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How To Stop Feeling Overwhelmed As A Working Mum…

As a working mum it’s easy for us to feel overwhelmed if not for the majority of the time, then for some of it at least.

There are so many demands on our time and plates that need to be juggled; sometimes it can feel like it’s a full-time job just being the juggler!

I’m no different to you in that as a busy working mum, I sometimes feel the overwhelm creeping up on me. But hopefully this post will at least help you know that you’re definitely not alone in feeling this way, and there are some things that you can do to safeguard your sanity along the way.

Nicola J Rowley Founder of the Working Mum Association on Beating Feelings of Overwhelm as a working mum
Nicola J Rowley, Founder of the Working Mum Association

According to a dictionary definition, the word overwhelm means:

  1. To bury or drown beneath a huge mass of something, especially water
  2. and
  3. have a strong emotional effect on.

I guess the first part of the definition is the one that’s associated with overwhelm the most. That feeling that we’re drowning with how much we have on our plates at any given moment. But it’s the emotional effect that overwhelm has, that can feel even more crippling.

Because at the heart of feeling overwhelmed is the thought that you can no longer do this. You can no longer cope and your emotional well-being suffers as a result.

As most of you will know by now, I’m no stranger to hard work. Up until August last year, I was juggling a four day a week full on role with running the Working Mum Association, my photography business (24 weddings and additional portrait shoots), taking the next steps in my journey as a children’s author (new Middle-Grade book coming soon this year) and most importantly of all, trying to be there for my now four-year-old.

As you can probably see from the above, it’s no wonder that at points I felt like I was quite literally drowning. But instead of sinking – I chose to swim and reached out to others who could help me.

So for the photography, I had to outsource a lot of the editing, whilst still retaining editorial control. For the Working Mum Association and my Author business – I would write the content but would get a Virtual Assistant to help make the graphics and post everything on a daily basis across my social media channels. And throughout it all, I had a cleaner.

That last point is really valid. Because as a working mum you can’t be expected to do everything all of the time; something has to give. So outsourcing to others is the best way to be able to get things done. And the cleaner just means that it’s one less thing I’ve had to think about, so I’ve had more time to spend with my family. Thankfully, ours is also a dab hand at tidying.

And it’s the same for you. Look at who around you can help you with something. If you have family living nearby or a helpful partner, can they look after the children one night, whilst you have a night out or go for a run?

Can the children help at the end of the day by getting into the habit of picking up their toys?

It sounds so simple, but after a hard day at work, the last thing you want to be doing after dinner is crawling around on your hands and knees picking up small pieces of Lego. Sound familiar? Get them to help before they watch any TV – that way the TV becomes a reward for them learning to put their things away. It also means you will get back a precious ten minutes to yourself when they’re finally tucked up in bed.

Outsource where at all possible to help you beat any overwhelm

The other thing that I’ve found is a good way to cope with overwhelm (and I don’t recommend it gets to this stage for you) is to have a good rant or cry. Many a time I have found myself in the past sitting at 11pm at night dealing with work issues – asking myself what on earth I was doing. One time it got so bad that after I cut my leg open during a media launch and needed stitches in A&E – I was still the only one sorting out transport issues and responding to people, not only from the hospital waiting room but then afterwards from my sofa, whilst drugged up on painkillers. Needless to say, after that episode there were a few tears shed and a rant was had. Returning to everything five minutes later, everything felt so much better. Sometimes it’s just so much better for things to come out rather than stay in.

And that’s the other thing – you need to know when enough is enough. Is there something going on in your life that really you could do without? If so, work out how you can get rid of it or find a solution around it so that you can get the support you need.

Your health and your well-being should always be of paramount importance and nothing should ever take priority over that.

Another thing to think about is prioritising and a great tool to help with this is time-blocking where you plan out what you’re going to do and when so you’re maximising the little time that you do have. This way you won’t get sidetracked by things that aren’t as important but will still manage to get through the really important ones first. And let’s face it, usually it’s the big projects that can seem insurmountable at the beginning.

Probably the most important thing to mention though is please don’t suffer in silence. Let someone else close to you know how you’re feeling – it will really help. I know as working mums we’re so used to just getting on with things – but sometimes you just need to vent or let everything out. There is no shame in admitting that you’re struggling. It’s actually a real strength.

