kinds of situations are a level 10 on the stress-omitor. So why not reduce the stress levels by prepping as much as possible? No, it won’t stop your toddler from throwing a tantrum at the worst possible time, or the baby from dropping a poo right before you have to leave the house, BUT it will mean that you can focus on that one problem instead of trying to juggle everything at once.

Figure out the situations that happen on a regular basis that stress you the most and prep as much as you can in advance. If it’ meal times – write a weekly menu and pre-meal prep as much as you can in advance.

For me it’s leaving the house with the kids in the morning. So I now prepare as much as I can the night before. I lay out my clothes, shower the night before, pack the nappy bag, make the lunch boxes etc. All of this only makes about 30 minutes but makes mornings SO much easier.  

  1. Say No 

Sometimes part of our overwhelm can be committing to plans even when we know we just need a break to get back on top of things or to simply just breathe, but if you’re anything like me you feel guilty for saying no so you make the plans and then dread the event when it comes to the day. At the end of the day, your family needs to you happy and healthy and if that means saying no to plans sometimes thats ok. On the other hand, it’s also totally fine and very necessary for you to socialise if that’s what fills up your cup, so it may be more saying no to taking the kids with you!

  1. Quality time 

Part of the overwhelm can often be the guilt of not being present enough because we are always trying to do many things at once. I can’t count how many times I have said to my kids “yes In a minute” but then got totally caught up in other tasks.

Try setting an amount of time that you will completely focus on your kids. Giving them undivided attention even just for a short time will help you feel so much better and allow you to truly enjoy the special moments with them, and your little ones will soak it up.

Communicate with your partner. Set aside a few minutes each day to talk about your day, dreams, or simply how you're feeling. It's a small act that can strengthen your bond amidst the chaos. During this messy phase of parenting it may be challenging and unrealistic to have a weekly night out with your partner, so try something more simple like a board game and a glass of wine together, or a bubble bath if you want to spice things up a little. 

  1. Stop overthinking it.

When I get overwhelmed the first thing that happens is along come the over analysing thoughts. Why can’t I cope? Am I a bad Mum? Do other Mums feel this way or is it just me? Why do I find this so hard? Et etc. When this happens just say STOP! You are NOT alone. This is very normal and it won’t last forever. You ARE a great Mum and you’re doing an incredible job.

  1. Ask for help

Ok I know this seems obvious but as Mums we are often terrible at asking for help. Sometimes we would rather passive-aggressively clean the house loudly while glaring at our significant other than actually ask them to help. Chat to your partner and tell them how you are feeling so you can both figure out how they can lighten your load. Reach out to friends and family even if it is just to chat. Your support network no matter how big or small is a vital part of your motherhood journey.

 On a more serious note – If you feel you are really not coping and may need the support of a qualified professional PLEASE reach out and get the help you need. 

Before you go -I’ve got a little secret to tell you. Contrary to what society may tell us being a mum doesn't mean you need to have your stuff together all the time.

I know it might seem easy to say but – let’s stop putting so much pressure on ourselves to do everything all at once. The first step is accepting that we can’t be perfect, nor should we try to be.  Instead, why not start by picking two of the tips above and start with those for this week? It’s easy to implement and won’t leave you feeling like you are adding more to your plate. Remember – you are not alone. And you will find a way through this.  


September 22, 2023 — Ruth Quinn