"How can I have an underlying sense of calm even when everything is so chaotic? Thanks, Kathy M. " This question was recently submitted by a reader. I'm so excited to share the answer with you today! Being a parent means having "to-do" lists, Whether written out or in our heads, the checklists are always there. In fact, some of us even have lists of our lists to keep track of everything! (If that's you, there is no judgment here...I'm actually wishing I was that organized!) So, how can you find calm within the chaos?
First Steps: Define it When we are feeling stressed or frustrated it is easy to make everything a big deal. Our frustration grows into an angry attitude with everyone and sometimes it's hard to even know where to start. It's best to start at the beginning. Ask yourself, "What has me so overwhelmed?" * Is it the normal hustle and bustle of family life? * Are the kids in multiple activities? * Do you feel like you are your kids' personal Uber driver? * Are extra holiday activities creating the chaos? Our sources of stress can be external demands on our time and attention or it could be internal self-criticism. Either way, we need to identify the problem before we try to resolve it. Step 2: Dig Deeper Once we identify our frustration, we need to "peel the onion" to see what's really the source of our feelings. This mom wants a sense of calm, so what feelings are blocking her from achieving that? (Each of the following questions ties to its counterpart above in order.) * Do you feel you're the only one doing "all the things"? * Do you wish you had more time for yourself? * Are you missing quality time with the kids? Driving them from place to place can have you feeling more like their chauffeur than their parent. * Have you taken on more than time allows? Are you feeling obligated to do things you don't really want to do? Step 3: Delete Okay, this is the point where you start finding your voice and setting boundaries. Look at the things causing the chaos and see what you can eliminate from the list. I know, this is easier said than done, but when you set boundaries to protect what's important, then it's easier to say no to other things. What is one small thing you don't absolutely have to do? Ask yourself, "Will the world come to a crashing halt if this one little thing doesn't get done?" If the answer is no...then toss it off your list! For kids with busy schedules, see if you can carpool with other families. I'm betting you're not the only parent feeling the stress of all that driving around. Maybe one of you can drop the kids at the activity and the other can pick them up, allowing each of you to schedule errands around that trip. Having your kids own some of the responsibility helps too! One thing that may help is to sit down with each child and help him make a checklist of all the things that need to be done in order to be ready to leave the house for his activity. Together you can decide how much time is needed to complete the checklist and when he needs to have it done prior to his activity. I used to have my kids pack their soccer bags right after dinner on the nights before games. If they got it done then they could go outside and play before it was time for showers and bedtime. This method instills the "work before play" habit in them early. Too many things you feel obligated to do? Are there a couple of smaller items you can eliminate? For example, if you're assigned to bring cookies for a party buy them instead of baking them. TIp: No one will remember 3 months from now that you brought store-bought cookies and if they decide to carry that grudge let them! That's on them, not on you. Step 4: Delegate Okay, this is the one most of us have the hardest time with. We want everything to be done just right, so we figure we have to do it ourselves. I get that, but what's the cost to you? Also, if someone else really loves doing that one thing that is just another "to-do" item on your list...let them do it! They'll be happy to be able to do something they love and they'll probably get it done in a shorter amount of time because they're good at it. It's a win-win. Even if the result isn't "perfect" at least it's done and you're not sleep-deprived. It's better to hand some things off. This includes getting your spouse/partner and kids involved. Let them take some ownership (and learn some new skills). BONUS: they'll gain a sense of accomplishment. Even if they balk about it, let them know how much you appreciate their efforts and how you "couldn't possibly have gotten everything done without their help." Okay...I know some of you are thinking this might be too much work but if you want to regain a sense of calm and enjoy your family you have got to let some of these things go. Parenting is not about perfection! It's about enjoying time and making memories. Final thought: Do you want your kids to remember the towels were always perfectly folded in the linen closet or that you took the time to play a game or go for a walk with them? DEFINE, DELETE, AND DELEGATE yourself into a calmer state of