And if you don’t feel you have anyone you can confide in enough – come and join us over on the Working Mum Association Facebook Group. It’s a closed group for a reason. You can say what you like and it won’t go any further. And we welcome rants any day of the week, no matter how big or small.

Together, we can beat the overwhelm… x

Why Working Mums Need to Know They’re Not Alone

Nicola J Rowley the Founder of the Working Mum Association on Loneliness and Working Five years ago J was born and just like most first time mums experience, my world was turned upside down and inside out. It was far more than just the lack of sleep or that initial lack of routine. Something in me literally shifted. I had so much love for this little person that I immersed myself so fully in his well-being and care that I lost my own identity.

And then there were the tears.

At first, everyone assumed it was the so-called ‘baby blues’ but there is never really a one-stop explanation as to why you feel this way. Why something so seemingly innocent can set you off.

I remember the day that I was waiting in line in the Apple store as my iPad had seemingly given up the ghost. J could only have been about five weeks old at the time. I’d taken my number and had sat patiently for 45 minutes waiting to be seen. Thankfully, this was also the longest time that J had ever slept during the day. But as a new mum still finding her way in the world, after an hour I knew he wasn’t going to last much longer. So when I went to the counter to ask about my number, which hadn’t been called – and was told “Oh that was called half an hour ago, and when no one came forward, we moved on. We’re on to seeing other customers now,” I spontaneously dissolved into tears in front of everyone.

That poor sales assistant probably didn’t know what had hit him and I’ll admit it wasn’t my finest moment but the iPad had come to symbolise, in a very short space of time, a way to stay in touch with the outside world. The world with no spit up, no smelly nappies, no endless walks around the block to ensure there might be some rest from the crying of which there was a lot.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing of course, but the truth was, despite having so much love for this little person, I had never felt so alone.

The mental health charity, Mind says that people usually feel lonely for one of two reasons:

  • They simply don’t see or talk to anyone very often
  • Even though they’re surrounded by people, they don’t feel understood or cared for

During my maternity leave, knowing what I know now – I can identify with both of those.

We’d joined an NCT group, though because I’d wanted to do a specific maternity keep fit class, which was only held on a Tuesday night, I’d had to look at classes outside of the village where we live. I naively thought it wouldn’t matter.

In reality what it means was that each member of the group although not far away was more scattered.

We used to meet regularly on a Wednesday afternoon, the same time when all the local mums to me were going along to the nearby children’s centre and forging those early friendships.

But it didn’t take long before I felt like an outsider.

It didn’t start that way of course, but it became apparent that there was a lack of understanding if I was tearful about something and after the sleep training (which had to happen to safeguard our sanity), myself and J were always the last ones to arrive. Then on any rare nights out, I couldn’t afford to spend as much, and would always be the one bowing out early, mainly because I had work commitments the next day.

I was lucky in that I had a lovely friend who was introduced to me not long after J was born whose daughter was the same age. We used to meet and go for long walks to catch up. But outside of those times, it was very much just myself and J.

And then of course after a year I went back to work.Working Mum Association Supporting Inspiring and Motivating Working Mums Everywhere

Now, this is the point for most mums where they start to feel more isolated. They are no longer able to hang out and have playdates or meet by the swings because they have now swapped mid-week nappy changing for meetings and achieving a decent ROI for their companies, whilst they focus on their KPI’s.

I was talking to a fellow working mum just last week and she mentioned how when she did have a day off, she would go along to the toddler groups and just feel like she was completely by herself. There were the mums who all knew each other, and then there was her, sat on the sidelines with her daughter.

And that’s why I launched the Working Mum Association in July 2017, because I never wanted any other mum to go through what I had done. The massive shift in returning to work, feeling that I was doing a daily juggle whilst missing my son terribly was one of the toughest things I’ve ever had to do.

And that is why no working mum should feel she is alone. The Working Mum Association provides an online community of like-minded women and mums, who do what you do – the daily juggle. The mums who balance work life and family life and miss their children so much, and some days it really sucks.

But there is also so much to be grateful for. The fact that we’re setting an example by showing our children we’re strong, independent women who work hard for a living. And the fact they will grow up knowing their mum did all she could to give them a better future.

Together as a community of working mums, we’re stronger.

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