15 Tips for Exhausted Moms Trying to ‘Do It All’

Being a busy mom is hard and exhausting. It can leave you feeling tired all the time. When you need stress relief, follow these seven tips for slowing down.

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15 ideas for simplifying your life so you can have more energy. Tips for meal planning, grocery shopping, getting kids to manage their chores, simplifying your wardrobe and more.

Stress Relief for Busy Moms

Whether you work from home, run your own business, go to an office, or homeschool, most moms these days are extremely busy. We are trying to fit more and more into ever-smaller windows of time, somehow hoping that we'll be able to 'get it all done.' We take on way too much, assure ourselves that everything will be fine, and then wonder why we feel so tired all the time. We need to learn the art of slowing down and we need stress relief if we're going to enjoy the lives we're working so hard to provide for our kids.

Here are my top tips for slowing down and relieving the stress of overbusyness. One word of advice before we begin: these tips will help you to free up a lot of space in your life and in your mind. However, they will only be effective if you continue to hold that space free. If you allow it to fill right back up again, you'll still be exhausted!

Automate as much as possible

So many aspects of our lives can become mundane toil when we have to do them over and over again each day or week. As a kid, I remember my mom calling me at home from her office almost every afternoon asking my opinion about what we should have for dinner. Then, after working all day, she would go to the grocery store to purchase the ingredients for that meal and come home to cook it.

I suppose that in our small neighbourhood, and with only the two of us at home, that was manageable for her. But in my sprawling suburb—and with a family of six to feed multiple times each day—I just wouldn't be able to pull off that spontaneity.

I need as many aspects of my life to be automated as possible, so that I can reserve my decision-making energy for the important things, like what book should I read next?

I tried for many years to write a weekly meal plan every Thursday night, scheduling out three meals and two snacks for each day. I bought groceries on Friday and prepped food on Saturday. Unfortunately, even this was too much work for me.

I now create a seasonal meal plan that lasts three months. It is a one-week schedule of meals and snacks that we repeat every week. I know, that sounds uber boring, but it really isn't. A lot of the meals are broad, like 'Mexican' or 'pasta', so there is always a bit of room for creativity. We also have two open slots on the weekend where we can try new dishes or use up leftovers.

Planning meals only once every three months has been a huge source of stress relief for me. We love the food that we eat and now we spend more time enjoying it than stressing out about what to make.

Why and what should you automate?

Automation makes life easier and relieves the stress of having to think about the same decisions over and over. When mundane tasks are put on auto-pilot, you free up more of your time and energy to focus on the things that really matter.

The best things to automate are tasks that drain you, that you have to perform regularly, and that neither give you joy nor develop any important skills. If there is some emotional, physical, spiritual or mental gain to be had from doing the task manually, by all means continue doing it. But if it's just draining you of your energy and leaving you too tired to do more important things, see if you can automate some or all of the task.

Here are some other things to automate

  • Meal planning: once per month or season
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    Grocery shopping: we place our grocery order online once a week and either have it delivered or pick it up at the store (depending on which service is available).
  • Bills: almost all financial tasks can be automated these days, from direct deposit to bill payments, savings plans, and even tithes. I love not having to write cheques or even go into my bank account to make transfers.

Delegate as much as possible

There's only so much one person can do. It's not sustainable for moms (or anyone, for that matter) to take on all of the work of managing a home in addition to all of the other responsibilities they may have with their work, parenting, or homeschooling.

In a book I once read—I forget the title now, but not this little quote—the mother of the main character described herself as a domestic engineer. I loved that job title because I think it's such an accurate depiction of what women typically do in a home. We're not just looking after our kids, or keeping the house clean, or cooking meals, but rather, designing, managing, and maintaining entire systems of domestic duties that uphold our overly-scheduled lives.

