green dress on the beach

Please don’t tell me to do yoga – I’m much too stressed for that….

It’s always yoga, isn’t it?

Any time you tell someone you’re feeling a bit stressed – or down, or anxious, or anything other than awesome, basically – the answer is to do some yoga. Or take a long walk, Or a hot bath.

It never fails: yoga, long walks, bubble baths – they’re like the holy trinity of self-care, aren’t they? It really doesn’t matter what’s troubling you, I can practically guarantee that someone will suggest at least one of them as the cure to everything – which is honestly quite surprising to me, really, because WHO HAS THE TIME FOR THOSE THINGS? No, seriously, WHO? 

Not this girl, anyway, that’s for sure. Because I run a business from home, whilst also raising a toddler, so if I’m stressed, chances are it’s because I have too much to do, and not enough time to do it. And if I don’t have time to style my hair or my drink my coffee while it’s still hot, I definitely don’t have time for freakin’ yoga, do I? Even so, I honestly can’t count the times I’ve mentioned being stressed, and someone has advised me to have a spa day. A SPA DAY. I mean, I guess there must be some people in the world who are able to just drop everything they’re juggling, and head to the spa, but if I was able to just forget about all of the things that make me stressed for an entire day, I… well, I wouldn’t be stressed in the first place, would I?

But I am stressed. Very, very stressed. And the fact is, even if I did somehow manage to find the time for it, something like yoga would only make me even more stressed. Ditto the hot baths and the long walks: all they are to me, you see, are blocks of time when I’m forced to do nothing but think. And think some more. And become more and more anxious about all of the things I could be doing with my time, rather than sitting in the bath, or trudging through the rain on my own. Things like:

Cleaning my house

Emptying the laundry basket

Clearing my inbox

Earning a living*

Catching up with life admin

GETTING SHIT DONE, in other words. 

All of these things are what represent “self care” to me. They may not be what people typically think of as self-care – mostly because there’s no yoga or mindfulness on that list –  but, nevertheless, these are the things that make me feel better about myself. These are the things that make me instantly less anxious, and, ever since Max was born, and we were pitched head-first into parenthood, these are the things that have been getting increasingly neglected. 

green dress on the beachIt’s embarrassing to admit it, because I know Other People have to deal with all of the same things I do – work, parenting, home life, etc –  but I feel like I’ve been permanently stressed for 21 months now, and it’s almost totally because of the complete lack of time that parenthood has created, combined with the fact that I’m trying to juggle full-time working from home with full-time parenting. As I said to Terry a couple of weeks ago, I honestly feel like I can’t even think straight any more, because of all of the STUFF swirling around in my brain – stuff that would drown out absolutely everything else if I were to take myself off on a long walk, say, where I had nothing else to do but think about it all. 

I feel like I’ve been permanently stressed for 21 months now,

Take yesterday, for instance. Yesterday my ‘To Do’ list was so long that I couldn’t sleep the night before, because I was so busy trying to convince myself not to just get up and make a start on it. When I DID get up, though, you know what I did all day? I sat on the floor, pushing toy cars around, while the To Do list remained un-done. It was almost like yoga, now I come to think of it: I mean, I was on the floor, I was pretty uncomfortable, I was stressed out of my mind at the thought of all of the things I could be doing instead… Yup, sounds like yoga to me!  I mean, I could literally SEE the dishwasher that needed emptying, and the floors that hadn’t been cleaned in forever. As I sat there, I could hear my phone pinging with messages from clients, and the washing machine beeping to tell me it had ended its cycle, and there was yet another load of laundry to deal with. 

What I couldn’t do, however, was actually deal with any of it.

Before I had Max, this situation would’ve been totally unimaginable to me: in fact, I’m guessing it’s hard to understand even for some people who DO have children, but who still  manage to do the laundry, and empty the dishwasher, and even earn a living from home, just like I do. Why can’t I just get up off the floor and go and deal with all of the things that need dealt with, after all? 

