It’s no secret—being a mom of babies and/or toddlers can be stressful at times. There’s just something about the chaos of the early stage of motherhood that stretches us to our max. But is a mom of littles inevitably doomed to be a stressed mom?
While it’s different for everyone, my personal stress levels seem to ebb and flow in highs and lows. Even in this season of life there are mini seasons. Newborn seasons, teething seasons, seasons of “is my baby getting enough to eat,” and seasons of “stop picking your nose.”
Some of these seasons stress us out more than others, and none of us are immune to occasionally feeling the stress that early motherhood brings. Don’t worry, you’re in good company. It’s not just you. And there are ways to help you to stop being such a stressed mom and to enjoy your season more.
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Why Do Moms Get So Stressed?
Before we get into some practical ways moms in the throes of early motherhood can relieve some of that stress, let’s take a minute to evaluate why we tend to feel so stressed. While these certainly aren’t the only reasons moms get stressed, consider this a basic starting point.
1. They don’t prioritize their well being
*raises hand* Guilty, sometimes.
I know, I know. Everyone is constantly talking about self care and adding it to our never ending to do list. I get it, really. And yes, there are absolutely days when prioritizing your personal well being just doesn’t trump filling your child’s and family’s needs.
There are absolutely days when you have to sacrifice your own needs for the sake of your kids. (Hello, sick kid anyone?) But here’s the key: this should not be the every day norm.
It should not be the normal for you be skipping showers, drinking cold coffee, and going out of your mind insane because you don’t have a single quiet minute to yourself. I know, I’m probably going to catch some crap from saying that, because a LOT of moms actually do live like that. And at one point, so was I.
The point is consistently ignoring your physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health for the sake of everyone else will do nobody any good whatsoever. You can only stretch yourself so thin. And draining yourself will do your child far more harm that good.
2. They don’t parent intentionally
Another reason moms frequently get stressed is because they aren’t parenting intentionally. Look, if we’re being honest, we’ve only got one shot at this. And no, that one little mistake—or even huge handful of mistakes—isn’t going to ruin your child’s life.
Kids are resilient enough to bounce back from our occasional parenting failures. But striving to be intentional about your parenting is absolutely crucial. And you know what? It even lowers your stress levels quite a bit.
No, parenting intentionally doesn’t instantly make it all perfect. Things will still go haywire sometimes, toddlers will still throw tantrums, and sometimes everyone will have a massive, simultaneous meltdown. But being intentional everywhere that you can be will help you to focus on what you can control.
You can’t control how your kids will respond or behave. But you can control your actions, your attitude, your words. Focus on being intentional in the areas you have control over—yourself. Interestingly, focusing on how you interact with your kids and family takes a lot of the stress off when things don’t go as planned.
3. They don’t practice patience
Honestly, patience is a whole other post in itself. Being patient is hard as is, and it’s even harder with babies and toddlers. But patience is yet another quality that you will only get better at if you are being intentional about it.
I’m not saying it’s easy, at all. I won’t say that there aren’t times when I lose my patience, because there definitely are. And sometimes I lose it far sooner than I should!
But failing to actively try to be patient is a sure way to raise your stress levels. A stressed mom is often an impatient one as well—and vise versa. It’s often easier to stop the cycle by working on your patience.
4. They think they have to do it all
This is actually probably the number one reason that we get stressed as a mom. Honestly, I’m really not sure why we get sucked into this line of thinking, but it’s very common. And no, I am not immune to it at all.
For some reason, as soon as we become moms, we start to feel the pressure to be everything and do everything, all the time. Well, I’m here to let you off the hook. The truth is you can’t do it all—and that’s okay!
Trying to do everything and be everything every single day will do nothing but turn you into a stressed out mom. No one is able to do everything, not even moms. You may be able to eventually do everything over the course of several days or weeks or months or years, but you simply cannot do everything all in one day, every single day. It’s not possible, and it’s not something to be ashamed about.
