Parenting in this modern age is hard. We have so many competing demands for our time and attention. Our children need us, our spouse needs us, our job needs us, and our house needs us. If you’re anything like me, you may find yourself overcommitted.
Do you regularly volunteer at your child’s school? Are you driving your kids to extracurricular activities? Do you have pets to take care of on top of your regular household duties? Do you travel for work, or has a partner that travels?
You may feel like your day is full from the moment that you get up until the time you go to bed, with very little “downtime,” time where you just get to relax and do nothing. And those constant demands on your time are most likely leading to physical or emotional burnout.
As an anxiety specialist, I work with people who are really struggling with anxiety, stress and overwhelm. I’ve been able to see patterns in my clients’ lives, and one of those patterns is doing too much – way too much. I see so many high achieving, ambitious parents who want to accomplish a lot and do the best job possible. They are goal-oriented and results-driven. They want to “do it all” with a high degree of integrity and calibre. This includes volunteering at their children’s school, work commitments (either full or part-time), managing the household, etc. They are getting caught in a loop of no downtime, always being ramped up because they have committed themselves to so much. When they aren’t doing something, they feel like they are wasting time or being unproductive because they are so used to being busy. They can’t relax.
To give you an example, I am working with a woman who is married with two kids. She owns her own full-time business and is trying to start a nonprofit which is her true passion. Her husband also works full time. She often finds herself frazzled because her husband’s job keeps him away from home a lot, working long hours. She is doing way too much. A full-time business AND trying to start a nonprofit, all while being a solo parent much of the time! Because she is doing way too much, her autonomic nervous system is on overload, hence the stress and anxiety.
Does this sound a lot like you? If so, the best thing you can do is start to be really honest about your schedule and your capacity for what you can handle. You are truly overestimating the number of tasks and responsibilities that you can handle. You need to start saying “no” to more commitments. While is commendable to want to volunteer at your child’s school, you have to examine if that commitment is going to overload your schedule.
While you want to excel at work you have to assess if taking the lead role on a new work project is manageable given all of the other demands on your time. Having a clean house looks and feels great, but you have to determine if keeping everything tidy all the time is worth the extra time out of your already full schedule to keep it looking that way.
Look for ways to simplify at every opportunity. If you’re driving your child to sports practice, ask other parents to set up a carpool. Instead of holding a position on the parent-teacher association, just sign up for a single volunteer spot at an event instead of a regular commitment.
Figure out ways to be more productive at work so you can get more done in less time. Most people find that they check their email far too often. If you can check it less frequently, you’ll free up time to do other tasks. Also, can you cancel some meetings? Many are not really necessary.
Regarding your housework, your children are likely old enough to help. We often don’t give our kids enough credit for their abilities and do things for them that they can do on their own. I have a genius friend who told her daughter that she had to be able to do her own laundry to be allowed to start primary school! So, her daughter who is now 9, has been doing all her own laundry for years.
If you get serious about your schedule and protect your time, you will find all sorts of ways to cut out unnecessary tasks and responsibilities. And if you are creative, you will find even more ways to maximize your time so that you are able to do less.
What will you be able to do with all this extra time? Nothing! Downtime is not a luxury; it is a necessity. Your physical body and emotional health will greatly thank you for doing less.