I’m Overwhelmed!

Question: I am the mother of 4 beautiful small souls, ages 11, 10, 7, and 6. I arrive home from work about the same time that they get home each day, and I am so tired and drained that all I want to do is rest on the sofa with a good book or TV show for an hour or two.

However, the reality is that I need to reconnect with the kids, sometimes cook dinner, help with homework, chauffeur them to play practice, etc. My husband commutes a long distance and does not arrive home until 9pm. Shortening my hours at work is not an option. Each evening I feel resentful that the kids are needy, they want to talk, they want my help, they want to be served dinner, when all I want is peace and quiet! I DO all these things for my kids, and they’re terrific kids, but all the same, I feel so conflicted and afraid that they will pick up on the emotional nuances I may be projecting- that I would really prefer that they all disappear for two or three hours so that I can relax!

Signed, Totally Overwhelmed!

Today’s answer is provided by Odelia Schlisser. Odelia Schlisser is a life coach with a Masters Degree in Sociology and a Masters Degree in Education, and is trained in Family Therapy. She currently lectures Psychology and Behavioral Science in Mercy College and has spent the past several years counseling children, teens, and their parents and teachers. She can be contacted for coaching at odeliaschlisser@theroadto.net

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Dear Overwhelmed,

What you are experiencing is what every Mom in your position feels if she is honest about her feelings. Let’s talk about what can be done to make it a better experience for you and your family.

When you get home you are exhausted and want an hour off. How about taking 15-30 minutes of “down time”? Change into comfortable cloths, have a snack with your kids and just sit with your feel up and allow your body to relax. Your kids could probably use some “down time” before starting the whirlwind of homework, practice, supper etc…

You said that cutting back on your hours at work is not an option. In today’s economy it is often necessary to have two incomes. Perhaps you can put some of that money to work for you. Can you hire help to assist you for an hour or two say twice a week?

Many of your friends and neighbors crave the same “break” and “support” you do. I had a standing Thurs night arrangement with one of my friends whose husband worked late. We alternated supper at each other’s homes every week. The kids enjoyed the change, we got to socialize, and otherwise help one another. Best of all, every other week one of us essentially got a free night when we didn’t have to cook supper or clean up.

Similarly, you can arrange carpools to the various after school activities. This way you only have to drive some of the time. Believe me the other parents will be very grateful.

Get a babysitter once a week and invest in some “Mommy Time”. You are juggling a lot between a full work schedule and a full household. You need to replenish in order to be able to operate optimally. Go to the gym, a movie, or whatever it is that you enjoy. Remember- your kids need you to care for yourself, so that you can better care for them.

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  1. I think you are so brave to express how you feel. I can relate to lot of your pointers above. You’re not alone, and it’s ok. At the end of the day, you adore and love your kids. Good luck, I also think the suggestions above are very helpful. I even have handled it this way. When I come home from a long and stressful day at work, I have two pairs of eyes (and two pairs of dogs’ eyes) staring at me, I hug them and say something like “I need to regroup for 10-15 minutes, and then you can have my attention.” Even that 15 min, if I just stare into space or try to medidate with CD, it does wonders.

  2. Wow, those are all great suggestions, especially for the extremely organized! The only one that makes any sense to me (full-time working mom of 3) is changing into comfortable clothes and winding down a little. Unfortunately some people find it difficult to restart that late in the day, when maybe they would really like to go on to bed! Most parents don’t realize how much work they are really asking for with 3 or 4 children until it is too late. Maybe some vitamins are in order if the mom is in need of more energy. I totally agree with the taking care of herself being important. However, now that she has 4 children that are wearing her out, she should remember that nothing is permanent, and they are growing up so fast, she will turn around in 10 years and they won’t be there to bother her anymore and she may miss it terribly. Irregardless, tv shows and books will still be there, the kids will be grown and gone. Remember– Life is hard and life is short–if you have faith, you can always lean on Him. If you do your best, God will help with the rest. Hang in there Overwhelmed, this too shall pass!

