Just getting home from work. Rushing to get everyone where they need to be. Your kids have practice. You still have dinner to make, clothes to wash, homework to oversee, baths to give. And a little conversation in between would really be nice.
You were running behind before you ever got started, and that’s become your “normal”. Running on fumes. Just getting by. Lost in the chaos that you created.
Now, let’s not confuse things. This is the life that you wanted. The one you planned. The marriage, the career, the kids, the home. It’s wonderful and you feel extremely blessed, but completely overwhelmed at the same time.
And sometimes you wonder why no one ever told you it would be this hard.
It’s like the dirty little secret of motherhood.
You’re just expected to do all the things all the time, always putting other’s needs before your own.
And most of the time, you wear this crown well. It may get a little tilted at times, but you straighten it up and keep on going.
But sometimes, that crown gets to be heavy to carry. It can be exhausting trying to juggle everyone’s schedules while also holding a full-time job, not to mention running an entire household while trying to be the mom and wife who is fully engaged in quality time with the family.
And as much as you love your family, the sheer exhaustion begins to wear on you over time.
But what if it didn’t have to be this way? What if life could look a little different for you?
It’s not going to be perfect, and it’s not easy. It’s definitely a process, and it’s going to take some time, but there are some tangible things that you can do to make life a little more manageable.
This list that I’m about to give you can seem overwhelming in itself. And you may think to yourself, “I thought she was trying to help me, not make things crazier.”
The thing is, these steps are important to making your life a little less crazy. But no one said you had to immediately start them at the same time. Work on one aspect for a designated timeframe and then move on when you’re ready. Once you get started, things will start to come together.
Just trust me on this.
So, are you ready?
Get your finances in order
If money is tight or bills are being left unpaid, you can’t just forget about it or “leave it at work”. You drag that heavy burden around with you and it begins to affect your mood, your relationships, your energy.
It affects everything.
And as a nurse, I can vouch for all of the negative things that stress can do to your health.
You may feel like you just can’t deal with this right now. You know that you need to, but the time never seems right, or most likely, you are just afraid of seeing the damage that debt has left in it’s path.
You are angry and frustrated and may not see a light at the end of the tunnel.
Trust me, I’ve been there, and I still am there from time to time, but since we’ve gotten control of our finances, those days are getting fewer and fewer. I look forward to the day when we don’t have to worry about it at all.
Now, instead of feeling hopeless, anxious, and frustrated about money, I feel hopeful, liberated, and excited about the future.
This course, book, and Dave’s podcasts are helping us change our family tree.
Where do you start?
Save $1000 emergency fund.
Many people try to skip this step, and I completely understand why, but it is pertinent to your journey.
If you are not prepared for a small emergency (think tire blowout, hot water heater, etc), then any extra money that you may have coming in will always be going to something besides your debt. You need a little cushion to help catch you, especially when you are just learning to budget.
You won’t get all the numbers right at first, and you need extra money set aside just in case you underestimate how much gas money you need.
Track your spending.
This step is a huge eye opener for most people. You honestly do not know how much money you are wasting on a daily basis on things that you really don’t need.
I’ve heard so many people say that they don’t have enough money left over to make a budget and get out of debt, but honestly, you would be surprised, and maybe even a little mad at yourself when you take an honest look at your spending habits.
The key to making this step successful is to track EVERY. LITTLE. THING.
Every drink at the store, every pack of gum, every snack or newspaper. It doen’t matter if it’s fifty cents. Every penny counts, and they all add up.
If you want to be successful, you have to be honest with yourself about where your problem lies, and most likely, it’s in your behavior.
And I understand that some people have had it easier than others in the life department. And some people were dealt a crappy hand. But if this is you, don’t feel like you can’t do it, because I assure you that you can.
Will it be hard? Absolutely. Can you do it? Absolutely.
Make a budget.
Making a budget is simply telling your money where to go. It may seem really restrictive at first because you are used to spending whenever and wherever you want, but as time goes by, it will feel very powerful to see how much control you actually have over your finances and see how much you really have left.
Odds are, you aren’t as broke as you thought.
There are many good resources and printables on budgets. Personally, I just use my cheap planner to make mine each month, and then I use the Everydollar app to keep track of my spending.
Change your behavior.
Of all the steps, this one is the hardest. It’s easy to write down what you are planning to do with your money, but it’s not so easy when it’s a late evening at practice, everyone is starving, and a drive-thru is so tempting, but it’s not in the budget.
Or when your kid want to go to a camp that costs $300, and it’s in 2 weeks. You know it would be a wonderful experience, but it’s not in the budget.
You get coffee or a quick breakfast every morning before work because who has time to do all that at home. We are busy enough.
These are the habits that are hard to break. These are those emotional decisions that throw our finances off track.
But these are also the hard decisions that will change our lives if we stand strong and make the right ones.
Snowball your debts.
This is known as Baby Step 2 in Dave Ramsey’s plan.
