It’s 7:00 in the evening and you suddenly find yourself standing in the middle of your kitchen, overwhelmed.
Dried peas are crusted to the top of the high chair.
Dishes are piled so high in the sink it looks like the Leaning Tower of Pisa.
Cheerios are scattered across the floor and crunch under your feet.
Just then your son walks into the room and says,
“What’s for dinner?”
“What’s for dinner?” You repeat in your head as you scan the wreckage of your once spotless kitchen.
Overwhelmed, turning around you look back into the living room and see the trail of Legos, and broken dollar store toys leading from the couch.
It leads down the hall to the boys’ bedroom where you can hear them fighting.
Homework is still sitting in the open backpack by the front door.
This is the point your brain starts to panic and overwhelm sets in.
Suddenly the world is ending.
Never again will the house be clean or dishes done.
Dinner will never get made and your kids will starve to death.
Tomorrow they will go to school with dirty clothes and unfinished homework and everyone will know.
Everyone will know what a horrible mother you are.
You are a failure and everyone will laugh about how right they were about you.
At this point you feel you have a choice. You can either start crying or yelling or both.
Your brain has created this catastrophic response to your situation.
It tells you to fight or run and hide.
Your brain is making you feel frozen and incoherent.
It is happening because adrenaline has kicked in and your brain reverts back to a defense mechanism that has kept the human race alive all these years.
But it is not helping you.
Your brain is actually making everything worse.
Nothing is dangerous here but your brain thinks it is.
Your brain is telling you that you have to panic and worry.
That the only way to survive is to freak out. But you really don’t have to.
You can tell your brain to STOP. To SHUT UP, to GO AWAY because you got this.
You really, really do.
You can get through this.
Make the decision to slow down your breathing and think.
When your brain starts telling you to panic you can actually stop it mid tracks.
It’s not easy but you can.
You can tell yourself to start with one thing.
Pick what’s most important and go from there.
Maybe tonight you order in or have your husband pick up dinner on the way home from work.
Or maybe, tonight the toys stay on the floor. Maybe tonight you only manage to get the basics done.
Kids fed and teeth brushed. Or maybe just this once they skip the teeth.
Maybe instead of the book you force yourself to read each night to them, instead you sit down as a family and watch one show.
Anything that makes you laugh.
Your kids won’t remember that you picked up the living room each night or that you spent hours cooking gourmet meals.
They will remember how you laughed at the chaos and chose instead to plop down in the middle of it and play with them.
Your children will remember that you laughed with them and made silly faces at their stinky laundry.
They will remember the time you made a fort in the living room because the bedroom was too messy to sleep in.
Children remember the good times and, the not so good times.
So maybe this time you tell yourself to calm down, to think, to prioritize.
Your children are always watching and learning from your actions.
You are teaching them about life.
Teach them to laugh and deal with their problems or you can teach them anger and yelling.
You make the choice.
Because at the end of the day, what truly matters is that you love your children.
The rest will come. It really truly will.
Your house won’t stay a mess forever and the laundry will eventually get done.
The kitchen will get cleaned and life will go on.
I promise you it will.
It will get better because it does.
It doesn’t always go smoothly and sometimes it’s hard.
Really, really hard.
But when you find yourself getting overwhelmed, remember that is a choice.
You don’t have to be overwhelmed.
You always have a choice. Just remember your children are watching.