Honestly, your guess is as good as mine. All I can tell you is that Max has never been the kind of child who’ll sit quietly playing on his own: he wants you to play WITH him, and, when he’s awake, he requires 100% of your attention, 100% of the time. Over the past 22 months, we’ve tried everything we can think of (Which has mostly involved buying different toys and games that we hope might occupy him on his own for even just a few minutes…) to try to buy ourselves a little extra time each day, but so far absolutely nothing has worked,  (Well, nothing other than TV, anyway, which works a little TOO well, to be honest, and gives me a whole new set of things to worry about: like, will the Parenting Police come knocking when they hear that we let him watch Blippi again today, and how much damage did that episode of Mother Goose Club do him, really?), which means that everything I have to do has to be done either when he’s asleep, or when he’s with his grandparents,  twice per week. Oh, and he recently dropped down to just one nap per day, too, which means I have time to shower OR have lunch every day, but not both. Yay!

I’m not going to lie: I’m really struggling. I’m almost scared to admit it, because, like I say, Other People seem to manage just fine – and with more than one kid, too. Are they really, though? Because, the fact is, on the surface, it probably seems like I’m coping just fine, too – when, actually, I’m stressed out of my mind. Being forced to sit still and ignore all of the things that desperately need to be done is like a form of torture to me (Which gets worse when I have to do that all day, and then spring into action once Max is in bed, and frantically try to cram a full day’s work and housekeeping into the couple of hours that are available to me…) –  and that’s why I don’t do yoga – or any of the other things that force me to spend time being even LESS productive than I already am.

Being forced to sit still and ignore all of the things that desperately need to be done is like a form of torture to me

It’s not that I don’t have any downtime – it’s just that, when I DO, I need it to occupy my mind, rather than leaving it free to wander, and keep circling back to the guilt. It’s why, right now my idea of  “self care” involves the ultimate luxury: time to be productive – to clean my house, and answer my emails, and get shit done. Because, when my house is clean, and my To Do list is empty (Well, empty-ish: I don’t think it’s been actually empty since around 1991, but you know what I mean…) I feel like I can breathe again. It’s the only time I can actually hear myself think. and the only time I feel myself.

So, if I tell you I’m feeling anxious, please don’t tell me to do yoga: I’m much too stressed for that…

(*For those who don’t know, I make a living from blogging, and work from home, so it’s not just cleaning and showering I’m not able to do right now – I’m also finding it almost impossible to do my job, which means I’m earning significantly less money than normal. If it was just random chores that weren’t getting done, I’d be able to deal with that, but not being able to earn a living is obviously much more serious, and a huge source of stress.)

 

COMMENTS
  • Pip Lee

    REPLY

    I remember that feeling, but things got better when my son was just over 2 and he went to play group for a few hours 3 times a week. At the start I felt so guilty but it made such a difference to my well being and after the first couple of weeks he loved it too. Until that point I did use the tv for an hour a day to get some stuff done. Your mental well being matters and if a bit of tv helps you feel more in control use it. My son is 16 and I don’t think it made any difference. But it made the world of difference to me. I hope I don’t sound patronising just supportive.

    October 17, 2019
  • Stephanie

    REPLY

    I am a director of a part day preschool that starts at 4 months and this is why we added classes for younger children! I see many parents who let their guards down and I can tell you- so many are struggling to figure this stuff out. A parent comes embarrassed that their daughters hair is not brushed…at all- It is okay…you got here today. On the day a dad brings a toddler on his way to work, sometimes the child is in pajamas. At least he is comfy!

    Find what works for you and try to find people who support that. Because your emotional health is as important as Max’s. So do what helps you.

    And long walks, baths and yoga mean I have less time and I am more sweaty.

    October 17, 2019
  • Lila

    REPLY

    You are doing just fine and Max will be working off some of his energy in no time at all in pre-school.

    TV is fine, especially as you can pick what he sees, there is so much choice nowadays too; it’s all learning, like a book but fast moving.

    Yoga is not something that I would choose to help me relax as there is just too much time to think and it’s too quiet and I would overthink defeating the purpose of it.

    A hot bath would give me high blood pressure.

    A long walk would exhaust me and cause me pain so again definitely not relaxing.