This is where you list all of your debts smallest to largest, pay the minimums on all the debts, and throw any extra money that you possibly can find at the smallest debt until it is gone. Then, you move on to the next.
You continue until all debts are gone. Ideally, this step should take 2 years or less, but in many cases it can take longer.
Save 3-6 months of expenses.
This is for security and peace of mind. Can you imagine having 0 debt and a nest egg of 10k-20k in the bank in case something happened.
If you or your spouse had to be off work or lost your job, it wouldn’t be so catastrophic for your family.
This is just a starter list that I threw together based on Dave’s teachings and what is working for me. Dave’s actual Baby Steps can be found here.
To be completely transparent, we are in Baby Step 2, snowballing our debts. It has been a difficult, but very rewarding 7 months, and we can’t wait to be done with this part.
If you’re interested in making a budget, check out 10 Simple Steps to Creating a Budget by yours truly.
Create a Schedule
Mama, you have got to have a system to keep up with all of the things that you are juggling on the daily. Do you honestly think that anyone (yes, that includes you) can remember all the dates, times, activities, parties, meetings, school events, practices, etc…etc…etc…).
Cut yourself some slack. You can’t remember all of that and neither can anyone else.
You need some help.
Think visual. And simple. Because simple is what I do.
All you need is a planner and a calendar. And you can go as big and fancy or as small and simple as you want. I chose big and simple.
I bought a $5 planner from Walmart, and it works perfectly for now (remember I’m still on a budget), but I received a HUGE wall calendar as a gift from my husband. I’m pretty sure he could see me drowning in all the chaos, and this was something he felt he could do to help.
And he was unbelievably correct.
Having both the planner and the wall calendar keeps not only me in check, but also allows the entire family to be somewhat active in the process. They still ask what’s going on for the day, but now I just say “It’s on the calendar.” They despise that answer, but hey, I really don’t care. It works.
You can also check out How to Keep up with “All the Things”- Tips from a Busy Mama.
Meal planning is intimidating. I get it. But only at first.
Once you get a meal plan established, you can just copy it month to month and save yourself a ton of time and money.
Start with a brain dump and list every meal that you make. Do not use this time to be Betty Crocker and decide you are going to completely change your eating habits. You can do that later if you feel it’s necessary.
Take a blank monthly calendar and fill in the blanks. Because I work all week, I only do breakfast and dinner except for the weekends.
If I know that we will not be home one day (ex. softball tournament on Saturday), I will budget extra money for eating out that day and take out a meal for the week.
Take your calendar and create a grocery list. Include staples on this list as well.
You can do this weekly, biweekly, monthly, whatever fits your lifestyle.
We get paid twice monthly so I create my grocery list for a 2 week period and shop accordingly. It’s great when trying to stick to a budget.
Create an Alter-Ego
Ok…. I admit this one sounds a little strange. AT FIRST.
I am a huge fan of the Do It Scared podcast by Ruth Soukup, and I almost skipped this episode because it sounded so “Out-there”. Totally glad that I took time to listen. Do it Scared podcast Episode 54 with Todd Herman: Using the Power of an Alter Ego to Tap Into the Best Version of You
The basis of this idea is that we all have multiple “personalities”, if you will, that we tap into at the right time and situation. For example, your work personality is not the same as your mom or wife personality. We change according to our needs.
Using this technique, we can “design” the type of person we want to be for a certain role and use those strengths that we desire to become the best versions of ourselves in that particular role.
At first, I thought the idea seemed silly, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that maybe this could be the answer to my always conflicted brain.
When I have a bad day at work, it’s hard not to bring that home to my family. And vice versa.
If the kids have a lot of activities going on that day, and I’m overwhelmed with my schedule, it often bleeds over into my attitude for the day.
This concept allows you as a busy mama to take control back.
You get to decide what kind of mom you want to be. What kind of wife you want to be. And when you get home, you allow yourself permission to turn into her. The concept teaches you how to take off one hat and put on another one in order to become the person you want to be.
To be honest, this is a completely new concept to me. I just recently listened to this podcast, and I’m currently working on implementing some of the strategies.
I am the mom that desperately wants to have fun with my kids when I get home. I struggle with the idea that I’m gone more than I’m home, and I want our time together to count.
But usually when I’m home, life is so busy with all the things that have to be done, that it all feels like a race against the clock, and I push myself back into the hurried, stressed-out mom instead of the mom I really desire to be.
I’m excited to create and begin to use my alter-ego mom who still gets things done but involves everyone and has a lot of fun doing it.
I will keep you posted on how this goes. And I encourage you all to give it a try as well. If it sounds stupid to you, trust me, I understand. It sounded stupid to me, too, at first, but not so much anymore.
My way isn’t working, so I’m excited to try another way.
When I say get organized, I’m not taking about your kitchen cabinets and linen closets (although that is a nice idea).
I’m talking about all of the things that you have to do each day. I already showed you my planner and calendar which is my lifeline.
What I’m referring to now is a routine. Morning. Evening . Bedtime. Cleaning.