There is the forecasting, inventory management, procurement, and manual labour that goes into feeding our families. There is the logistical challenge of managing multiple overlapping schedules and figuring out who needs to be where and when, and how they will get there (not to mention what they will eat while they are there). How about the endless slew of doctor's appointments, immunizations, dental cleanings, haircuts and other tasks related to the physical upkeep of children? Or the constant challenge of making sure that each constantly growing child has appropriate clothes and shoes for each season, preferably ones that will fit for at least a few months?

So many tasks exist in this ongoing cycle and must be completed in order for our families to function effectively. But surely there are a few things we can slip off our to-do lists on to somebody else's?

What, when, and to whom to delegate

Unless you're fortunate enough to have extended family living close by and willing to help, the people you'll most commonly be able to delegate to are your children. They have more time, more energy, and fewer responsibilities than you do, plus, time invested now in teaching them valuable life skills will pay off for both you and them in the long run.

What should you delegate to them? As much as possible! But in all seriousness, I would say that the best things to delegate to children are tasks that don't require a lot of skill or wisdom (at least at the beginning), that aren't time-sensitive, that teach them valuable life skills, and that you don't want to do.

As for when, we aim to give our kids as much responsibility as their ages and maturity will allow, increasing it as they gain more experience. My husband and I both grew up with fathers who worked for themselves, which in turn meant that we did a lot of work for them. Though we didn't necessarily enjoy it at the time, we recognize that much of our work ethic now comes from regularly working hard and being entrusted with responsibility throughout our formative years. As we don't run the types of businesses conducive to working with children, we find we have to actively create opportunities to pass on this same  sense of work ethic.

Here are some things we delegate

  • Laundry: from about seven years old, we teach our kids to do their own laundry and put it away. We offer rewards if they're willing to go the added step and help with washing or putting away their younger siblings' laundry.
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    Helping with siblings: our older children take on much responsibility with their younger siblings. They help them get dressed, tidy their rooms, and eat breakfast. They help them get in the car when we are going out. They even help their preschool-aged sister with her lessons. Now that they're getting older and more experienced with caring for them, they will soon be able to start babysitting for short periods as well.  
  • Cleaning their rooms: we start teaching our kids to clean their rooms and pick up their own messes from about three-years-old. Obviously the standards are different for a three-year-old than for a nine-year-old, but we do expect that if they're old enough to take something out, they should be old enough to put it back. For that matter, if they're old enough to draw on the walls, they can help wash it off!
  • Cleaning bathrooms: we started teaching our kids to clean bathrooms when they were about seven. I would say this one has the biggest learning curve. Even after a few years, we still have to inspect their work two or three times to make sure they haven't skipped anything, but they've definitely gotten better. They love to beautify the bathroom when they're done, choosing new soap and hand towels to put out for the week.
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    Helping with cooking: since we homeschool, our kids are home for every meal and they have quite an interest in cooking. At around eight-years-old they started taking on responsibility for small meals (simple breakfasts, e.g.) and snacks. Once those were mastered, they started making things like sandwiches, salads, cornbread, pasta, and eggs. Now, at nine and eleven, they can easily make a day's worth of simple meals. We've let them experiment with meal planning, too, but that doesn't go as well. We end up with a lot of pancakes and pastas when we let them make the plans.
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    Cleaning the kitchen: Unless they cook, our older girls do all of the cleaning in the kitchen after dinner, including washing the dishes, wiping the table and counters, and sweeping the floor. They also take out the compost and recycling. 

Creating and maintaining a revolving chore chart has been the most effective way we've found to get our kids to stick to their chores. We welcome their involvement in setting up the chart, allocating responsibilities, and revising systems as needed. Although they complain sometimes, they're so used to it now that it's just second nature. 

Simplify as much as possible

Ever since a friend recommended The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up to me a few years ago, simplify has been a resounding cry in our home. I'm constantly decluttering, getting rid of things, trying to buy and consume less, and simplify my life in any way possible. When I'm particularly stressed, I find that being surrounded with physical clutter adds to my mental chaos, and decluttering offers me some serious stress relief.

For lots of resources on simplifying and minimalism, visit my Pinterest board: Be Happy With Less.

