5 Things To Do When You Feel Overwhelmed By Motherhood

The holidays are over. The “magic” is gone, but the mess, exhaustion, and daily needs remain, don’t they? Are you feeling overwhelmed? 

In our house:

  • Recently-bought games & books need a “home,” but our shelves are overflowing.
  • Luke is due in 2.5 weeks. My pregnancy wardrobe is slung here, there, and everywhere, because everything is too tight and/or makes me look like an overinflated hippopotamus. Meanwhile, I need to find my “I feel fat and nothing fits right” postpartum wardrobe.
  • The kids are still homeschooling daily… so, there’s that.
  • I’m not sure I want to do a water birth… kind of eked out and concerned about that whole notion. Probably won’t decide til the last minute. But I need to air up the birthing tub soon to check for leaks, so it’ll be an option.
  • My sewing/mending pile is as big as a suitcase and Silas (our 6 year old) especially wants the holes fixed on his Ironman dress-up outfit, but I want to finish my master bedroom curtains project before, ya know, giving birth and never having a free minute to sew again, ever.
  • I made a 10-day meal plan (with 3 meals every day!) the last time I went shopping. It was a beautiful, ultra-tasty plan. I think I prepared 3 of the 30 meals on the day they were listed. This week, I’m just winging it.

(and I pared this list down by half, cause, ain’t nobody got time to read that long of list.)

Sometimes life as a mom overwhelms us. I’m pretty sure it’s universal.

5 Things To Do When You Feel Overwhelmed by Motherhood // jessconnell.com

Here are 5 things to do when you’re overwhelmed:

#1 – STOP STRIVING IN YOUR OWN STRENGTH

Perhaps it’s true for you too?

The more I try to do it in my own strength, the more angry & stressed I become.

But the more I walk in His strength rather than my own, constraining myself to follow HIS ways, the more peace, joy, and DELIGHT I have in daily life (even with growing demands and responsibilities).

It is so easy to go through life as a mom, depending on our own muscles, wit, and might, rather than walking in God’s ways and wisdom, to get us through the tight spaces of life.

But God:

  • calls me to pray, with faith in HIM (not me!).
  • means for me to lean on Him.
  • means for me to do all things through Christ, not on my own.

And He means the same for you.

#2- EMBRACE THE CHAOS

Our natural tendency is to try to control things until they conform to the way we want them to be. And if things don’t go the way we’d like, then we want to run from them.

But something wonderful happens when, instead of controlling or running away, we EMBRACE the chaos.

  • Life homeschooling a large, growing family is chaotic.
  • Life with two preschoolers felt chaotic & overwhelming too.
  • And then when I think back, life with one tiny little world-shaking newborn was overwhelming and stressful, too.

Life as a mom inevitably includes some chaos. The problem is:

We try to control it, when we were never meant to be the ones in control. Or, we try to run from it, when “it” is what God has clearly put on our plates.

God has things under control. He has kept this world spinning for thousands of years. He created the children you love.

He doesn’t need your “help” at the control panel.

And He doesn’t need mine.

When I try to “help” control things, I get stressed and things get worse. When I try to run away, things get worse. Instead, when I lean into the chaos that exists, and embrace the life God has given me, there is peace, even amidst the craziness.

#3- JUST DO THE NEXT THING.

You know what?

  • When I churn in anxiety, stewing over all that I have to do, I get less done.
  • When I stop gawking at the heavy load and just jump in and do what needs doing, I get more done.

God hasn’t made a mistake in giving me “just” 24 hours today. It won’t be a mistake if I get to the end of this day and haven’t done everything on “MY” list. It won’t be a mistake if some things on my list NEVER get done.

When I’m walking in His Spirit, and doing all I can do, I don’t have to fret and churn over what didn’t get done.

  • He knows that I’m weak.
  • He knows I’m made of dust.
  • He knows that things overwhelm me.
  • He knows all that is on my plate.
  • He doesn’t expect perfection.
  • He already knows exactly what I will (and won’t) get done today.

I don’t need to churn or feel as if the world is on my shoulders. I just need to do the next thing.

#4- CHOOSE TO REPENT (TURN FROM SIN)

Now, perhaps you don’t need to repent of anything. But oftentimes,

Feeling overwhelmed leads us into sinful interactions with the people we love most.

Last week, I pridefully wanted to justify a sarcastic response I’d thrown out at my 12-year-old. I had to force myself to go back to him, confess my sin, & seek forgiveness. It wasn’t easy. My proud heart would have rather kept quiet. 

It’s hard to ask forgiveness. And It’s easy to get into ugly ruts. And we especially want to justify it when we’re stressed and overwhelmed.