Having everyone’s clothes laid out (including socks and shoes), homework done, backpacks packed and hanging, lunches packed, papers signed, etc, etc.
Having a routine eliminates much of the stress that goes on in the mornings and before bedtime. And being a busy mom of 4 busy kids, I understand that all days are not going to go smoothly. There will still be hiccups. Sometimes major ones. But if we can ease through the smaller issues, it will make dealing with the hiccups much more manageable.
Oh, here we go. This is the one area we moms probably fail ourselves and our families most. And, today, I’m preachin’ to the choir.
What comes to mind when I think of self-care is often massages, facials, nails, hair, blah, blah, blah.
And if those are your things, I’m totally not knocking them.
But because this is where my mind goes, I guess I feel like I’m not at a point in my life where these things are important to me, so I just forget self-care.
I couldn’t be farther from the truth.
Truth is, moms are often times better moms when we put ourselves first every now and then.
When did it become a rule that we have to completely neglect ourselves in order to love our families?
Actually, the opposite is true. I’m sure you’ve heard the old saying, “You can’t pour from an empty cup.” or “If Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy”. Well, there’s a reason someone came up with these.
Self-care looks differently to all of us. Maybe it’s taking a day off work to get your home in order. Maybe you just want to get a sitter and spend some time with your husband. Or maybe you just need to take a nap. Maybe you just want to stay up late and watch the latest episode of This Is Us, uninterrupted.
Whatever it looks like to you, carve out a little time for yourself. Make yourself a priority for the first time in your motherhood journey.
You don’t have to spend a lot of money (or any). You just need a moment or two to catch your breath and remember that you are more than mom and wife. You are you.
And a happy, more fulfilled you makes for a happier, more fulfilled wife and mom.
Ask for Help
Why do we try to do it all? Why do we think we have to be Superwoman all the time?
Maybe you have always been so independent that asking for help feels like failure (guilty).
Maybe you don’t really have anyone to ask. After all, these are your precious kids, and you don’t want just anyone around them.
I get it. I do not like to ask for help from others, especially when it comes to my kids. They are mine and my responsibility.
However, I also do not like to be completely stressed out because I’m at work and someone needs something that I can’t leave to get or three kids have practice at the same time in different locations.
Give yourself a break! Ask for some help. Hopefully, your spouse is already doing his part, but if not, don’t assume that he knows what to do. Sometimes men have to be directed. They don’t intentionally put it all on us (well some do, I’m sure), but many just need to be asked or told what you need. They really aren’t mind readers, although they probably should be 😉
And don’t be afraid to ask your mom friends for help. Would you be offended if someone asked you to help them? I’m going to go out on a limb here and say no. So why would you feel bad to ask them? I’m sure if they can help, they will be happy to.
And, if you can afford it, by all means get somebody to help with the housework. Enough said.
Make Time for Play
This. Is. Everything.
Be honest. How many times do your kids ask you to play with them and you say “No, I have to do xyz.” Or “I will right after I finish dinner or clean the kitchen.”
Then, you never do it.
You can’t seem to turn it off.
You would much rather play with the kids than clean the kitchen, but you just can’t unsee all of the things that need to be done.
But the truth is, as a busy mom, you will always have things that need to be done. This list is never-ending. And it’s very difficult to just turn off the part of your mind that needs to get these tasks done and turn it on to play.
But you HAVE to.
Let me say that again, Mama. You HAVE to learn to turn it off.
Of course, we can’t just let life go and never do all of the things that need to be done, but we can take a step back, rearrange our priorities, and take time for what’s truly important.
Maybe your child had a tough day. Maybe they just need a few minutes with you undivided.
It’s not just play to them. It’s quality time with their Mama that they have missed immensely because they haven’t seen her all day.
Just be conscious of how much you say no, and try to say yes a little more often.
Lower your Standards & Stop Comparing
At the end of the day, we can’t do it all. Even though it has been hammered into our heads that we can and should.
I’m not really sure where all of these unrealistic standards for moms originated, but I wish I could turn back time and throat-punch whoever is responsible.
Why should we be expected to get everything done in the mornings, work all day, cook a pinterest-worthy nutritious dinner with only organic ingredients, keep the house spotless, chauffeur kids all over the country, be the room mom, finish laundry, etc..etc… and still look cute while doing it.
COME ON…. Y’all nobody can do all this. And if you think you know somebody who is, I promise you she is drowning just like the rest of us. Doing all she can to keep her head above water.
And she probably feels like a crappy mom, too.
This is a ridiculous standard that none of us can keep up with. The Facebook and Instagram feed is no more than a facade. Everyone’s highlight reel. This is NOT real life so stop letting it make you feel inferior. You may be a lot of things, but inferior is not one of them.
Try setting a new standard. Decide that you are going to be the happy mom again. Regardless of how your house looks. Regardless of the amount of laundry left to be done.
Give yourself some grace. Stop holding yourself to higher standards than you hold everyone else.
Get off your own back already and give yourself permission to take back your motherhood journey.
Because at the end of the day, isn’t that what we all want?