There is a new word popping up and making the rounds in the motherhood world. I mean, it’s been around for a while, but in the era of social media and everyone knowing everyone else’s business from moment to moment, we’re more aware of the word’s existence. The word many moms are using to describe their current situation at any given moment is frazzled.
This word has become such a part of the parenting lexicon that they even use the word parent in the dictionary definition example. “To cause to feel completely exhausted; wear out: a frazzled parent.”
I’ll be honest and say I didn’t feel a stitch of exhaustion or frazzle until after the birth of my son, who is our second child. My first was a gem. She still is 10 years later. She was the kind of baby that makes you say, “If every kid was like her, I’d have 10 more.” My son is the type that makes a mom say, “If he had been the first, he would have been the last.” God bless him. He didn’t mean to make me frazzled. This feeling isn’t really coming from our kids. It’s coming from us.
Because I had become so accustomed to an easy, breezy child, the birth of my son was a shock to my system and brought my complete lack of routine to the forefront of our home. No longer could I get away with going with the flow every day, nor could I say yes to every single opportunity that came my way. It was a lot to handle and to say I was frazzled is an understatement.
But there is a beautiful ending to my story and it involves a lot of good ‘ol fashioned hard learning that brought me to the place I am now, the place where I don’t feel that exhaustion and frazzle every day. The place where I don’t identify as a hot mess. The place where I am allowed to be a good mom, a good wife and a cool chick all at once without feeling like a big lump of insanity.
Now, I’m going to say something that may strike people as controversial. It may hit a nerve, and that’s ok, because a little raw nerve hitting is exactly what we all need sometimes. We have glorified this way of life in this country. We have glorified the over-worked, stressed-out, messy hair, haven’t-showered-in-a-week, frazzled to the max mom. We’ve glorified busy and made it cool to work yourself to the bones. We’ve glorified mommy martyrdom where mom is the only one doing anything around the house and gets no credit for it. We’ve decided that being a hot mess is just the way it is. And it isn’t. I’m proof.
We’re all so busy being busy that we’ve forgotten what we’re even busy doing. Busy doesn’t just mean “lots to get done” anymore. It now means filling your schedule from morning to night with things you don’t want to do and don’t need to do, all for the sake of saying you did. Somewhere along the way, being a mom who just does the things in a semi-orderly fashion became uncool. Having your ish together is something we roll our eyes at. Homemaking became the butt of a joke, except no one is laughing because we’re too busy being frazzled.
To say my daily life as a mother is imperfect would be an understatement. The fact that I don’t identify as frazzled doesn’t mean that I don’t have moments in Melt Down City, population me. I’ve cried in the shower, I’ve locked myself in my room, I’ve yelled so loud, I thought I’d get the attention of the people the next down over. I’ve lost my shit, found it and lost it all over again. But the truth is, those moments get fewer and further between as each day passes.
I’ve been asked, especially now that I act as a coach and strategist for moms on all things home management, how I am able to keep it “all together.” I’ve laid out a bunch of the ways I keep my cool as a mom below, but the cold hard truth is that the reason I am not frazzled is because I don’t want to FEEL frazzled. In much the same way I don’t want to burn my hand on the stove and therefore keep my hand away from the red hot burner coil, I keep myself away from the things that give me those stressed out feelings. I don’t want to be a hot mess. I don’t want to be perfect, but I don’t want to feel so overwhelmed by life that I forget to live it. I don’t want motherhood to take over who I am and what I stand for in a way that forces me to be a different person, a person who is sad, stressed and sluggish. So I choose not to be that way.
Rather than give a long list of my tips and tools for staying off the frazzle bus, I thought I would instead tell you what I do personally that keeps me away from that stressful feeling.
I don’t have all the answers. I don’t know what works for every mom. Some days I’m not even sure the things I am doing are right, but I do know that these are the actions and feelings I have made an abundant part of my everyday living that allow me to see motherhood through the lens of clarity and general unfrazzlement (a word a just made up. Feel free to make it a hashtag)
I prioritize everything I do. Only the most important things get done first. I’m not saying this is without its challenges, because being a mom, wife, friend, sister, daughter, Girl Scout co-leader, business owner and coach makes a girl feel like everything is a priority. It isn’t, and the sooner we all realize that, the sooner we can let go of the stress that holds us down under a pile of bricks. When everything is a priority, nothing is a priority.
To that end, I don’t do anything that isn’t a priority. After I become clear about what my priorities are, I refuse to do anything that isn’t one. Again, it aint always easy, but it is necessary. I’d also like to add for good measure that our priorities can and will change regularly, sometimes by the hour. If your priority was to paint the living room this weekend and your 5 year old ends up with pneumonia, your priorities will change faster than you can drive to urgent care.
I say no to a lot of things, both in my personal life and in business. I think I could write any entire post just on the fine art of saying no. Saying no feels both scary and deliciously wonderful all at the same time. When you say no to something, it feels like you’re letting people down, but remember that every no you say makes way for a big, fat, awesome yes to something else. Something you really want to do, not feel obligated to do. Side note: This also means saying no to your children. While this isn’t a blog about how to parent your kids (because I am no expert), it is my humble and honest opinion that your kids don’t need to hear yes to every question. Let them learn how to deal with the word no, and maybe even learn the fine art of negotiation.