But we can’t let ourselves be stagnant and stop repenting! As our kids grow, and as our responsibilities grow, these things grow too:

  • More confession of sin (to our children & the Lord) & asking for forgiveness.
  • More REPENTANCE– actually TURNING from sin, not just apologizing
  • More intentionality in how we deal with their sin & poor choices (rather than reacting or simply “trying a discipline idea I read about in an article”)
  • More interaction with our husbands, more regularly, about appetites & attitudes we see rising in our children.
  • More fighting selfishness in our own hearts, as we see it (*my* time, *my* rights, *my* peace and quiet, *my* rest time, *MY* evening times with my husband without kids awake, etc.)

As our kids grow, the work gets easier in some ways and harder in others. But the need for repentance never stops. 

#5- LOOK TO GOD– HE WILL GIVE YOU ALL YOU NEED.

Some days I don’t feel “up” to the task. But HE is up to the task. He gives me what I need and keeps me perpetually dependent on Him.

I wasn’t “capable” of mothering and homeschooling these six kids ten years ago, when I had a toddler and a baby. No… God gives us grace sufficient to the need, at the time that we need it.

Through

  • His precious Word,
  • trials,
  • books,
  • insight,
  • conversations,
  • experience,
  • and every moment between then and now,

He has formed and shaped me over the last decade, to give me what I need, and make me who I need to be, for THIS season. 

And he’ll do the same for you.

  • God’s grace is sufficient for you, today.
  • Two months from now, He’ll still offer the grace you need.
  • And ten years from now, He’ll still be offering you the grace you need.

Don’t borrow trouble from tomorrow; and don’t bring yesterday’s troubles up and replay them in your mind. Let His grace be sufficient for today.

  • ARE YOU FEELING OVERWHELMED?
  • WHAT CAN YOU DO DIFFERENTLY TODAY?

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Jess Connell

Jesus-follower, Happy wife, Mom of 8 neat people. Former world-traveler, now settled in Washington. Host of Mom On Purpose podcast (momonpurpose.com). I write and wrangle kids.

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12 Responses

  1. Kondwani says:

    I think ‘do the next thing’ has a clear Biblical precedent. Jesus tells us not to worry about tomorrow. In Philippians we are instructed to ‘be anxious for nothing’. ‘His grace is sufficient for us and His power is made perfect in weakness’ – and weakness includes being tired, ill, pregnant, stretched in different directions. Sometimes I find it helpful to consider Jesus the man. He could have healed and ministered for 24 hours a day and yet He would take time to climb the mountain to pray, and He took His disciples away by boat to get some peace. He knew that limitation of being human, and did the next thing, the most important thing.

    I also find it helpful the way you link this to sin. The times when I do get ratty with those around me are when I am trying to have a neater house, or to have things somehow more ordered or ‘perfect’ than they are. In fact, looking back over the years, I have many wonderful memories of precious moments, but I cannot at all remember what sort of state the house was in, what we were wearing, what we ate that day or any of those other things. When people come through our home, I hope they find love, laughter and refreshment – not a spotless model home where one is afraid even to relax in case something is spilled. I need to remember what is most important.

    Bless you Jess, two and a half weeks before your seventh delivery, and yet still taking time to encourage others!

  2. Debbie Coleman says:

    Love this post. So, so true! You are right when you say our need for repentance never stops. I’m not in your situation with the young ones running around and needing constant care, and home schooling and everything that your schedule entails. But what I find that I do, & a lot of it is my fault in my scheduling, is that I plan things where I have a big part in them, and then as the event gets closer, I put things off, as you were talking about, looking at the piles of things that need to be done and never jumping in and getting started, and so then when the event is the next day or in a couple of days, it really gets crazy, and I have found that one of my sins is that I take my mind off of Christ, and one of the ways that I do that is that I eat, and I will eat just to eat, and I will eat anything in sight, thinking that will help, or make me feel better, and then later when my stomach aches or I’m not feeling well and the work still has to be done, I really get upset. Ha! So what I’ve tried to do lately is focus on the Lord and the individual strengths and giftings that He gives me, and it helps me get through these different tasks, and so as you said, just doing one thing at a time and not worrying about the list of other things that follow that one thing, seems to also be a key.

    Another thing I’ve done, that wasn’t normal for me or natural, was to make myself get outside and breathe some fresh air and stretch and take a break from the madness, even if it’s just for 2 or 3 minutes, and for some reason just a little break seems to make it easier to walk back in and tackle some of those challenges.
    You were so right when you said that He already knows what’s on our plates, and He knows what we will or won’t get done on any particular day. So when we truly rely on Him instead of letting the anxieties rule the day, it sure does make things easier, and like you said, even if we don’t get everything done, we can still have incredible piece because we followed Him.

