At times, my daily inner dialogue is defeated the moment I wake.
Up three times last night, and she still woke unhappy and crying. Teeth, they’re awful.
That smell, guess I need to change his bed sheets again.
More tears, and they’re not the baby’s. Of course, you wanted the blue cup and not the green one, what was I thinking?
We’re late to school again and I didn’t even get to drink my coffee.
That laundry pile is daunting. The dishes, why are there so many dishes?
Didn’t we just breastfeed? How are you possibly hungry again?
How is the day more than half gone? I haven’t accomplished a thing!
Please, please stop fussing, I really need to get dinner started. Oh right, I never got to those dishes, I can’t even cook until I wash that pot.
Is it bedtime yet? Did I seriously forget to put the sheets in the dryer? Sigh.
When You’re Deep In Survival Mode
Sometimes, my kids are on a perfect routine. My home’s tidy and in order. Homework is done on time. And most of all, I feel like I’m actually accomplishing things at the end of the day.
Other times, when I’m in survival mode, it’s literally just that, surviving the day.
The hardest part, however, is that when you’re in it, you may not realise you are.
Sure, if you’ve experienced a crisis you expect to be in survival mode. But what about when your everyday feels this way?
Dear Mama Just Surviving, This Won’t Last Forever
Perhaps you’re wondering how you constantly feel busy, but never accomplished.
Maybe you wonder how you’re always cleaning, organising and planning but your home and life are chaos.
Maybe you feel you’re not enough because no matter how many of your kids’ needs you met, another still needs to be met.
If you’ve been feeling this way lately, please know this won’t last forever. Your baby will grow and eventually sleep all night long. Your child’s bladder will eventually hold all night long. And you, you will eventually get that hot cup of coffee and go to bed with no dishes in the sink.
These moments stuck in survival mode, they’re temporary. It’s a season that pops up throughout our biggest parenting transitions. It pops up for no reason other than our human experience includes difficult losses, crises, and life altering events.
But if you’re currently feeling overwhelmed by motherhood, if you’re only surviving the day, this list is for you:
#1: You Are Enough
On the hardest days, it’s easy to question if you’re enough. Are you a good enough mama? A good enough wife? A good enough employee?
You are enough. You are the right mama for your children. You are never not enough.
Bethany Jacobs, of Latched and Attached, went viral with a sweet and truthful reminder we all need:
“You are enough.
You are important.
You are worthy.
This is a phase of life for us. This is a really really hard, challenging, crazy phase of life.”
It’s hard to remember this when you’re stuck in survival mode. But it’s also the time you need to hear it most. Be sure to read Exhausted Mothers, You Are Enough.
#2: Don’t Obsess Over Food, Your Kids Will Be Okay
I’m not suggesting we just throw nutrition completely out the window.
But you know what? Your child will survive without a bento box inspired lunch. A pasta meal that takes just a few minutes to throw together? Perfect.
Cold cereal or a granola bar for breakfast? They’ll be more than okay. Ordering pizza? It’s fine!
Nutrition is important, yes. But know being in survival mode isn’t going to last forever and your kids will be okay with less than perfection. In fact, they may even enjoy the extra kid-favorite treats.
Letting go of perfection during survival mode can actually help you get out of it sooner. You can focus your energy elsewhere, and keep yourself from getting stuck.
#3: Practicing Self-Care Is Important For You And Your Kids
Sure, a calendar filled with play dates, art class and soccer practice can be nice for kids. However, you needn’t stretch yourself so thin that you’re stressed out trying to keep up.
What’s actually best for kids? A mama that can eventually do more than survive. Kids benefit when their mama can thrive.
It’s okay to RSVP no to a birthday party and simply be at home catching your breath while the kids just play.
Take time to practice self-care. Say no to an activity which will put you over the edge. And when you’re simply surviving, when it seems like there’s no time, that’s when you really need to make self-care a priority.