Consider this your free pass to let go of the unrealistic expectations we put on ourselves. Take a deep breath, do what you can today, and work on the rest in the coming days. And don’t for a second feel guilty about letting something go in order to be present with your little ones.
Ways Moms of Littles Can Relieve Stress
We’ve talked about some of the reasons we get stressed as a mom, but now what? Some of the primary reasons are a bit self explanatory when it comes to making positive changes in our life.
But sometimes we need some smaller, practical steps to get started. Here are ten practical things you can do to start relieving your current stress, and prevent yourself from becoming a stressed mom in the future.
1. Practice little self care acts throughout the day
I’ll be the first to say that taking time to put on a DIY spa night for yourself is great, and an quiet, hour long professional massage is literally heaven. While things like that are nice, the truth is that it’s not realistic for most moms to make a regular habit of that kind of self care. Although, that would be pretty nice!
I think most of us need to reevaluate how we think self care. I think too many of us have equivocated it to spa days, when really, self care covers a far wider range of acts. Self care doesn’t have to be a huge, time (and money) consuming investment.
Frankly, there are far smaller acts of self care that, in the long run, are far more sustainable and effective for busy moms. Here are some ideas of small self care acts that you can take every day:
- Taking a shower—even a quick one
- Going to the bathroom by yourself (there’s locks for a reason)
- Drinking your coffee while it’s still hot
- Eating healthily and sufficiently, every meal
- Doing your makeup—even just a little
- Getting dressed in something other than clean pajamas
- Read a few pages of a book
- Drinking more water
- Squeezing in 15 minutes of exercise
- Being kind to yourself
- Giving yourself grace
- Buy yourself some fresh flowers
Here’s a challenge for you. Stop thinking of self care as a big thing that you have to carve out a big chunk of time and money for. Start thinking of it as small actions that improve your physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual well being.
2. Set time aside for intentional self care
Whether it’s five minutes or thirty, start making a point to set aside time for intentional self care acts. It can be one night of the week where you go out and be with friends or give yourself a spa night. Or it can be five minutes throughout the day to drink that hot cup of coffee, or squeeze in that shower.
Whatever it is, start being intentional about it. Specifically set aside time for it, even if it’s just five minutes here and there. Making the time and knowing it’s reserved for you will help relieve some of the stress you feel.
Instead of continuing to build tension because you have no idea when the next break will come, set specific slots of time for self care. Knowing when the next “you time” is coming helps to relieve stress. You will be a significantly less stressed mom when you know when you will get your next reprieve.
3. Have specific time to spend with friends
It’s no secret that spending time with friends can help moms to relax and unwind. When you feel yourself getting overly stressed, schedule in some time with your mom friends.
Making this a regular thing can help you from getting as stressed in the first place. Don’t be afraid to ask for a regular time to get together, and don’t feel weird about scheduling it. Other moms get it—raising babies and kids is a time consuming business, and it’s okay to schedule out your outings.
4. Make time for exercise
Squeezing in some exercise is my go-to right now for relieving stress. It’s pretty well known that exercise releases tension and can reduce stress levels. Not only is it good for your body, but it’s also good for you mentally.
Right now I fit in 15-30 minutes of Pilates with The Balanced Life every weekday, and it definitely helps. And now that the weather is getting nicer, I’ve started going for a walk/run during my hubby’s lunch hour. Since he works just a few minutes from our apartment, he’s able to come home for lunch and watch Elijah while I sneak out for some alone time on a local running track.
Exercise is such a great way to relieve that built up stress, and to prevent it in the first place. If you feel like you’re a stressed mom, make the time to exercise as many days as you can, even if it’s only for 15 minutes a day.
5. Prioritize showering & basic hygiene
Not showering for days is a fairly common phenomenon among moms in the early years of motherhood. Don’t get me wrong, if you are in survival mode—such as the newborn stage—don’t stress about it. Survival mode is a whole other animal.
But let me say this. Taking care of yourself and your basic needs will help you feel far less stressed. If you keep putting off showering in favor of reading 50 more books to your toddler, you’re going to start to feel the stress build up.