  3. Zarleylaw says:

    I believe that wives need encouragement just like husbands. Being a stay at home mother and wife can indeed be overwhelming. God loves wives too. Wives are human and are allowed to get things wrong too. We just need to continue to follow Jesus.

  4. Autumn says:

    So, let’s get practical for a moment. What does “leaning into the chaos” vs. Trying to “control” vs. Trying to be a good steward of what the Lord has given you: wifehood, momdom, and keeper at home.

    PS. Since there’s no post yet today I can’t help but wonder is Silas making an unscheduled appearance?

    • Jess Connell says:

      Hi Autumn– Silas is my 6, nearly 7, year old. :) He definitely made his appearance.

      But Luke has not arrived. He’s due on the 6th of February, so we likely have time. I think the most “early” we’ve gone is maybe a day or two before my due date. :)

      I think this is a good question, and the answer is one that probably differs significantly from one woman to another. Some of us are control freaks; others tend toward laziness. Some of us try to control people, others try to control environment, others try to control ourselves…

      This is an area where having your husband as a sounding board & guiding voice for your life can be so beneficial. Our husbands know us so well. They can help us sort out–
      * Am I being lazy right now, or do I need more rest in this season?
      * Am I doing too much outside the home?
      * Am I doing enough in the home?
      * Do we need to have the children on a better routine– chores, schooling, whatever?
      * Do I need to be in a routine?
      * Is that how our family rolls, or are we more laid-back?
      * What things do I need to focus on?

      One godly, homeschooling wife I knew listed out 5 areas. I think they were:
      1- educated children
      2- a hot, tasty dinner
      3- a “willing,” eager wife in the bedroom
      4- a tidy house
      5- bathed, tidy children
      She said to her husband, “you can pick 3 of these in a day, but only 3. They can differ from day to day, but I can’t do it all.”

      While the priorities or amounts we can manage may differ from woman to woman, here are some truths I’ve observed:
      #1- none of us can do it all.
      #2- some of us need to be doing more than we are.
      #3- some of us focus on the wrong things.
      #4- some of us need to stop trying to control everything & everyone around us and just learn to breathe and revel in the unexpected chaotic beauty of a life that is beyond our tightly-gripped control.
      #5- these are all things to reevaluate regularly, in each new “season” of life

      On that last point, it’s important to note–
      1) I can do more now than I could when I had 1 child. I really can.

      And yet,

      2) I need more rest than I did when I had 1 child. I really do.

      I’m in a season where I am capable of more, and yet need to constrain myself to do less, to rest more, to build in margin, and feel the strong need to purposefully care for my physical body and mental state in ways that did not feel necessary when I was in my early/mid 20s.

      Romans 12:3 is an important verse on this point– we need to regard ourselves with “sober estimation”… seeing ourselves rightly. Our husbands can help us do this. Being in the Word helps us do this. Godly friends help us do this. It’s important that we see ourselves as we really are. Not too highly, not too lowly. Some of us tend toward self-loathing; others toward self-exaltation.

      That’s why I feel a bit cautious about giving specifics here, because:

      * One woman needs to let her kitchen be a mess every now and then so she can actually stick her feet up and REST… her BODY needs rest, her MIND needs rest. SHE NEEDS TO REST.
      * Another woman has a messy kitchen all the time because she kicks her feet up far too often. So she needs to get off her duff and WORK. Her MIND needs to be worked by listening to godly sermons & being in the Word. Her BODY needs to be worked by doing the things around her house no one else is going to do for her. SHE NEEDS TO WORK.

      And I can’t say who you are, and you can’t say who I am. These are things that the Holy Spirit will reveal to us when we go to Him earnestly and ask for guidance and clarity.

      “You know me, Lord. Am I being lazy? Or do I need to take more time for rest, Sabbath, and margin in this season? Am I managing this home well or does something need to shift? Do I need to be doing more? Does more need to be transferred to our children in regard to chores and self-care? Do we need to hire certain parts of our home/farm/life care out to others in a way that is different from what we’re doing? Do we need to take on more of our home/farm/life care than we are currently doing?”

      These are questions God Himself will give clarity about, in ways that I lack confidence in giving directives about. While I can speak in broad strokes, we are all so different in our approach to these things, that it’s really a matter of sober self-estimation and discernment in how we operate.

      Does that help further your thoughts on this at all?

      • Autumn says:

        Hello Jess!

        Thank you so much for your thoughtful and well-written reply.

        My apologies to you and Silas and Luke for mixing up their names. Forgive me!

        So, you have given me some great points to ponder and (I hope) whittle down my question to the heart of the matter.

