Dear Working Mother,

Life as a working mother can be overwhelming.

House, kids, work, school, crèche, finances, pets, family, friends, home-improvements, self-improvements, changing careers, moving house… the list of things to think about seems endless. My to-do list keeps growing and my mind seems to be constantly trawling through a mental checklist to make sure I don’t forget anything important.

Not only that, but no matter what I’m doing, I often feel like I should be doing something else. Whether it’s spending time with the kids… working on a project… cleaning the house… hanging out with friends… there’s this nagging feeling that I’m not spending my time in the best possible way… that there’s something more important that I should be doing.

So the past few months I’ve been making an effort to change some fundamental things about how I live to try and find some sort of mental peace, to deal with the overwhelm and the stress and to find a way to enjoy the moment more often. Here’s my strategy to de-clutter my mind, body and soul:

De-cluttering the Mind: Juggling a fast-paced and demanding career with a family and household is challenging and trying not to drop any balls can be exhausting. My mind is constantly churning, trying to think of all the things that need my attention… mentally making note of things I need to do or remember. I make lists and set reminders but nothing ever seems to help with the niggling feeling that I’m forgetting something. A friend recently recommended a book called Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-free Productivity by David Allen. I’m mid-way through it and hoping that his GTD system will help me get everything swirling around my head into an organised system. In the book,  David compares a frazzled, overloaded mind to a computer with too many windows open. And that’s exactly how I feel sometimes – like I have a hundred open browsers in my head. I’m hoping this book helps me free my mind of the mental clutter leaving me free to focus on what I’m doing in the moment.

De-cluttering the Body: I’ve always been a bit of a hoarder, I find it difficult to throw things away and I believe my house clutter contributes to some of my mental clutter. So recently when I came across a book called The Life Changing Magic of Tidying by Marie Kondo, I decided to give it a try. You may have heard of her… she’s got an almost cult-like following of fans who swear that following her “Konmari” method of de-cluttering has changed their lives for the better. I’ve read the book and it makes a lot of sense and I’ve started on the mammoth project of permanently de-cluttering my house. So far I’ve thrown out about 10 bags of old clothes, bags and shoes belonging to me alone – and it felt good. And every time I look at my organised wardrobe and drawers, I  have to admit… I feel a spark of joy. I plan to continue the de-cluttering process with the rest of the house… it might take me six or more, but when I’m done I think I’ll feel relieved… and free.

De-cluttering the Soul: I’m not particularly religious, but I do believe that we need to feed and nourish our soul and take time to reflect, breathe and decompress. I’ve been hearing about Mindfulness for years and I’m really interested in trying meditation. I even went as far as to attend a meeting about Transcendental Meditation, but the €600 price tag for the course put me off… In my search for a more affordable solution, I came across Mindfulness: A Practical Guide to Finding Peach in a Frantic World by Professor Mark Williams. The book is based on Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT), a method developed by the author that has been clinically proven to help combat stress, exhaustion, and even depression with just 10-20 minutes meditation a day. I’m working my way through this but I’m really hopeful that it will help me to develop a habit of meditation and help me find my mind’s “off button”.  Meditation might just be the answer to the everyday stress of being a working mother.

We all have our own challenges, and we all have our own ways of dealing with them. Some of my strategies might help some of you and likewise, you may have some great strategies to help me or some other readers.

If you have any tips or strategies for dealing with the overwhelm and stress of being a working mother, we’d love to hear from you – please share your tips in the comments below.

Sincerely,

Elaine Lawless
The Working Mother