This month’s Establish a House posts will focus on mothers and how they deal with feeling overwhelmed. Hopefully through these guest posts you’ll be able to receive ideas on how to handle your own trying motherhood times! I thought it appropriate as we near Mother’s Day to focus on the good we ARE doing even when we feel we aren’t.
When I was in college, I was always trying to do too much. One semester in particular, I had signed on to take 21 credits, was working 30 hours a week to put myself through my degree, and was rehearsing for an upcoming opera. This was on top of trying to juggle a relationship that wasn’t going very well, a social life, and a church calling. I was, to put it lightly, completely overwhelmed.
One of the 21 credits I was taking that semester was an acting class which struck fear into my heart every time I crossed the threshold into the classroom. As nerve-wracking as that class was for me, one activity in particular completely changed my life and I will never forget it.
We were working on empathy, so the professor had us all sit in a circle on the floor and dump all of our current trials and tribulations into the center. As I listened to the things each of my classmates going through, my own trials of having way too much on my plate and not knowing how I could do it all seemed small in comparison. Easy, even. I was so surprised when more than one of my classmates told me they could never do what I was doing, because I felt that what they were doing was so much more difficult.
The experience certainly illustrated the truth of the saying that if we were to put all of our trials into a pot, we would most likely choose our own again. But it also taught me that being overwhelmed with life is common, even though we are all overwhelmed by different things.
Twenty years later I’m not much different. I’m still working 30 hours a week, trying to help get my little family out of debt. While I’m not taking 21 credit hours in college, I have three children who most certainly require just as much time—if not more!—than such a course load would. I can still be found rehearsing for operas or other singing gigs, and while I’m in a happy marriage now, it takes work, too. I still have a church calling, and I do like to have something of a social life if I possibly can.
I guess this is just the trial I picked for my life.
Until recently, I have felt that there are only two ways to deal with being overwhelmed:
- Go and do.
- Shut down.
Guess what? Neither of these options really ends up working all that well in the end. The first just leads to burn out and the second leads to apathy and depression.
So what are we to do? I have a new two ways to deal with being overwhelmed:
- Set priorities.
- Have mercy on yourself.
I almost shouted for joy during Sister Linda S. Reeves’ talk in General Conference a couple weeks ago. One particular paragraph stood out to me as both an answer to prayer and a new way to deal with being overwhelmed.
“Some of you have heard me tell how overwhelmed my husband, Mel, and I felt as the parents of four young children. As we faced the challenges of parenting and keeping up with the demands of life, we were desperate for help. We prayed and pleaded to know what to do. The answer that came was clear: ‘It is OK if the house is a mess and the children are still in their pajamas and some responsibilities are left undone. The only things that really need to be accomplished in the home are daily scripture study and prayer and weekly family home evening.’ ”
I am working on the priority shift. On being okay with a house that isn’t up to my standards of clean 24/7. On being okay with some responsibilities being left undone. Because making sure that teaching my children the Gospel and making room for the Spirit in our home is number one. And when I am putting those things first, the rest seem to come more easily anyway. Extending mercy towards myself has become a natural byproduct of switching my priorities around.
The Lord absolutely does not expect us to run faster than we are able. Nor does he expect us to be perfect right now. If you are feeling overwhelmed, look at your to-do list and make sure He is at the very top. And then don’t worry about the rest!
Of course, as I am writing this, my deeply ingrained perfectionist side is screaming at me to write out all of the possible exceptions. You can’t not worry about work! You can’t not worry about all the things on your schedule! You can’t not worry about your commitments!
YES, YOU CAN.
“But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” Matthew 6:33
Lara is the mother to three beautiful, brilliant and bossy daughters. She’s married to The Maestro, Orchestra Conductor extraordinaire. When she isn’t working on her mother of the year status, you can find her singing professionally, teaching voice lessons at the University, taking lots and lots of photographs, listening to opera, finding a good deal on groceries, or reading a good book. (that is, if she’s not blogging). Life is definitely overstuffed, and she wouldn’t have it any other way!