  3. Darlene says:

    Dear Overwhelmed,

    I am in the same boat. My day starts at 4:20 am – up and showered and on the road before 5 am. I leave work by 3:15 – pick the kids up (4 and 5) and then my second, much harder job starts. If we had the extra money for the assistance that would be a great solution. Also it would point to the fact I wouldn’t have to work – I don’t think we work for EXTRA income – lol – we work to get by! We have no help from family, either. It is HARD. REALLY REALLY REALLY HARD. I see my husband for about a minute a night before I pass out from exhaustion at 9 pm. If I get a minute to myself during the day at work, I am just about reduced to tears.

    I don’t think it is the kids – it is HAVING TWO FULL TIME JOBS. And don’t tell me about cutting back lifestyle – we live in the crappiest neighborhood, drive used cars and are doing all the “right” and frugal things. The bottom line – it is really hard. We did try sharing responsibilities with some of the other moms in our moms group, but mostly that ends up being very one sided if you are not drop dead careful defining roles. And most of them stay home, so they don’t understand needing a “break.” They just don’t GET IT.

    My parents, who live 3000 miles away, wonder if this pace of life can possibly be sustained. I wonder, too. We have gone thru 3 nannies in the last year – that would come in to help on Saturday. Besides the unpredictability and the complaints from my husband about expense, we finally just stopped having them come. It was way more trouble than help.

    There are times I fantasize about going to jail – three meals – a library – simple tasks… KIDDDDDING – I am kidding! Hang in there OVERWHELMED – you are NOT alone!

    • totally with you says:

      Darlene, the jail fantasy has popped into my mind more than a couple of times. I am glad someone else out there shares my sense of humor. You can either laugh or cry right?!

    • My fantasy is a hospital with bed, A/C, food, tv and a prescription to sleep for hours..ja, ja!!

    • catherine says:

      Your jail comment made me laugh. I too am overwhelmed. One thing I do is talk to my kids about it as well (10, 11 and 13)–that way they have some understanding of why I need to change in my room alone! Anyway, the other day while I was “juggling” I commented that jail would be a nice place about now–3 meals a day, limited chores and work hours. They laughed an saw the humour.

      The nice thing about being honest with your kids is then they can start to make choices and better understand their own limits. Lots of times we will sit down immediately after school/work. And sometimes one of my daughters will make me a cup of tea while we relax.

      • Darlene says:

        Today I saw a post from a male – dad – blogger – and he wrote, “WHY is solitary confinement considered the harshest punishment in jail.” LOL – I hear you brother!! Solitary confinement seems heavenly at this point! Hang in there everyone. 🙂

  4. I learned to do something which has helped me greatly, when I returned to work after having the privilege of being home for almost 9 years. I started back in the work force the day after my youngest started 1st grade. school. I arrive home the same time my boys get home from school. I greet each of the children. We talk for a few minutes to find out the highs and lows of the day, and then I set the kitchen timer for 15 minutes. The children are allowed to watch tv, play a video game, or get on to a certain website during that time. I hit the recliner during that time. When the timer sounds, we all start “2nd Shift”. This has worked, as I mentioned, since my youngest was in 1st grade. He is now scheduling his classes for his sophomore year of high school. As Carma mentioned, this time passes all to quickly. Don’t stress over the small things. I always find it amazing at how much strengh my Heavenly Father gives me. Strength that I never realized I had until I stop and reflect on what has been accomplished.

  5. Jaylene says:

    I am also a working mother of 3 and feel exactly the same way. My kids are a bit older, 9, 12, 14, and all growing so fast. I have actually recently implemented the Mom needs 15 minutes of down time right when i get home to get into comfy clothes and figure out what my next moves are as far as evening schedule. One thing I did not do is schedule so many activities for my kids that we are always on a dead run. My kids enjoy the relax time at the end of the day as well and then when i’m cooking dinner, they are doing homework or telling me stories about their day, which can be hectic as they all have so much to say they tend to talk over each other, but it’s a great time to connect with them especially as they’re getting older. It’s hard, for sure, and some days 15 minutes doesn’t always feel like enough, but at least it’s a start for me and as they get older time seems to be flying by faster and faster, so i’m trying to enjoy the time I have now while they still want to talk to me!! Good luck, and remember, you are definitely not alone!!