    Anything relaxing is inside my phone or reading a few pages of a book with ear plugs in at bedtime. ❤️

    October 18, 2019
  • Myra

    REPLY

    I hear you, and have felt exactly the same about a very stressful job I used to do. The only way I could survive and reduce stress was to do the things I needed to do, so I get it.

    Your anxiety doesn’t help you here. I think I sent you an academic article that explained why meditation, yoga etc didn’t work, if not let me know and I’ll try to find it agsi. (what am I saying, you won’t have time to read it). Suffice it to say, you are right when you say these things not only don’t help you, but it is literally impossible for you to engage in them when you are stressed.

    But something has to give before you crack. I hope this is helpful, I suggest you re-evaluate your priorities (and yes I did hate people telling me that, or to manage my time better). I remember reading an article about a busy mother who described her foot sticking to the kitchen floor that she meant to clean that day, but was so tired that she decided to wash it when both feet stuck. I know you know guilt is the most useless emotion, taking up energy you need elsewhere and you can’t do anything about it. Try to let that go, why torture yourself about something you can’t do.

    October 18, 2019
    • Myra

      REPLY

      Sorry, my phone rang and I didn’t want to lose, what I’d written. I suggest what it is you can let go of, for a while and make a conscious decision you won’t feel guilty about it. You could also, if you can afford it, get a cleaner two or three hours a week, who will do the things that you don’t need to spend time on. That would be more than worth it. Wishing you well, but a reminder that things will get better as Max grows (our Max was the same) and starts school when you will have five hours a day during term time to do some of the things you need to do, and will reduce your stress. You just need to get there
      Be kind to yourself, you’re not superwoman. X

      October 18, 2019
  • Yeah I hear ya. No idea how parents with multiple kids or single parents cope! I work four days a week but my daughter goes to creche 5 days. Initially I had thought I would keep that day free as a mummy daughter day but I’ve since realised I need that day to myself for my sanity! But it’s never enough time to do even a quarter of the things on my to do list and I feel like I’m constantly behind! And my daughter seems to catch every bug going around so there have been many times where I haven’t had the free day at all.
    I’ve also noticed that articles about parenthood often give advice about finding me time, but where does this magic extra time appear from?!

    October 18, 2019
  • In times like these (ok, I don’t have kids, so I don’t know anything about that kind of busy), I try to think of the saying that goes: “You should sit in nature 20 minutes a day. Unless you’re busy – then you should sit for an hour”. <3

    October 18, 2019
      • Haha.. Sorry, that was not my intent! ?

        October 21, 2019
  • Oh my gosh, this! I can totally relate. The important thing to remember is it will get easier. I hope… ❤

    October 18, 2019
  • PatinCal

    REPLY

    For both your brain and your emotional health I’m going to give you the most important advice of your life, which of course you will ignore: Turn off all of your electronic devices and leave them off.

    October 18, 2019
  • Kara

    REPLY

    Self care is different for everyone. This podcast doesn’t exist anymore but you might enjoy this episode. https://soundcloud.com/spiritualish/ep-18-the-myth-of-self-care

    October 18, 2019
  • lalie

    REPLY

    we are all struggling and we are all trying to wing it! You are just part of the parents club – unless you have a nanny or family help, it’s a struggle.

    My own way to deal with it is a bit like the Organised Mum Method: housework first thing in the morning. If kids in front of the tv, so be it, we’ve got the whole day together after. I can’t stand being in a messy house, so It’s as untidy as possible. Toys are not mess when they are played with, I just put them away when finished with them.
    And martial arts if partner available to look after little ones. For me, no time to think then, I sleep better, and I love it.

    There’s no real solution, just way to deal with stuff that works the best for you. Everybody says it, but they start school so early, it goes bloody quickly. I should try a spa day, sound fun, when mine is at Uni maybe I’ll have the time!

    October 18, 2019
    • lalie

      REPLY

      i meant house is as TIDY as possible, obviously…

      Having a child at home is a full time job . When you try to do another job in the evening when they are asleep, it makes REALLY long days. Of course it’s exhausting, No one is failing because they are tired working 2 jobs.

