Editor's note: This article was originally published on Kadie Arrington's blog, Seven Alive. It is published here with permission.
I have had a few people ask me how it is I'm able to keep up with everything. The very honest answer is I DON'T. No one can ever keep up with it all. The guilt of not being able to "keep up with it all" will eat you alive, if you allow it to.
It shouldn't surprise you that I fall into the Mommy Guilt category. There are nights I don't sleep well because I keep thinking about all I didn't do, days I don't eat because "who has time for food with all there is to be done?" and tears that have fallen because I "just don't measure up."
Somehow I have gotten this idea lodged in my mind about what a stay-at-home mom should be. No matter what I do, I don't measure up to her.
My mind goes round and round in circles, the house isn't clean enough, dinner wasn't ready at 6 AGAIN, the kids should be more polite, someone just tripped over a shoe left in the middle of the floor "well if I had picked up last night before bed like a GOOD mom that wouldn't have happened."
On and on it goes, round and round, like a well-worn track around my mind made up of all the terrible things I say about myself. Only pausing when I hear the same type of words coming from another tired, over-worked mother. It breaks my heart, to know they too are hurting.
Moms are AWESOME! There isn't another person on the planet that is willing to give so much to another person than a mother. Not only emotionally but physically, mothers give everything. Some days it can feel like we get little in return, until that little person wraps their arms around your neck and tells you "You are MY mommy and I love you, all the way to Jupiter and back again." Those moments can melt the polar ice caps off any frozen heart.
But what do we do when it becomes easy to brush those tender moments aside, and even though we know we are creating a good home for our family we just can't shake the guilt?
Because this is something I have been dealing with lately, I compiled a list of things to do when I get overwhelmed by the guilt of everyday life. I thought maybe a few others out there could benefit from the list as well so I'm sharing it with you all. Remember this is as much for me as for anyone else. I'm not a trained therapist or counselor, nor am I trying to be, just sharing some things that have worked for me.
Talk about it
If possible, find someone you can talk to about the guilt you're feeling. It needs to be someone you feel comfortable with, trust, and you know won't judge you for voicing the thoughts you are having. For me, this is my Mom, my sister, a group of dear online girlfriends and my husband. You need to pick someone in your life you feel comfortable sharing with. Most mothers have an idea of what you are going through, so opening up to them can be a little easier.
Write it down
My husband and I went to a counselor a few years ago and she said when I don't have anyone to talk to, write it down. Write in your journal, get all the emotion out, then move on. I have loved that advice. It's an easy way to release some emotion.
When you are listing all the things you didn't get done today, STOP! I mean it. Stop what you are saying to yourself. START listing all the things you did get done today.
Did the kids get fed? Great! So what if it was peanut butter and jelly every meal, they WILL live. Did you get dressed? Great! It's fine if it was into pajamas for the day. We've all been there. Did you read your kids a story? Fantastic! It's OK that the books are still on the floor. You won't have to look far for the next reading session.
Remind yourself how you made your kids laugh, or that you called a dear friend that you haven't spoken to in a while, or of the 10 minutes you took to read the scriptures. Those are all important things, don't diminish their importance by focusing only on the negative.
I would recommend reading the scriptures, because I know of the healing balm they can offer a hurting soul. However, if you aren't a spiritual or religious person, read an uplifting book. Don't pick the book that is going to make you feel bad about where you are in your own life journey. Pick something that feeds your soul, something that lets you relax while enlivening you. Ten to 15 minutes a day is all it takes and it's well worth the time.
Light a candle and turn on the music
No, we aren't getting romantic. Music and scent affect your mood in ways you might not realize. The right scent can lift your mood quicker than anything else. What is your favorite sent? Mine depends on the season, but mostly it's grapefruit and cinnamon. I don't know why, but those two scents can lift my mood every time. If I don't light a candle I will turn on my Essential Oil Diffuser with this oil blend.
Music can do the same thing, turn on a fun song and dance around the room with your kids. They don't care if you look silly, you looking silly can only make it more fun. Alternately, if you are feeling agitated and anxious turn on something soothing, I enjoy The Piano Guys.
As hard as it is, you have to let go of whatever it is you are feeling guilty about. For me, it's that firmly planted perfect stay-at-home mom. My guess is that you have all met someone you thought "had it all together." You know their home is immaculate, the kids are well-mannered and clean, they cook well-rounded meals three times a day and could craft Martha Stewart under the table. Logically we all know that they aren't perfect, but from the small amount we see they look pretty darn close.
Don't compare yourself to them, they aren't you and you aren't them. We all have the trials we have for a reason. If there is one thing I have learned, it's that I don't want anyone else's trials, mine are tough enough. We all have special talents to bring to the table.
Well, that's all fine and dandy Kadie. But HOW do I let go?! I'm glad you asked! It has taken me a ridiculously long time to figure out how. (Again, this is just what works for me.)
I came up with a list of things that I feel like need to happen each day so that I feel accomplished. Keep in mind this is my bare minimum, give it some thought and you will have your own list.
After the kids get off to school -
make all the beds
Load/unload the dishwasher
sweep the kitchen
vacuum the living-room
reading/playing/activity time with kids
Pick up bedrooms, hallway
I work best in the morning and find that if I don't have my above list done by 10 a.m., I won't finish all I want to get done that day. This of course doesn't include all the weekly things that need to be done. Things like mopping, scrubbing bathrooms, doing laundry and dusting get worked into my list through the week.
After the kids get home from school I have a different list, but you get the idea. Make a list of things that are easy to accomplish but that you feel strongly that they get done.
To avoid extra stress, don't try to do too many things at once. When you are helping kids with homework, don't try to cook dinner or update your Facebook status. It may take some extra planning on your part, like start dinner before or after homework time, but it will make everything run more smoothly. And you will avoid the guilt of getting frustrated because you were distracted doing something else.
I really like a list that I can mark off, then when I am going through all the things I didn't get done that day, I can look back over all those things that got checked off.
Then let go of the other things, for now. As you get your routine down and get quicker with your work, you can add more to your list. And if you don't add more to your list, know that you are doing the best you can and that is what matters.
As much as it doesn't seem like it, the choice is yours. For today, I'm choosing to let go of the guilt and see the joy in my life.
Who's with me?