  6. Theresa says:

    Go the totally frugal route. Get a part time job or quit the job and live on one income, but spend WAY LESS. Pick up a copy of a book called The Tightwad Gazette, by Amy Dacyczyn (a.k.a. The Frugal Zealot). The book is about promoting thrift as a viable lifestyle. It is amazing to see how you can live on so little money. Then you can have more time to be at home with the kids and more time for yourself. It takes time to be frugal, but I still think you would come out ahead.

  7. I am the mother of a 14 and 15 year old… who has experienced this for years… When they were younger, I would stop on my way to pick them up and have about 15 minutes of down time drinking iced tea, a Texas tradition. Then I would be more available when I picked them up from day care and they were needing that immediate attention. At this point in time, I keep a book in the car and I spend 15-20 minutes reading after they have gone into the house before I go in to get the evening activities started. I would love to find an option of going to someone else’s home our hiring some help 2-3 times a week… I have tried, but I have not been able to find anyone who was willing to do either…

  8. I would like to comment on Carma’s response…the more you “think” life is hard and is short” that’s exactly what you’re going to feel and experience! Dear Overwhelmed…just think to yourself how grateful you are for your talents and patience and ability to ask for help. Think to yourself how much you love yourself and just how amazing and powerful you are. Your ability to have reached out like you did, for assistance, is exactly is what is needed! May you continue to think outside the box and trust those thoughts of inspiration and follow through with them especially when it comes to taking care of yourself, first, and then your family. And, ya…it’s not our goal to be perfect 😉

    You are awesome just the way you are because you care!

    • Natalie says:

      Dear Elita,
      Of all the comments I read of which many had other good comments and suggestions, yours hit home the most because you were the only one to remind the mother of just how special and powerful she really is. It is so easy to grow and concentrate in a negative sphere of thinking because of pressure and you also were so right to remind her of what a great thing she did to reach out for help. As I am nearing the end of the most neediest part of my childrens lives (God blessings on me) I wish that you had been there to remind me of these very things,or rather teach them to me. Only the strength of God and knowing that I would eventually make it through children, severe pain, work and daily pressures of living kept me alive. You are probably a great friend to have. Much blessings to you!

  9. Dear Overwhelmed,

    As a mother and a single parent of a Special Needs child who is 12 and very active, I feel overwhelmed at times too. As women, I believe that it is difficult to take time for ourselves when we need it because we feel as though we need to “give” everything to our kids. It seems to me that the two older children can help the younger ones with their homework for 30 minutes or so to give you a break. Or perhaps, since the weather is getting nicer, you can all take a 15-20 minute walk when you get home, so that everyone gets a little exercise and you can relax a little and hear about your children’s days. Before or after supper, I think it’s perfectly acceptable to let your kids know that mom needs a 30 minute time out. Go to your room, lock the door and read a book, listen to music, watch TV or just relax. The rule is NO ONE is allowed to interrupt mom or knock on the door during that time. The reward could be extra TV or computer, mom reading a book to them or a sticker on a chart for the younger ones. If need be, pay the two older ones a buck or too for keeping the younger ones out of your hair.

    I had an arrangement with another mom similiar to the one mentioned above. We started a “babysitting club” and took turns sitting each other’s kids. All of the other moms dropped out, but one mom and I stuck to it. We developed a great friendship and so did our kids. It was a great arrangement and worked out well for both of us for many years.

    Two things that I do for myself during the week are: I take time on Sat. mornings to attend Weight Watchers and spend some time with my older daughter. I also hired a sitter so that I can take a painting class during the week. Once a month, I go to scrapbooking or stamping workshops. I feel better about myself when I am taking time to do the things that I enjoy and both my son and I are happy to see each other when I get home.