I’m not saying don’t read to your toddler. By all means, you should! But don’t sacrifice your basic hygiene needs in an effort to do it all. Your baby or toddler will be just fine to not have your constant attention for five minutes in order to brush your teeth or throw up your hair. Taking care of yourself will help you be ready to face what the day may bring, and help you from getting overly stressed.
6. Delegate chores and responsibilities
Again, you don’t have to do it all. Don’t let yourself feel like you need to—you’re still an awesome mom. I think as moms it can be easy to feel like we are responsible for all the household chores and taking care of the kids 24/7. The truth is we tend to have a distorted view of our role.
Consider your household as a ship, and you are the captain of it. (Okay, technically your husband would be the captain and you the first mate, but stick with me here. It’s not a perfect analogy.) It’s not your job to steer, navigate, trim the sails, hoist the anchor, swab the deck, cook for the crew, and lower the anchor all by yourself. That’s just not possible.
Your job as the “captain of your ship” is to raise your kids to become responsible adults, and to ensure everything ultimately gets taken care of in your house. That doesn’t mean you have to do it all single handed. Yes, moms wear many hats and do many things, and that’s okay. We just need to stop expecting ourselves to do it all, all the time.
Delegate some chores to your kids. It’s absolutely okay and even beneficial to have your kids help out. Even toddlers are able to do some basic chores to help you out—and it’s a good idea to take advantage of that early willingness. Ask your spouse to help out with the kids or some housework when he is home. Good captains do what they are able to do, but they also know when to delegate tasks to the rest of the crew.
7. Give yourself a time out
Time outs are a pretty common, and sometimes frequent, thing in the toddler years. Truth is, sometimes we moms need a time out too.
When you feel yourself getting tense and stressed, take a moment to separate yourself from the situation if possible. Give yourself a couple minutes by yourself to regroup and approach the task or situation with a fresh attitude. It’s not always possible to avoid situations that stress us, but we can usually take a step back to regroup before facing it.
It’s okay to take a few five minute breaks throughout the day to de-stress. Lay your baby in the crib, set your toddler up with a puzzle or books, and escape for just a few minutes to yourself. Even small breaks can make a big difference.
8. Take time to grow as an individual
For a long while after having Elijah, I could feel myself getting more and more stressed. It felt like a lot to take care of a baby and handle all the housework. To make matters worse, I didn’t really have any hobbies at the time. That’s when I started thinking about starting this blog—and eventually did. And I have been significantly less stressed since.
When we start having kids, many of us tend to get stuck in scenarios where we don’t have any hobbies or interests outside of our kids. We stop learning and growing as individuals. And that’s a problem.
One big thing that can help manage and reduce stress is to keep learning and growing as individuals. You’re a mom, but also an individual. Take the time to grow that part of yourself.
9. Let go of things you can’t control
I think part of the reason we get so stressed is because we tend to hold onto things that are actually outside of our control. But we really need to just let some things go.
There’s a lot of things you can be intentional about in motherhood. But there’s also a lot of things that we just don’t have control over. Sometimes, no matter how hard you try, you can’t always control things like milk supply, baby sleeping through the night, and sickness. Do the best that you can, and then be willing to let things go when there’s nothing else to do about it.
10. Remember this is just a season
One trick I’ve found has helped me a lot lately is constantly reminding myself that this is just a season. My toddler being rebellious is just a season. Sleep deprivation is just a season. Struggling to breastfeed is just a season.
It’s all just a season. Sooner or later things will change, and often get better. Try to enjoy the good parts of your season while your in it, by all means. But don’t feel guilty about reminding yourself that the rough times will not last forever. I sure don’t.
Remembering that the hard times will not last forever helps me to gain perspective. I have more patience when I remember it won’t be this hard forever. And I hold less stress when I frequently remind myself of that.
Are you a stressed mom? How do you relieve your stress?
What about you, mama? Do you feel like your a stressed mom? What do you do to help relieve your stress? Share with me in the comments below!