      October 18, 2019
  • Liz

    REPLY

    Hang in there. It does get easier eventually. I’ve suffered depression and anxiety for most of my life, long before kids. I have three and I love them to bits, but we all need a break sometimes. I couldn’t face yoga either, you need to use what time you have to focus on what makes you feel better. Just remember, the to do list is never completely finished. At some point you just have to say”screw it for today” and rest. By playing cars with your son you are doing something very important. You’re building his brain, helping him learn and navigate the world and develop into his own person. It’s a long term project- at least that’s what I tell myself!

    October 18, 2019
  • Michelle

    REPLY

    I agree with you – yoga is not a good fit for everyone (and I’m saying this as a yoga instructor). Everyone has their own way of decompressing – it’s great that you know what yours is! If cleaning and getting things off your checklist is what makes you feel calmer, then that is what you should focus on trying to find time to do.

    The pre-school stage is one of the toughest stages of parenting, especially the stage when naps stop completely and school has not started yet. (That was only about a 6 month period for me, but I thought I was going to lose my mind. She went from 3 hour naps to NOTHING in a period of a few weeks). There’s nothing wrong with a bit of TV time every day, if that is what allows you to get a few things done and recharge yourself. I was reluctant at first too, but I realized these short breaks made me a better parent, because on the days I just had to push straight through I was totally burnt out at the end of the day.

    October 18, 2019
  • Emma

    REPLY

    I’m not a parent but there’s this instagram account by a mum with tons of activity ideas for little kids – that she uses with her little kids to get SOME extra time by keeping them entertained. It’s called @busytoddler. Might be helpful? I dunno – I can’t imagine how difficult it would be with a little guy who just wants to have all your attention, all the time!

    October 18, 2019
  • Miss Kitty

    REPLY

    Have you ever checked out Fly Lady? She helped my sister when she had 3 littlies and was feeling overwhelmed! I know you will probably be bombarded with well-meaning advice, but I can’t help but add my piece – it’s what we do as humans for those we care about. Although it sounds funny to say that when I’ve never met you, but I do still care!

    October 19, 2019
  • I know exactly how you feel. I’m am exactly the same way. It was like reading a journal entry for me. No one ever understands it. The amount of stomach pills I take is astounding. Then I get the exercise or drink more water speech. Exercising makes me stressed. Honestly, I can’t believe people find it relaxing.

    October 19, 2019
  • Katie Davis

    REPLY

    You are trying to do 2 full time jobs! Parent who work outside of the home make childcare arrangmements. You are trying to be full time parents and full time workers – I’m not surprised you’re struggling ((hug))

    I worked part time, outside of the home, and had an hour a day when they were still at school and nursery to lunch and spritz the house (it was just a tart up quick fix).

    Maybe a couple of sessions a week at a nursery for Max might give you a bit of headspace?

    But definitely don’t bother with yoga. Lol

    October 19, 2019
  • Stephanie

    REPLY

    Hey Amber, I’m a mom with 2 boys and I’ve been where you are, feeling guilty, like I should be managing it all with the household chores AND being the awesome parent without missing a beat. But in the end, all that expectation on myself just stressed me out. And in the meantime my two kiddos were growing up and I was missing it by being stressed out about everything else. I had plenty of days where the most productive thing I did was do the alphabet puzzle 15 times in a row. Or read the car book 10 times. And yeah, my boys watched more tv than is recommended by the experts but sometimes it was just about trying to get through the day with some sanity intact. Raising toddlers is not easy, it is a full time job. But the time invested in those years is not at all wasted. Because some day really soon Max will be going off to school, he will be making friends, little by little becoming more independent and you will gain back the ability to tackle the to-do-list more efficiently.
    I just kept reminding myself that there will always always be floors to clean and laundry to do…but my kids little years will fly by and those years I can never get back. So don’t be so hard on yourself!!! Do what you can when you can! Really, that’s what most of us do if we were to be honest with ourselves and the rest of the world. Sure, there might be some moms out there who have it all together and get stuff done. I will admire those moms, but I can’t compare myself to them or hold myself to their standards. I can only be the wife that is best for my hubby and the mom that is best for my kids. If playing on the floor with toy cars is what is best for Max right now, embrace it. This season of life will pass. It won’t be like that forever.