    All of the suggestions above are good ones. I wish you all of the best. I think that if you get creative, you may find solutions that will be relatively inexpensive and will keep both you and your kids happy! Once a month, hire a sitter or have your older kids sit and go out on a “date” with your husband. You two need someone “alone time” to reconnect as well. Feel blessed and grateful that you have 4 healthy kids and a husband as well. They will be grown and gone before you know it. Writing in a “gratitude journal” daily has helped to remind me of all of the blessings that I have and I have gotten my son doing the same thing! Prayer and talking to a friend is helpful as well.

  10. Just a thought – what about the husband’s work schedule – can that be changed as well? What about working from home some days of the week to be home more and offer more assistance. Find another job closer to home? Move closer to work if possible?

  11. willie says:

    So it sounds like you’ve got a great marriage, and the reason you had those wonderful kids, what was that again? Oh yes,…because, it seemed like a good idea at the time. Aren’t they wonderful! Nobody told you to have them, and you did anyways. You need to start at the beginning. When those kids popped out, you became a mom 24-7, not 21-7. Spend less, stay home. Living frugally you say? Then why do you need to cart them around everywhere? Everything they do costs money and so does the gas to get there. Would it kill them to stay home? I don’t think so. Sorry if this sounds like a slap in the face, but sometimes we need a wake-up call.

    • Darlene says:

      Wow – really not a helpful comment, Willie.

      Overwhelmed mentioned PLAY practice – that’s probably a FREE activity – and YES – kids really do need activities.

      It’s got NOTHING to do with being frugal – some of us NEED two incomes.

      And what we need more of is helpful, constructive dialogue – NOT a slap in the face.

  12. Kandra says:

    Sounds like everyone of you are my soul sisters.

    I have 7 children 4 of which live with me and my husband. After my “day” job you will find me running my shuttle to 1-3 practices or games, trying to put together a “healthy – fast” meal, taking care of the house, doing loads and loads of laundry ETC – I’m preaching to the choir.

    Believe it or not – when I take time to take care of myself FIRST, I can take care of everyone else. I reduce my tension and am able to put things into perspective. If I focus on my wellness, when my son leaves his glove at home across town or one sock is missing or I have to hear the same joke for the 42,123 time, I can take a deep -breath and move on.

    Exercising is imperative! I know think – YEAH RIGHT – when can I fit that in? Ladies you can exercise almost anywhere you go. Get up on your feet and find places to get moving. It doesn’t have to be in a gym or for long. You can always find a little place to walk while they are practicing. I find a another Mom and we walk, talk and watch our kids. 3 birds with one stone – remember multi-tasking is what Moms do best. You will have more energy to face the second shift. “Just do it!”

    Our kids grow up and then they are gone. Let’s give them the best we’ve got. Trust me – I have learned (with so many kids) we ALWAYS have a little more in us to give and who deserves it more than our family.

  13. Cheryl says:

    I hear all of you! I am a single mother who works in a High School counseling troubled teens. My children are 9 and 12 and attend sports and dance 4 days a week each. I have tried to get my daughter to cut down on dance but since my divorce I felt it important to maintain as normal a schedule as possible. I feel both fortunate and unfortunate that I have my Master’s in counseling as it enables me to understand children and adolescents better but it also has me worrying because I know only too well what is to come:) The techniques that I use in my profession with parents and youth work well when I am helping others but not so well when I’m applying them to my own family. Plus my daughter always accuses me of using that “counselor stuff” on her. Anyway, I somehow find some time to read while my children are using the indoor pool at our condo complex. I also have a horse that I try to ride 2 or 3 times a week. In the summers when we have more time, I add yoga into my week. I purposely chose a career that would give me summers off with my children. It also meant going back to college while pregnant to get my Master’s but it has paid off in the long run. I do keep reminding myself as my 12 year old daughter is glued to my hip even when I try to go to the bathroom that they are growing up fast and I’ll miss them terribly when they are gone. I also have to lock my bedroom door for a few minutes of down time when they are getting especially troublesome. It gives me the breathing time to come back out and handle situations in a more rational way. Good luck! And remember, being a mom is overwhelming but also the most important job anyone could ever have!