#4: Extra Screen Time Won’t Ruin Their College Applications
As mamas, we tend to worry long-term. This can be a wonderful thing when we’re making informed decisions about raising our kids.
However, this can also be an anxiety inducing, drive you to insanity type of thing. Why? Because we overthink the everyday.
When you’re in survival mode, you need kids entertained, you need a moment’s peace and you need to find a way just to get through the day. Sometimes that way is a bit of TV or tablet time. And sometimes, it’s a whole lot of TV and tablet time.
Can too much TV be a bad thing? Sure. But take heart, mama, this season is only temporary. Know that if you’re worried about the effects of screen time, you’re the kind of mama who’s ensuring they’re growing and learning just as they need to be.
#5: Get Back To The Basics When It Comes To Routines
Morning and bedtime routines, a nap routine, etc. can be vital for mamas and kids to get through the day.
When you’re in survival mode, routines can be daunting. Sometimes scaling back and sticking with the basics can save your sanity and keep things going enough for you to get through the day.
Kids need to eat, they need to get out the door and they need rest. As mentioned above, it’s okay if your survival time breakfasts are granola bars. It’s okay if your bedtime routine is crashing onto your child’s bed and just waiting for them to pass out.
And it’s more than okay to simply take a nap with your baby and toddler rather than taking this time to teach independent sleep. In fact, that extra rest can be vital for getting through a season of survival.
#6: Complete At Least One Task Each Day
Motherhood, the time in your life when you can be constantly doing things but never complete something. This is why motherhood is so hard.
When you’re in school, you complete tasks. When you’re at work, you complete tasks. When you’re at home, you often do many, many tasks but completion can be rare.
Choosing a task that can be completed each day can be good for your soul. It just helps you feel accomplished. You’re raising children, you’re running a home, you’re amazing. But there’s something about completion that makes you personally feel better.
Choose one very doable task each day and check it off your list. Pay a bill, apply make-up, empty the dishwasher before dinner, bake a cake, anything, choose any task.
It isn’t about completing something because you don’t do enough. Remember, you are enough. It’s about helping you find a way to feel more intentional.
It’s about reminding yourself you are capable and coping, and this season of survival isn’t because you aren’t enough, it’s simply because life gives us these seasons.
#7: Find Ways To Cherish Your Children
Perhaps the hardest part of survival mode is realising you’ve gotten through the day without truly cherishing your children.
It isn’t that you don’t love them with all your being, it isn’t that you aren’t grateful. It’s simply that you’re just trying to get through the day.
Do all of the above. Let go of the food rules. Let go the busy routines. Remember that this is a season. Then snuggle on the couch and in your bed and simply weather the storm together.
And if your children are the storm – because let’s face it, sometimes they’re hard – get them to bed and take a moment to watch them after they sleep. Snuggle the finally sleeping baby who had a hard time today and remember why you do this, remember that they’re truly a piece of you.
Dear mama just surviving, I promise this won’t last forever.
Feeling alone? Read 7 Reasons Why I Can’t Be Mama Today and remember that we all have our days, and even seasons where we’re simply surviving.
I’m Always Only Surviving, Is That Normal?
We have many seasons in motherhood. Sometimes we feel on top of it, like we’re really doing well. Other times, we can feel like we’re drowning in the everyday.
We expect the feeling of survival during a crisis, but when it pops up during what seems like regular life, it can be confusing.
Motherhood is challenging. It’s one of the most physically and mentally draining roles life has to offer. It’s full of blessings, but challenging nonetheless.
It’s very normal to have days, weeks, or even longer stretches (particularly when a new baby is in the home) of feeling like you’re not thriving.
However, if you feel stuck in only surviving and not thriving, it’s important to reach out to your midwife, doctor, or a mental health professional. Postnatal depression, pregnancy depression, and clinical depression can contribute to being stuck in just survival mode. The good news, all of these are treatable with professional support.