For Stressed Moms: 6 Steps to Finding Better Balance
Four kids in five years. That’s how my family came. But not one at a time—the two youngest were twins. Now they range in age from 12 to 6. But in those early years, I gave all I had to my family all day (and then all night). I was glad to be able to stay at home and raise my kiddos, except something was wrong. I was not happy.
When my twins were 18 months old, I found myself spiraling into a dark place. And in the middle of all the motherhood monotony, I realized that even though I loved my life, I no longer loved myself in my life. I had given all of myself to my family and had forgotten who I was.
I knew I needed to make some changes and that it was up to me to make those changes. If I didn’t, I feared it would have serious consequences to my family and possibly my marriage.
I’m a writer. So, when faced with the heavy sadness, I opened my laptop late one night and just starting typing. Fast. It was just a mess of words, hardly even sentences. Some of the things I typed on that monitor were scary. But through this very honest process of typing my real thoughts and feelings, I had a realization. I became aware that there were six things I was not doing or not understanding that I needed to implement. Those six things soon helped me put my life back into balance and ultimately helped me find me again.
I had to realize that I have a value besides changing diapers, making hot meals, and folding laundry. I had to really internalize that I am already valuable because I am a daughter of God. When we try to base our value on what we accomplish, how we look, and even the type of mother we are, we always fall short.
I know that when I’m feeling lost or overwhelmed or stressed out, it’s not because He has turned His back on me; it’s because I’ve turned my back on Him. I started waking up early. I chose to spend some quiet time in the scriptures, in prayer, and journaling my thoughts and feelings. I felt a reassurance that I am more than a diaper-changing short-order cook. I am valuable because I am a child of God. I am divine and so is my role as a mother.
The biggest point of pain for me in my life was that I had put my dreams on hold to raise my children. For many of us, being a mom is such an important dream. And it was for me too! But I believe we are sent here for a bigger mission. I think the talents and gifts that God has blessed us with help us become who He intends us to be. The dream in your heart is part of who you were created to be. Therefore, you have the special talents and gifts that you need to make that happen. And my problem was I put all those dreams on hold and tried to stifle that part of me. Using our gifts can bless those in our homes, in our communities, in our places of work—everywhere really.
Sometimes acknowledging that you’re meant for different things (not just motherhood) can help put that spark back in your eye. There’s a time and a season for everything. Maybe you have to wait a bit to accomplish your dreams, but remember dreams are real. See yourself not only as a mother but as a talented individual who can make the world a better place.
Our roles are the responsibilities we have. Some examples of roles are mother, father, spouse, home manager, employee, soccer coach, PTA president, and Sunday School teacher. To find better balance, it’s important to define your roles and actually write them down. Most people have quite a long list of roles. The average person can only handle about eight major roles at a time without feeling overwhelmed or burnt-out.
Once you know your most important roles, work to protect them. Two ways we can protect our roles is to learn to say “no” to the things that are not as important and to honor each role with the attention it might need. We might spend all day cooking, cleaning, or paying the bills and then wonder why our whiny toddlers are at our ankles by dinner. We think we’ve been a mom all day when really we’ve been a home manager. Sometimes our kids just need us to show up a little bit more as a mother.
Once we understand our most important roles and do our best to stay present in our roles, we can use our time to make the most of those roles. Can you cook dinner and help a child with their homework at the same time? Can you use the minutes in the carpool line to respond to an email? Absolutely! Be efficient when possible. Just remember as you jump between boiling pasta and calculating prime numbers that you are balancing two roles at once.
Time blocking is another effective way to give yourself time to be a mom, time to do chores, time to be the employee, and so on. When it’s time to be Mom, you are present. When it’s time to do work, your kids are more understanding because you’ve given them time too. As you leverage your time, you can make time for the things that are most important to you.
In this role of parent, sometimes we only see our children as the person who is making the mess, or the conflict that they’re causing in our home. We forget to see them as our Heavenly Father sees them. We need to love them and nurture them as He does and really cherish them because we don’t know how long we get to spend with them.
So take the time to create memories with them. And even on the hard days, remember to take time to create moments with them. Often it’s those little moments of love and patience when we have nothing left to give that make the difference.
We often feel guilty when we take time for ourselves, especially as women and caregivers. But through my experience, I’ve learned that everyone needs playdates. We need time away from our family. We need time with our spouse. And for those of us who are working toward those dreams that are in our heart, we need to create opportunities to work and network.
Making time for what matters most is nothing new. Prophets, apostles, and other Church leaders have been telling us to do that for years. Then why is it so hard? Maybe it’s because we want to be everything to everyone all the time. But that is not possible. Setting realistic expectations for yourself, your spouse, and your children is key to living a balanced life.
Life balance isn’t a destination you reach. Life balance is more like a roller coaster. It’s cyclical because life hands us unexpected dips all the time. It’s having the tools you need to manage the dips, the corkscrews, and the loop de loops that can make all the difference.
Since being in that dark place five years ago, I’ve had other big dips in my life, and I’m sure I’ll have another and another. But now I’m equipped with my six “mom resolutions” to help me find balance again, to help me find myself again. I’m able to remind myself that in God’s eyes, I am valuable—and so are you.
Hear more of Nicole’s story, including her formula for how to tactfully say “no” to requests on your time, by watching this full episode of Gospel Solutions for Families.
Nicole Carpenter is a writer and speaker who loves to help women find room to breathe and make time for what matters most. She may or may not rely on the chocolate hidden in the fridge to make everything happen. She lives in Kaysville, Utah, with her husband and their four children.