  14. They will be grown and gone before you realize it. Enjoy these years as much as you can. You will have plenty of time to read and do more of the things you want when they are grown, and off living their own lives. Having date night with your husband 1-2 times/month is essential. Also, could you maybe move closer to your husbands work so he doesn’t have to drive so far? Maybe you could find a part time job until the kids go to college?

  15. i am a mom of an 8 and a 4 (going on 40!) yr old girls. they are ever so loving and adorable but they are a handful. i totally understand about being overwhelmed. however i decided 2 months ago that i have to put a little savings aside to go off at least once every 2 months or every month to rejuvenate as i didnt like what i was becoming – constantly irritable and shouting at the kids. this worked.. i went to an eco spot and went hiking, yoga and simply enjoying a good book. it was great. the girls noticed the difference and tho they do not like it when i go off they are greatful for the nicer mommy who returns.
    the kids do grow up quickly and we love them to death, but we dont have to bring about our death raising them. they will more remember the times we spent loving them than giving them all syndromes by being grouchy moms. we can only give what we possess within and how can we teach them to love themselves and exert their inner power if we do not lead by example? love them by loving you. it is ok to shut the door for 15 minutes even 30 minutes. or teach them to lie next to you without saying a word or else they are out the door. put on some incense and some candles mama— and totally love yourself….. the law of attraction is so true – what you think and beleive you possess… think positive…..you are not alone.. chinny chin up my ladies and smile, it’s a beautiful day 🙂

  16. Swamped says:

    Wow, I am so glad others are out there with so many of the same thoughts and feelings as myself. I work as an RN in a hospital, which means I have to work night shifts quite frequently. I do childcare swaps with other moms in the neighbourhood to avoid paying the daycare fees which seem astronaumical these days. We are barely making ends meet with 2 full-time incomes! Neither of us smoke, rarely drink and we definately don’t spend our money foolishly! I honestly don’t know how we all survive in such a difficult world! I just wanted to say, that in order for me to be happy, I have had to take the time for myself ie. biking, hanging out with friends, reading, etc. Some of the best tactics I have added to my life are pre-made meals (so I make a double batch of soup/stew and freeze half for other nights), taking the kids to the park and catching up on some good books, and most of all, threatening to get a housekeeper if my husband does not start picking up the slack in regard to household chores! 😉
    My children are 8 and 4 and I honestly don’t know where the time has gone! It’s going to start going faster and soon I will wonder what ever happened to my kids and myself! Make that time for yourself, even if it means sending the kids to bed 15 min earlier so that you can spend more time doing what you like to do. In the long run, you and your kids will appreciate one another more:) Wishing all of you out there my very best in this difficult world!

  17. Jo-Anne Layton says:

    OMIGAWD … what a lot of sharing! That’s great! All that I can think to ADD to this is:

    – Realize that the Relationships you are developing with your children NOW … are setting the TONE for their TEEN years … and the rest of their/your life.
    – ie, ‘as ye reap, so shall ye sow’. The teen years can be difficult even if you have been a sensible & diligent parent – but if you haven’t managed a good ‘balance’ shall we say – the chances of living a ‘hell on earth’ are greatly increased.

    – It is really difficult to feel like giving when your own tank is on Empty … therefore all the advice on Taking Care Of Yourself are important. It is also important not to GIVE our children THINGS (easy to do) instead of giving of ourselves (developing relationships with them) & being good role models.

    – ‘Kids these days’ often develop a sense of Entitlement at the expense of Responsibility, you are doing them a huge favor to teach them responsibility (doing their part) so that when they get out in the real world it won’t be such a shock, and they will be less needy of your ongoing support. We all know of adult children leaning on their parents for years on end, right? Both financially and emotionally.

    All things in Moderation, and for the Right Reasons is a good motto to parent by.
    – Hang In There Ladies! It IS a marathon!