 

Briefly, here are some of my top strategies for simplifying:

  • Read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. Then, read it again. Then follow all of Marie Kondo's recommendations as closely as possible.
  • Cultivate a capsule wardrobe. Having fewer clothes in your closet and a plan for how they go together makes the decision of what to wear so much easier. My favourite capsule wardrobe program is Get Your Pretty On (GYPO), which offers a basic capsule wardrobe program and seasonal challenges. Alison Lumbatis, creator of GYPO also has a Big Book of Outfit Formulas that makes getting ready a breeze. I also created capsule wardrobes for my older daughters so that they would have as few clothes as possible in their rooms at any given times, which makes it much easier for them to do their laundry and clean their rooms (see point #2, above).
  • Simplify your meals. I already talked about simplifying your meal planning, but simplifying the meals on your meal plan is important too. When selecting meals that will go on our plan, I look for things that can be made in half an hour or less and that have a few ingredients as possible. Anything complicated, (like these amazing falafel balls), I prep on the weekend in big batches and freeze for later so that I only have to prep and cook like this once every few weeks. 
Getting ready in the morning is so much easier when you use a capsule wardrobe. Downsize your closet while upgrading your options.

Be realistic with your time

With so many things that we want to do—not to mention all the ones that we have to do—it's incredibly easy to become over-scheduled. Even if you are the type of person who enters every little thing into their calendar, one of two things inevitably happen:

1. You forget to schedule buffer time for transitions, interruptions, and rest, or

2. You schedule it, but don't actually use it as you'd planned. (Like the kitchen clock set ten minutes fast, the mind quickly compensates).

Don't make this mistake! For years, I felt like I was the most productive and efficient person because of how much I could fit into my schedule. I chalked it up to impeccable planning and time management: I do, after all, have a degree in logistics, for goodness' sakes! It must be useful for something!

But alas, there aren't really any awards for cramming your schedule as full as possible, only exhaustion and stress. It is unsustainable, unrewarding, and unwise.

I still think that putting as many things as possible onto the calendar is a good idea, but for a different reason: when we schedule everything, we see just how little time we have left to work with. It's like planning our household budget. If we only wrote down half of our monthly expenses each month and then 'winged it' the rest of the time, we'd probably find ourself coming up broke more often than not.

The same is true of time. We have way less of it than we perceive. When you put things like Bible study, quiet time, rest, personal time, etc. on your calendar, you are making a choice to prioritize your spiritual, mental, and physical well being.

You may still have a lot of stuff on your plate, but you are being purposeful and realistic about your time, recognizing your own needs and limitations, and acknowledging that you were created to need rest. Whether you like it or not, sooner or later your body will take the rest it needs. Why not be the one to provide it?

Be unproductive

This from a former productivity geek, from a woman whose key selling feature on her resume was, "I will make everything in your business more efficient."

I'm not going to lie, you can tell from my recommendations above that I still love efficiency and productivity, but only in their proper places. There are some times and circumstances where it's much more important to be unproductive and inefficient. For example, when you're playing with your kids, hanging out with your husband, catching up with your friends, or having some me time. It is truly okay— no, necessary—to have some unscheduled time where you literally just sit on a couch be.

Just be you, just be at rest, just be a person connecting with other people. I struggle with this a lot. As soon as I try to sit down, my mind jumps to something I should or could be doing. I could fold laundry while I sit here. I could fold laundry and listen to an audiobook. I could fold laundry, listen to an audiobook, and plan a month's worth of meals while checking my daughter's homework. God forbid I sit and do nothing.

I know it sounds silly, but these are the actual thoughts that run through my mind when I try to rest. I'm learning to fight it and it's not easy. But it's so worth it.

I'd love to hear about your tips for stress relief and slowing down. Leave a comment below to share your strategies.

15 ideas for simplifying your life so you can have more energy. Tips for meal planning, grocery shopping, getting kids to manage their chores, simplifying your wardrobe and more.
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