Treading Water in a Riptide

Have you ever felt like you can’t get a handle on things? No matter what you do, you’ll be underwater?

Every day I face the impossible task of deciding which three or four things I can do out of a list of ten or more things I really should do.

Every day I have to redefine “necessary.” It all feels necessary but what is actually necessary? Washing the cloth diapers, it turns out, is almost always necessary.

When there is so little time, each choice carries greater ramifications. I am determining what is more important to me with every choice that I make. It can be enlightening. And humbling.

And frustrating. Some days my goals are completely at odds with each other. I want to streamline my life, and make things easier, but I also want to save money and be environmentally conscious. I have a certain level of professionalism at school that I have to uphold, not only to keep my job but to maintain the respect of my students. Without their respect, I can’t accomplish anything. I care deeply about fulfilling commitments, some I made before I realized how hard all this would be. I want to invest in my marriage but I also want to invest in myself. Most days my kids make it impossible to do either.

Continually, my own wants and needs come last, or I can only focus on one facet of myself at a time, leaving other areas of my life to languish. Between the stress and emotional turmoil I’ve been wading through, exercise is a top priority right now; the benefits to my mental wellbeing are just too great to stop dedicating time to working out. Which means that other things I love, mainly writing, are falling by the way side.

It’s frustrating and I’m still making mistakes, daily. I’m still letting silly whims hijack my time, like how I decided we NEEDED to have magnetic dry erase board for the fridge so we can plan our meals and maintain a shared shopping list. I just spent 20 minutes looking for one online. TWENTY MINUTES!!!!

But most days I’m doing better. Slowly but surely. Some things have to give. My new blog is still not ready to be unveiled. I’m realizing I might have to start writing there before it’s ready. It will be like inviting you all over to sit around a bare living room in lawn chairs and drink wine from red plastic cups, but if that’s the case, so be it. The most important things are my words, not my widgets.

I’m figuring it all out. At least I think I am. Some days are better than others and the really difficult days are becoming fewer and farther between.

If any of you super-charged, making-it-work mamas have any advice for a woman who is struggling just to keep it all together with a very busy, bordering on unmanageable schedule, I’d very much appreciate it. At this point, I can use all the help I can get.

How do you keep your head above water? Are there ever times when you feel like you’re drowning in it all?

14 responses

  1. My advice: wait it out. Give yourself a break. I remember feeling this way, but I do NOT feel this way right now, although I too have 2 kids and work 80% time. That is to say, it comes and goes, but overall it gets easier as you get into a routine.

    Lately I’ve gotten better about giving myself a break when I just don’t feel like doing something (laundry, picking up the house, home improvement). I know that another day I WILL feel like doing those things, and so I just wait it out. It all gets done, and I feel much happier.

    • I actually work full time now that I start at 7am. It’s incredible to get paid for a full day when I leave at noon, but it also means I spent a full six hours at work every other weekend, and I do a lot of work at home. That extra 20% has had way more of an impact than I expected. I should have known I would be totally overwhelmed with this schedule.

  2. I agree with Deborah. Cut yourself some slack. As you’re trying to get a routine down, just remember, you can decide what works on what days and what doesn’t. For instance, I made Wednesday’s in our house, left over wednesday’s. Why? It works. For me. And after a long day of work, picking up kids from daycare/school…I want a break too and not stand in front of a stove.

    I also gave in a made a family calendar. Posted it on the fridge and it’s working. For now.

    • I just ordered a 2 week calendar to do meal prep and it’s also going to be for after work commitments. I think that will help a lot.

      And in trying to cut myself some slack. There is just so much to do and so little time to do it.

  3. I bullet journal to keep myself organized. If it’s not in the journal, it doesn’t get done. And where I place the task in the journal tells me the importance of the task. If it doesn’t have a deadline, it goes in the front of the month part. If it needs to happen that night, it goes on the day page. All day page items get priority.

    IKEA makes a great magnetic dry erase board.