I have very set and clear routines. I developed these even more so after my son was born. While dealing with a nasty case of postpartum anxiety and throwing myself into a dizzy almost everyday over what was or wasn't getting done, I realized a clear routine was going to be my best friend. Just like priorities, these change over time. As the kids grow and change, so do our routines, but we stick to them like glue. When everyone knows what to expect each day at very specific times (think bedtime), then it becomes much easier to eliminate stress.
I don’t keep clutter. This probably goes without saying as I spend my days teaching other moms how to manage their homes and let go of clutter to make it easier to keep their homes. Clutter is a stressor that can not only cause you to feel frazzled, but can bring on feelings of high anxiety and depression. In short, your clutter can make you feel downright unhappy. Being surrounded by stuff that doesn’t fill you with joy or serve a purpose is a recipe for stress and chaos. Remove the clutter and make more room for the joy and peace.
I stick to a schedule. My routines are a part of my schedule and I make sure that everyone knows the schedule for the week. We have white boards for notes and a big calendar that sits in the hallway that everything goes on. I use a Google calendar and I literally put everything into it. It has become such a habit now that if it isn't on the schedule/calendar, it isn't getting done.
…But I am also flexible. Because stuff comes up. Life happens. Kids happen. Spilled chocolate milk on the front of your already-late-to-preschool daughter happens. Flexibility is just as important as routine.
I let a lot of things go (physically and emotionally) Hi, my name is Kendra and I am a recovering worrier. I spent much of my life as someone who worried. A lot. The funny thing is, I never worried about the same things other people did, but when I did worry, it would consume my every thought. Learning to let go of the things I cannot control has been a life changer. If I can't control it, I release it and move on. Sometimes, that means letting go of toxic people and relationships because they cause more stress than they are worth. Mama doesn't have time for that.
I have an awesome husband as a support system. I realize that not everyone is this lucky, but I thought it was worth mentioning because there is not a day that goes by that I am not eternally grateful for this support. He keeps me sane and I like to think I do the same for him. If you don’t have that in a spouse or partner, seek it out in your community. Find support. Find the village that it takes.
I ask for help when I need it. This is probably the toughest one of all, especially for us moms with a superhero complex. “Oh, just let me do it. I can do it faster. I can do it better. I can do it all!” Until you’re huddled in the corner, rocking back and forth crying because you can’t remember the last time you peed alone.
I block my time. Whoever invented or first discovered time blocking and brought it to the masses is a genius. This method of scheduling myself has literally changed how I make and use my schedule and created a world where I am not longer stressed about everything that needs to be done (or at least I don't need to be stressed.) Parkinson's Law saws that tasks will expand to the time you allow, so if you mindlessly throw things on a to-do list (yoohoo, exactly what I used to do!) it will take you the entire day to do those things. If you put those tasks into specific time blocks, magically they will get done in that amount of time. The brain is silly that way. Frazzle be gone.
My kids have chores and help with a lot around the house. We are a community in this house and in a community, everyone participates and everyone helps. Rather than play the martyr who spends her days cleaning up constantly after others, we have set very clear rules and chores for everyone in the house. Do they always get done the way I want? Nope. Do I sometimes have to remind them 3 or 4 times? Yup, but I figure that's just part of this motherhood deal I signed up for. In the end, when everyone helps, I can let go of control and let go of the frazzle that comes along with it.
My kids do NOT rule our schedule. This. Is. HUGE for us. Our children don’t run our lives, we do. Our children are not in charge of what we do or where we go, we are. We have them involved in only the things that are important (those dang priorities again.) I personally refuse to spend my adult life running my children to every single possible sport or extracurricular activity. The thought of doing that stresses me out, so I avoid it. We prioritize the most important things and let the rest go.
I embrace the season I am in. At the time that I am writing this, I have a beautiful, talented, totally individualist 10 year old daughter and an empathetic, energetic, stubborn little 4 year old love bug of a son. The season we are in now is vastly different than the one I found myself in 3 years ago, when I struggled to keep my baby from jumping off the stairs every 6 minutes. Things are easier in some ways and more difficult in others and I suspect that it will be this way forever. I'm ok with that. I recognize where I am and when I start feeling that stress creep in, I remember that it won't always be like this. Someday, I may even miss it.
I choose grace, for others and myself. I am not sure I ever fully understood what grace was until recently, but it has become the backbone of my life. Allowing myself to make mistakes every day and learn from them is why grace is so important for me. Realizing that I don't need to chase perfection, but instead be the mom I want to be is paramount to my staying unfrazzled daily. Understanding that others are doing the best they can is just as important. Are you giving yourself enough grace or do you beat yourself up? I suggest grace over perfection every time. You're giving your all and that deserves all the grace in the world, frazzled or not.
If I had to choose one of the above habits that contributes to my unfrazzlement (remember, hashtag that baby) it would be that I keep my house and life uncluttered. Excess stuff is a huge stressor in our lives, but deciding what to toss and how to get rid of it can be an even bigger pain. That is why I put together the "Purge it Like It's Hot" decluttering checklist to use in every room of your home. If you're looking for a way to get off the Frazzle Bus ASAP, this checklist will help you purge your clutter today. No special skills or equipment needed. Just download it, print it and use it all over to remove the things that aren't serving you or the amazing mom that you are.