    October 19, 2019
  • Emmy’s still a lot younger than Max, but I feel she’s one of these children too – I thought she was just going through a phase when she started moaning constantly about 3 months ago if I wasn’t paying 100% attention to her, but she’s still going now. At 7 months old, that’s a “phase” lasting half of her life! At the moment, she won’t let me even put her down to play unless I’m literally touching her! So I’m totally with you on this, although I know I’ve got worse to come! Although I do like yoga and baths, but the opportunity to do these things is basically zero right now – I’ve had 2 baths since Emmy was 3 weeks old (ah, for those sleepy newborn weeks again!) and Emmy has crashed both of those 😀 I know you’ve talked before about people saying “just let the house be a mess” and not being able to, and I’m totally with you on that too – I just can’t!
    So absolutely no advice here, but solidarity!

    October 21, 2019
  • Oh Amber! I totally understand this! I literally cannot relax if my surroundings are a mess, and guess what, we are 2/3 of the way through a 5 year house renovation (which has slowed down practically to a halt because 2 year old) so my house is always a mess! I have a 4 day a week job and a freelance business to run, and at the weekends, I have a toddler to take care of, and weekends are when I do the freelance basically. So I have naptime. Except in naptime if I don’t do the washing or put the dishwasher on we have no clean clothes or plates, and so I end up with no time to work, and then I am sat playing games (or at this stage more usually managing tantrums about nothing at all) while the anxiety about unfinished work and deadlines goes up and up. I can manage a quick glance at my emails but that just makes it worse – I need the time to sit and actually edit documents, and that can’t be done with one eye on a child! I’m also struggling with feeling as though this mental load is all mine, and though my partner helps, he doesn’t feel the same as me about living in vaguely nice surroundings, he literally steps over mess and doesn’t see it so if I want help I have to tell him exactly what to do, then I feel like I am nagging. And it’s neverending. I too am at breakpoint. And I don’t know where to go from here. Hugs xxx

    October 21, 2019
      • Just remember that Instagram is the land of make-believe. I am pretty sure the only people who get through the toddler phase without feeling like you do right now are people who can afford nannies, or people whose families are able to provide daily childcare.

        It’s perfectly reasonable for you to feel stressed, but please don’t feel guilty. (Easier said than done, I know.) Maybe take some small solace in the fact that he’s not at the age to talk back to you yet? 🙂 (I have two teenage girls, and the sass is off the charts.)

        October 29, 2019
  • Sarah

    REPLY

    First off, I love your blog and Max seems like an incredibly happy, thriving child, so it seems like where it counts you’re doing a great job! But it does sounds very busy. I have a 16-month old and I’ve found that if I leave her to play in the living room while I do chores in the kitchen (there is a gate in between and I can watch her so it’s pretty safe) she complains for a few minutes but sometimes settles down and plays by herself after a while; I guess sort of like how they learn to self-settle in the cot. Maybe you could try pushing Max’s boundaries a bit with playing by himself? Of course all children are different though. Also I always think about the analogy of putting on your mask first on the airplane; if you need to leave Max to sulk in a playpen or in front of the TV for a little while so you can do self-care (including crossing chores off your list if that’s your thing) ultimately that’s what’s best for your family and you shouldn’t feel bad about that at all. Good luck!

    October 22, 2019
  • Merry Pruitt

    REPLY

    When Max is 3, he might be ready for half-day or full day preschool. Right now, you might be able to get a mommy’s helper to come in and do some chores or take Max out for an hour or two while you get things done around the house. Thank you for being honest about the yoga!

    October 25, 2019
  • Suzanne tyrrell

    REPLY

    I’m really sorry to hear how hard it is for you. My first thought was that you need some childcare. I appreciate it’s not free and your earnings need to be at a certain level to make it worthwhile. I don’t know any mums who are able to do their job and also look after a child at the same time. It’s either one or the other. My fingers are crossed that you find a solution soon.

    November 1, 2019
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