        I shared with you not so long ago (I think the post was titled “Stop Waiting for a Zap” or something similar?) that I have just begun (with the Lord’s teaching) to understand myself to be a God-given resource to be well-stewarded.

        I’m well aware of which end of the spectrum I lean on. (To rehash: I attempted to prove my value by doing things well – really well. I have also learned that even when I separate my value from what I do (not me but the Lord) I still like to do things well! I WANT to be a godly wife, mother, an excellent keeper-at-home, home educator, business woman, artisan, etc.) It doesn’t make any sense to me not put forth all I’ve got into whatever I do! :)

        I genuinely am perplexed by statements like this:

        #4- some of us need to stop trying to control everything & everyone around us and just learn to breathe and revel in the unexpected chaotic beauty of a life that is beyond our tightly-gripped control.

        What does that mean? How does one “revel in the unexpected chaotic beauty”? I’m a visual learner, when I ask “What does that look like?” it is a bid to learn – but this statement leaves me totally blank.

        So, ultimately I think I’m looking for a picture of a mother “leaning into the chaos” or “reveling in the unexpected chaotic beauty.”

        I think it wise to refrain from telling people which one they are (a person who needs to REST vs. a person who needs to WORK). But, since I already know – maybe you or others might give me an example or two?

        Thanks in advance,

        Autumn

        P.S. Waiting patiently for baby Luke’s arrival. :)
        P.P.S. To be clear: I’m not actually a business woman and artisan right now. No time. But I have a strong desire to be…one day.

        • Jess Connell says:

          All right, so for you- knowing the weaknesses/tendencies you see in yourself, I think what I would say is this:

          Life gets chaotic sometimes. Some days the kitchen gets messy. Sometimes you have an ER visit and a Christmas play and a trip to see family in a few days’ time, and everything feels out of whack.

          * Do you let yourself smile and relax with your husband, even if the kitchen is messy, at the end of a long hard day? Or do you perpetually press yourself to get the kitchen clean rather than connecting with him? (I’m not talking about one instance here or there– I’m talking about patterns of interaction.)
          * Does the goal of cleanliness, orderliness, control, tidiness, override your smiles and affection for your children, or are you able to do those things, and train them to do them, while you smile, and interact pleasantly?
          * Basically, in the realm of cleanliness and orderliness, are you actually tearing down your home (family/relationships/eternal things) for the sake of physical control & order, or are you able to pursue “excellence” in those things even while building your home relationally & in love?

          Do you let the unexpected… the chaotic, the random… those things that come along with life as a family, & come along with children… do you let those things ruffle you and leave you flustered, angry, and ready to scream? Are they taking precedence over people and relationships and JOY?

          Or are you able to take those things in stride, deal with them purposefully, even while letting people and relationships and eternity take the main place in your heart?

          Are your goals of order/excellence/control overruling people? Or do people come first?

          Does that help?

          **** FOR OTHERS WHO ARE READING, if you are given to laziness, easily let yourself slack off, etc., these questions are probably not meant for you. ****

          • Autumn says:

            Indeed. That does help tremendously.

            You have given me some very meaty things to work through with the Lord. I appreciate the extra time you’ve given towards this.

            You know, I used to remind myself “souls first.” This helped cement that things are not eternal and people have souls that are. But, I never had a clear picture of how to go about this. I might temporarily suspend a task to minister to a soul but the second the soul-task (see what happened there? the soul became another box to check) was completed I’d be back in my kitchen trying to clean. Rest got pushed to the side all but completely because I didn’t understand myself to BE one of the people in my household I take care of.

            What a recipe for disaster!

            I have been cheating my husband and family out of a fully present wife and mom!

            It’s like I ran out of words. I have never seen this about me before.

  5. Autumn says:

    What do those things look like? The comrnent should read. Sorry! One handed typing while nursing…

  6. Jennifer S. says:

    I really agree with this whole post. I too have found that when I just take on one task and then move to the next and so on things don’t seem as overwhelming. I also find it helps me to turn off the computer and turn on some music and breathe. For some reason when I get overwhelmed I start getting a slight panicky feeling that leaves me feeling breathless. Maybe net time I’ll re-read this to remind me what I need to do. Thanks.

  7. Megan says:

    Thank you for a post full of grace for a tired Mama of four boys, dealing with winter colds, trying to work in homeschooling and too much extra stuff, not being satisfied with any of it because I have been trying to do it in my own strength and not Christ’s!

    And now, I am going off to bed with my husband and leaving the messy kitchen for tomorrow. And I am planning a much needed day off to enjoy the gifts and goodness of God!

  1. December 6, 2016

    […] 5 Things I Do When I Feel Overwhelmed […]

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