    • I actually tried out the bullet journal after you wrote about it but I just couldn’t keep it with me. I was always searching for it and I never had it when I needed it. But I always have my phone so I’m using that. The reminders app is getting a lot of use right now and if I don’t write it there it won’t get done. It’s been very helpful in reminding me what I need/want to do but it obviously can’t give me more time to do it. I just need more time! 😉

  4. Oh, yes, to add to what the others said – at my therapist’s suggestion, I bought myself a paper planner. I’d been trying to use my iPhone (calendar, reminders, notes) because I felt like a Luddite, plus it seemed silly to pay for a planner when I already had the phone. I’ve had the planner for 3 days now and I am SOOO happy about it. I don’t even want to wait until my next appointment to tell my therapist how much I love it. I will probably text her one of these days when I get over feeling silly about it. 🙂

    • I tried Mel’s bullet journal for a week and I just couldn’t find it or didn’t have it enough to make it useful, so for now I have to use my phone. It’s not perfect but it’s always with me.

  5. First of all: you are doing way WAY more than I do or plan to do in the near future, so I am in complete awe of you. I agree with cutting yourself slack and giving the routine more time to develop, it has only been a couple of weeks, right?
    Is there ANY way to get some down time into your week? An hour or two on a weekend? An evening off from kid-duty? I think you need to decompress (fill your cup, to use your excellent metaphor) or you’ll quickly be burnt out.
    In terms of how to make things smoother: I didn’t find a paper planner to be the least bit helpful, but I do add things to my phone. If its not on my calendar/to-do list, it does NOT happen. Prep as much as you possibly can for the week on the weekend. Cook food, dole out snack containers for daycare, set out outfits, look through the week for any special things needed. Sundays are not fun days in our house, because we are doing ALL THIS STUFF, but it makes the weeknights SO much easier, and I can actually go to bed earlier (so I can get up early to work out). In fact, I pretty much forget about all household stuff (other than immediate messes, obviously) from Monday-Thursday. Friday night, I throw in laundry and start to meal plan and by Sunday night the fridge is stocked and clothes are clean and ready to go and backpacks packed, etc…

    • You’re right. It is only the third week, I do need to cut myself some slack. But I also want to start implementing new ideas now, which is why I really appreciate all these suggestions.

      We definitely don’t utilize time on the weekends as well as we could. We’re going to start planning the meals for the week and maybe making/prepping for some of them. I already am pretty on top of laundry and we don’t have to deal with lunches (THANK GOD!) so that is a huge weight off my shoulders. Mostly it’s just staying on top of basic picking up around the house, dishes (so they aren’t literally overflowing in the sink) and putting folded laundry away that is hurting. Also, I’m so behind on child proofing, so those are big projects that, once finished, won’t be popping up again. They are causing a lot of stress right now, but they won’t always be issues.

  6. Don’t really have any advice. I tried the bullet journal too and meh, it mostly works as a place to record stuff, eg called att about incorrect bill.

    I work 8-4:15–I’ve negotiated a 15 min lunch. I will point out that while you work ft it seems you have your baby more hours in the day than is typical so that is taking a lot of your “free” time. Not that you want to reduce that but maybe he could stay in daycare a little longer.

    We also barely keep up w/ cleaning…as long as our house isn’t condemned, no one gets sick, and we have clothes to wear we’re ok. My DH also does about 50:50 (as he should–we both work ft). Not sure if you have that but there be nothing you can do about it. I go to the gym after the kids go to bed which means DH rarely goes. We never have date nights…

    Anyway, hang in there. Being a working parent isn’t easy.

    • We are SO lucky to have Mi.Vida’s parents watching Monito for us (for free!), which is why I had to negotiate this strange full time schedule and why I have to use my lunch hour to drive to pick him up. We only have one more year of this, as next year he will be old enough to go to a more affordable 2-and-up day care where we can have more control over the hours. That will make a HUGE difference.

      It’s good to know others are barely keeping up with the house work. Our house is a disaster area, and it definitely causes me stress, but there is just no way to stay on top of it right now. Mi.Vida does some stuff, definitely not half but WAY more than he has ever done before. Mostly I’m happy with what he contributes but that might just be because he got my expectations REALLY low in the first seven years of our relationship. 😉

  7. Having just received the very aggressive schedule for Miss E’s new therapy and realizing what it means for me going in early to make up the hours I’ll miss taking her to therapy, I feel you on this post. Your schedule is INTENSE, but I think you do a great job with it even though it leaves you feeling like there has to be a better way. (20 minutes of online shopping is totally okay, by the way 🙂 )

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