Before we get into the bulk of this blog, I want to start with two simple statements that are indisputably true.
Fact #1: Every new mother, no matter the circumstances, feels overwhelmed.
(Period. End of story.)
Fact #2: As mothers, we feel overwhelmed not because we’re not cut out for it. We feel overwhelmed because it’s hard.
(Really, really hard.)
But here’s the thing: Even with those two undeniable facts burned into your brain, the stress that comes with taking care of a new baby can lead to anxiety, burnout, and isolation. So, you can feel like you’re the only woman who’s ever been through it (the endless feeding, laundry, and juggling of all the things) — even when you know that’s not true.
When you’re experiencing it for the first time, motherhood can feel like a 24/7 loop of “I have no idea what I’m supposed to be doing” and “Even when I know what to do, I feel like I’m doing it wrong.”
Although completely baseless, that interior narrative can lead to judgment that’s only compounded by our surroundings.
While you’re struggling to keep it together from minute to minute, you’re constantly seeing friends and family (either in person or via social media) who seem to have it all under control. That perception, however accurate, is valid and can take a significant toll on your mental well-being.
And guess what? Even if this isn’t your first baby, feeling overwhelmed by motherhood can still happen. A new baby coupled with other young children to care for makes things inevitably harder.
Taking care of kids is hard, but it’s also monotonous, frustrating — even boring. Sure, most days, you don’t even have a second to sit down and finish your coffee, but it’s also normal to get to the end of the day and feel like you’ve accomplished nothing, even when there’s always something to do.
Your 5-Step Strategy When You’re Feeling Overwhelmed
Too often, the pressure of it all leads to parents feeling paralyzed.
So, is there a way to better manage when you’re feeling overwhelmed by motherhood and on the verge of shutting down?
In my experience, yes — and the strategy is pretty simple.
You can regain some control by taking a minute to slow down and evaluate the situation for exactly what it is. I suggest getting things out on paper, looking at what you need to do on a day-to-day basis, and then making a plan for the future.
Step 1: Make a stream-of-conscious list of all the tasks that feel overwhelming.
Sit down with a piece of paper and make a list of everything — and I mean everything — that’s dragging you down. Be as specific as possible so that you (and the members of your support system) can see the whole picture and identify specific ways to help take things off your hands.
Step 2: Revisit the list a few hours later.
Making a list, walking away, and coming back to it allows you to bring a little perspective to the exercise and better evaluate what needs to be done now and what’s more future-based. (Translation: Something you don’t need to worry about every single day.)
Step 3: Review the list with your partner or support person.
Reviewing the list with your partner is beneficial for two reasons.
First, talking it out can be helpful. Explain what’s making you feel overwhelmed and why. Just inviting someone into that conversation, so you feel heard and validated can be incredibly helpful.
Second, looking at the list with someone else opens up the door for some much-needed support. Believe me when I say the people around you want to help, but sometimes they don’t know how.
By going through your list together, you can see what you need to do and what you could hand off to someone else. This way, instead of trying to anticipate what you need, it’s spelled out. This allows people to lend a hand in a way that’s helpful and not in a way that could potentially cause more stress.
Which leads to…
Step 4: Ask for help and accept it.
Now that you’ve spelled out what you need, talk to the people around you about how they can help — and accept it.
If you hand something off, let that task go and allow the other person to handle it from start to finish. Even if they do things differently than you would, that’s okay. Because, if you let it, the relief that comes from unloading the responsibility and letting go of resentment will outweigh the discomfort that comes from not doing it yourself.
If you’re having trouble with this, remember: Your partner wants to be in this with you.
Regular involvement and engagement allows your partner or another support person to develop their own system with the child. It also shows your child that other people and situations can feel safe — and it doesn’t always have to be with Mom. That exposure to other people and other routines is healthy and will deliver invaluable benefits throughout their life.
Step 5: Seek outside support through group or individual therapy.
As I said at the beginning, motherhood is hard — there’s no way around it.
And sometimes, even with all the resources in the world, it can just feel like too much. But talking about this challenging time with other parents and professionals can make a big difference.
Group or individual therapy can help validate your struggles, build trust and connection, promote healing, and develop even more coping strategies for when you’re feeling overwhelmed by motherhood.
Through a partnership with The Breastfeeding Center of Greater Washington, we offer a free weekly support group for pregnant or postpartum women (or partners). The group focuses on providing a safe and judgment-free space where participants can learn from each other, share wellness strategies, and feel supported by their community. Check it out, or reach out any time if you have questions.