Overtired, Overworked and Overwhelmed

The last couple of weeks have felt quite tough. I’m overwhelmed with the volume of work I need to get done. I have very limited childcare. My house is a dump. I have about 5 projects under way but incomplete. It seems like I have a headache all the time.

I feel like I am on the go non stop from 6am until the kids are asleep. I am trying to juggle everything and get it all done and maintain my work levels and keep everyone else happy…

…And yet it feels like however much I manage to do there is always a loose end unattended.


All The Things…

My son is complaining that I’ve forgotten to write a ‘Wow! moment’ for him to take into school. My husband is annoyed because I didn’t get around to mending the hole I’d offered to mend in his jumper, and he wanted to wear it.

A text from the school reminds me I’ve forgotten to return the permission slip for my daughter’s school trip next week. She’s upset with me because I didn’t get around to arranging that play-date she’s been asking me to arrange all week.

And beyond the minutiae of these minor chores lies a greater guilt.

I’m distracted. I’m not focusing on my kids when I should be because I’m desperately trying to finish off that bit of work before I start cooking dinner. I’m too tired to Netflix and chill with Pete, opting instead go to bed at 9pm.

I’m ratty and impatient. I shout when I should be calmly explaining.

I’m trying so hard, but it’s just not enough.

Everyone is getting me in half measures and feeling short-changed and resentful.


Will everybody just SHUT UP for a minute!

It’s Wednesday evening. My childcare arrangements had to change at the last minute, and I had to change my plans and work on a day I had arranged to see someone. Said person was decidedly frosty because I was letting her down.

I feel guilty and frustrated.

The house is a mess. There are literally 6 loads of clean washing yet to put away and I STILL have an overflowing laundry basket.

Our older two kids are overtired after school and bickering loudly, demanding that I mediate, whilst our toddler wails every time I put her down and attempt to start making dinner. Pete comes home from work hangry and fed up that dinner will be late.

Leaving the squalling children in the kitchen I go into the lounge, holding my head in my hands, on the verge of tears, to speak with Pete.

“I just want the noise to stop. I want to be somewhere quiet for a minute.” I say, lip wobbling.

He takes one look at his slightly demented looking wife and tells me to go upstairs for a bit while he sorts dinner.


The Tipping Point

Ordinarily the relief I’d feel whilst Pete handles the chaos would be palpable. But today it’s not.

Arriving in our calm, quiet, loft bedroom, I flop down horizontally across our bed. Staring, glassy eyed, at the trapezium of orange sunset cast on the bedroom wall through the velux window.

I try to take in the peace and comfort of the bedroom, and appreciate the sudden departure from the noise and stress downstairs. My brain feels full to the brim and yet I am strangely blank.

Pondering the causes of this cerebral white noise apathy I check in with myself.

Am I depressed?

Not really.

I’m exhausted, overwhelmed, and a bit defeated.

I’m just… done.

Behind the blankness I can still feel a tight knot of guilt and anxiety in my gut, of feeling not-good-enough, and the worry of having too much to do. It’s strangely muted but I can feel it beneath, and it wont go away.


Once More unto the breach, dear friends…

Once I’d had a bit of time to myself to register how I was feeling and gather my thoughts on how to process it all, I felt a bit better equipped to go downstairs for dinner.

At this point in my anecdote I’d like to paint a tableau akin to the scene in Snow White when she wakes up in the dwarves’ cottage. Some sort of scene where I float about, singing sweetly, tending to my family, with woodland animals scurrying about tidying away the toys whilst bluebirds fold my laundry.

But no.

I came downstairs to abject bedlam. The kids noise levels had gone nuclear and the kitchen looked like it had borne the brunt of the explosion. Pete, already knackered from a long day’s work, was just about keeping his temper whilst tersely doling out our standard responses to the kids refusals of dinner.

After dinner Pete put a bit of music on for the kids and went and sat down on the couch. Scowling, I start to clear the mess. There’s cooking detritus everywhere and my head is pounding. I’m annoyed that yet again he hasn’t emptied the bin when I asked, and that he cooks like a tasmanian devil.

(I was also cross with myself because I should at least have been a bit grateful that he stepped in when he saw me on the brink, but I was having trouble calibrating this at the time.)

I’m in my own head, clearing away condiments, when I realise Pete has come back to the table.

“Look!” he says gesturing to the kids.

I stop what I’m doing and look.

All three of them were dancing. All of them! Together! It was a scene of (rare) pure unadulterated joy. They were all laughing and smiling at each other…. It was really a truly lovely sight to behold.

I laughed in spite of myself and realised that all this time, caught up in the milieu of my day to day stress, I’d forgotten the point of it all…


The Overwhelm

You may not be my particular brand of crazy, but I’ll bet you a tenner you’ve felt this sort of overwhelm before – That point where the too-muchness of it all renders you inert, spent and helpless.

Lying on that bed I knew that in the interest of self-care something had to give. I know myself well enough to understand that if I keep putting myself under this pressure, and don’t manage my shit a bit more sensibly, I’ll start to become depressed, anxious and possibly trigger a burst of OCD.


…So… You’re totally overwhelmed ~ what do you do when it all gets too much?

You’re a Mum, so a lot of the normal rules don’t apply. You can’t just down tools and stop Mumming. You can’t stop. Full stop.

That said, there are still ways to help things ease a bit. Even when you don’t want to carry on but you have to.

Different folks for different strokes and all that, but here are some of the key things that I need to do for myself when battling the overwhelm:-


Give yourself a break

I know it’s a cliche, but it’s a cliche because it’s true. We are often our own harshest critics. As the stress of the last few weeks had been building I felt more and more crap about not being able to be all things to all people.

How ridiculous is that?

If you’re doing your best, that’s good enough. You can’t do any better, so why beat yourself up about it?


Don’t take on other people’s shit

Most of the time the people that matter to you in your life know you well enough to know that you try to treat them well and be there when they need you. Occasionally though, you might have a situation arise when someone isn’t on board when your shizzle unravels, and they take it personally when you can’t meet their needs at that time.

It’s hard not to feel like shit when this happens. But you need to bear in mind that often when people react badly to you in this situation, it’s usually because they’re feeling shit about their own stuff.

Hell, maybe they’re dealing with their own overwhelm and were hoping you could lighten the load. Maybe they had so much on their own plate they didn’t consider how much you might have on yours.

The point I’m trying to make is that when other people are pissed off with you, that’s their shit, not yours.

Stand by your decisions and don’t absorb their feelings (unless on reflection they were shit decisions, in which case go see your friend, apologise, and bring wine). Given time these things usually blow over, and you can always discuss and put things right at a later date.


Review your own expectations and timescales

This is a big one for me. I start off with a manageable list of things to do, and then random stuff comes up and before I know it you’ve got more to do than I can fit into the day.

It’s like life comes along and throws you a shitty stick, and you catch it because it’s a reflex reaction, but then you realise you’ve got shit on your hand, and you didn’t want the stick in the first place.

If your to-do list starts multiplying like pouring water on a Gremlin’s back, you need to review it all. Work out what needs prioritising, break it down into manageable chunks and get it done a bit at a time. Let anyone know who might be affected by the changes.

You’ll be surprised how much it lightens the load just knowing you’ve got more time for everything.


Tell someone how you feel

When I get stressed out I get fairly introspective about it. You might not feel like it achieves anything, but actually, talking about it helps in a number of ways:

  • Saying it out loud often helps you organise your thoughts
  • Talking to another person means you can bounce ideas off each other and can help you work out ways to tackle things
  • It helps you decompress
  • Another perspective can offer reassurance that you’re doing ok even when you don’t feel like you are.

So, talk it over with someone who’ll listen. It’s good for you, and it’ll make things feel better.


Take a minute to see things as they are – don’t lose sight of the good stuff

When we’re all caught up with the obligations and the pressures of motherhood we sometimes lose sight of what it’s all about. Everything seems heavy and stressful.

Sometimes what we really need is a moment when we can survey what we’ve got and see that it IS worthwhile, even when it’s just felt like a constant slog for what seems like forever.

My advice? Find your dancing-in-the-kitchen moment. It might not be obvious, or there all the time, but if you try to see it you’ll get there eventually.

Even concentrating on trying to see it might be enough to distract you from questioning your life choices and fantasising about running away to Mauritius in the dead of night.


… So… That’s my take on things.

Obviously I’m not an expert, but I am well seasoned in experiencing The Overwhelm. If nothing else this post can serve as a reassurance to all you stressed out Mamas up there that you’re not alone, and that what you’re feeling is both normal and manageable.

Look after yourselves Motherlovers,

Kate xx


Did this post tickle your fancy? Then you’ll (probably) love my other stuff too. Especially this one, which is all about being stuck in the ‘Mum Zone’.

While you’re in the mood, pop onto Facebook, give my page a wee like and follow, then join the fabulous Mum Conundrum Facebook Group, so you can moan and commiserate with other Mums whilst I entertain you with hilarious and fascinating things from me and many other corners of the Internet.

Once you’re done there have a peek at TwitterInstagram and Pinterest too. I’ve got all sorts of weird and wonderful (and some quite handy) things for you to read and laugh at when you’re hiding in the bathroom pretending to poop for a bit of peace and quiet.


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36 comments on “Overtired, Overworked and Overwhelmed ~ What do you do when it all gets too much?”

  1. That’s such a great post Kate. I love the shitty stick analogy! Such a good one. I have had times like this and it’s horrid. I remember when mine were young, my Hubbie got home from work, I passed him a toddler in a full nappy and walked out to my car without a word! I drove away and sat in a lay-by for half a Hour! It was the most wonderful yet frightening half hour of my life tbh. But talking to my Hubbie about it afterwards really helped.
    Well done you for writing how many parents are feeling.

  2. I applaud you! & your hubby for actually noticing you’re about to have a meltdown & taking over for a minute… even if it does mean an explosion in the kitchen lol

    It’s nice that you managed to sit back & take in the blessings that are around you, most of us forget xx

  3. Oh my god, that’s my life. It’s all true. Exactly how I feel. But the tips on how to try and get a semblance of balance do all work and something I try to put into action. Talking to others really helps as inevitably almost everyone feels or has felt the same. In part that’s why I share my Weekly Wins on my blog each week. I want people to know that sometimes everything does seem like a big pass of exhausting ass, but at the same time it is all worth it, and there are nuggets of joy to be had. We need to be our own advocates and cheerleaders sometimes (and also learn to say no but as always that’s a work in progress… getting better at it though). #triumphanttales

    • I’m glad it resonates. I generally write fairly flippant, funny stuff, but I just couldn’t muster it this week and thought it best to be honest and talk about how these things can affect us. Weekly wins is a good idea, I might give it a whirl myself xxx

  4. Brilliant post lovely and I can totally relate! I’ve been in this situation many times when I’ve just had to leave the room because everything is too much and I can’t handle the shouting and demands any more. Love your tips too xx #coolmumclub

  5. Amazing post Kate and I can absolutely relate to all of it! The Overwhelm and I spend a lot of time together! I think you’re spot on when you say that we need to manage our own expectations. Without a to-do list my world would literally crumble. I actually find it therapeutic when I can see my diary looking a bit mental to just stick a blank white sticker over it all and rewrite it with just the priorities. I move all the niceties to another week and by the time I get to them o tend to find most are no longer relevant or an issue anyway. Fantastic read and excellent advice. #coolmumclub x

  6. This is such a fab post I agree that when it all gets too much you need to give yourself a break and get it off your chest. I think the expectations we put on ourselves has a large part to play in the overwhelm and sometimes something’s gotta give (before it’s our sanity!!). Thanks for linking up to #coolmumclub and have a lovely Easter xoxo

  7. I doubt there’s a person alive who hasn’t had a day like this and just been tempted to go hid upstairs until tomorrow. This so made me smile wryly. Thank you. (Now I’d better do my own bins …!)

  8. Yes yes and yes! This holidays I’ve been rushing the kids to bed so I can work and getting all ratty in the process. I just read a post about kids growing up and it made me go back and spend 5 more minutes with the girls, in which time I had an amazing conversation with my six year old. I felt this post through to the core, been there and will be there again – and all of your advice applies perfectly.
    A truly brilliant read, thank you x
    And thanks for linking to #coolmumclub

  9. I can certainly relate to this post – I definitely have times like this when the overwhelm just gets far too much. Those are good suggestions for helping ease it. Trying not to take on other people’s stress is a good start. I also find breaking my to-do list into “essential”, “desirable” and “only if time allows” puts everything into perspective. Those little moments when everything falls into place though – like when your children were dancing together – does help to make everything feel a little better though, don’t they? #coolmumclub

  10. It’s great that you are aware of your triggers and what can be done to handle the situation before a total meltdown occurs. #TriumphantTales

  11. Oh Kate I feel you!!! I’ve had that overwhelming feeling so often and you need a break but the cycle of guilt gets too much when you need a break from your own flesh and blood. But like you say, its needed for self care and self love. We need to be kinder to ourselves, we dont run a car on empty so why do it to ourselves?
    Those moments of pure joy watching the kids do something wonderful really makes you see clearly, but the next day when theyre being bastards again you soon forget hahah!
    Thank you so much for sharing this with us at #TriumphantTales. I hope to see you back next week!

  12. Oh the overwhelm is too familiar! I love the photo too, pretty much spot on how I feel a lot of the time lol. I used to work full-time but ended up with burnout and am still recovering (doubtful if I ever will, fully, as it affects the brain so deeply). As you say, to stop totally is never an option, so we just have to try to find ways of coping better, not doing too much etc. The battle continues…😉x

  13. I think we all feel like this especially us Mummies. I had to read this post based ont the picture 😉 #itsok

  14. Oh goodness I can so relate to this. Sometimes I’m so overwhelmed I can’t bare to be touched, it’s like I go into sensory overdrive. In fact reading this reminded me I’d forgotten to message back a mum to arrange the latest play date. You’re doing amazingly and these feelings are very normal. Thank you for linking up to the #itsok linky!

  15. This is an absolutely BRILLIANT post Kate! So so relatable. I feel the ‘overwhelm’ so often, but you’re right, as mums, we cannot stop, we’ve just got to prioritise and find the beauty in the little things…
    #itsok to just walk away from the chaos sometimes and gather yourself again. #itsok to feel defeated and then bounce back again.

  16. This is the reality of parenting at its ugly roots. We are expected to take it all on and still smile. Can we stop pretending and just admit we are tired! All of us. To the rare few that aren’t…good for you. I needed to read this today. Thank you! #thesatsesh

  17. #thesatsesh such an important post, of course we’ve all been there, or are there are will one day head in to the void of ‘lost’. I love how this post is so personal but has so many practical tips. Guilt seems a huge issue for many parents – you’ve got this lovely, those dancing kids are happy 🙂

  18. What a great post. The overwhelm, as you refer to it, is so real in so many of us. Your points are all good in how to manage it, so thank you! This is really good. I hope now, you are simply whelmed. I am trying to get there too! #thesatsesh xoxo

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