Stress, Neurotics, and a Plea for Help

(Please note: Any self-derision in this article is largely tongue-in-cheek. While I am critical of myself in an mostly almost entirely healthy way, I’m also well aware of God’s infinite love for me and the fact that he wants me to love me too. And I do! I’m only human, but also trying to do better.)

The Story I’m Hoping isn’t Prophetic

Ray’s neuropsychologist shared a true story today of a young caregiver husband who literally passed out from malnutrition, exhaustion, and stress, hitting his head and causing a concussion. I think I’m taking better care of myself than that, but sometimes I do wonder.

The Stressor

So, here’s one major cause of my current stress: keeping my house in “livable” status. Right now, as I write, I’ve finally achieved it. Unfortunately, it’s not likely to last beyond 7:05 tomorrow morning, at which point in time the breakfast-making and lunch-packing mess, plus a toddler pulling out every toy we own, will throw it back into make-me-want-to-puke-or-scream-or-cry-or-maybe-all-three status.

So, we’re in livable status for the moment, but here’s the problem. I’ve been going non-stop since I woke up early this morning, and I just finally got to sit down and “relax” (if writing a blog post counts for relaxation) at 10:30. Livable status was achieved at 10:29.

Further exacerbating said stress is the knowledge that we’re having company Friday night, and Friday day promises to be a crazy mess of two doctor’s appointments for Ray, early pickup for four kids, preschool pickup for the toddler, running two kids allover the city for outings, and – oh, yeah – parent teacher conferences.

The reality is that, by the time our company arrives around 6:30, I’ll be lucky to have that breakfast/lunch/toddler mess cleaned up, let alone have dinner ready to be served.

Yes, I know. I never should have scheduled all of this for the same day. But I like to think I’m SuperWoman… until it becomes so incredibly obvious that I’m not. In my defense, I invited our friends before I knew any of this other stuff was going to happen. I scheduled the doctor’s appointments because we’ve been trying to get in since March and this date opened up. And the kids’ activities were planned by the PTO only a few weeks ago, but since their whole class is going… how can I say no?

My Neurotic Move

So, anyways, I actually pulled the slightly totally neurotic move of cancelling the plans with our friends, largely due to the knowledge that I would be freaking out trying to get the house cleaned. There were other reasons, but when I stopped and was totally honest with myself, I realized that the desire for a “company ready” house was playing a rather large role in my decision.

I know. It’s terrible! I’m an idiot and a social moron. What was I thinking?

I’ve re-extended the invitation, but they may now think that I didn’t really want them to come, or that I’m completely psycho, or both. The former is definitely not the case. As for the latter, well… the jury’s out.

Help, Please!

Okay. So, here’s why I’m writing this post. There are some very wise women who read this blog, and, even if you don’t identify yourself as such, I’m sure you have words of wisdom to help me solve my dilemma. (The dilemma being how to stay on top of my house without working until 10:30 every night, not the dilemma of over-scheduling myself. We can deal with my SuperWoman complex another time.)

The kids are already helping, although I’m sure they could help more. They each have time allotted each night for helping around the house. One vacuums, another mops, one helps with laundry, and a fourth in the kitchen. However, they’re notoriously awful about picking up after themselves or the toddler… so I could use some help there. Seriously, this toddler stage nearly kills me every time.

Given all that, what magical tips do you have that will help an overworked momma stay on top of the never-ending household mess? I’m sure I’m not the only mom struggling with this, so you never know who will benefit from your wisdom. Organizational tips, time management strategies, positive self-talk, you name it.

Please, please, please share your thoughts in the comments below!

(I’d rather not pass out and suffer a concussion – or worse!)

Update with some good news – I think I have carpool arranged for the kids, so there’s one thing off my plate!

16 comments on “Stress, Neurotics, and a Plea for Help
  1. Cara lathrop says:

    1. Clean house doesn’t equal happy family. My house has been messy for years.
    2. Ask kids to do more. I was never good at this until the last year. They have to pick up room on weekends before they do anything else. Also they put away laundry and help with clearing table. During week I let rooms be a mess just have them focus on once a week. Do they like it, no. Has it created less work, yes.
    3. Hired help when you can get it is magical.


    • stephanie says:

      Thank you, Cara! I have a plaque that reads, “Good moms have sticky floors, dirty ovens, and happy kids.” I definitely need to focus on that more often!

  2. Stephanie,
    What you’re describing is caregiver stress, of course. I also struggle with this. Some days or weeks are harder than others. What helps me is to take one day at a time. So I’ve done what you did…cancel plans on tough days…and good friends understand.

    First and foremost comes meeting your basic needs. Since I have a lot of health problems of my own, I take naps, even at odd times of the day. Sleep helps tremendously with stress. So does taking a walk. Might sound oversimplified, but you needn’t feel guilty if plans change. The key to successful caregiving is flexibility.

    • stephanie says:

      Jeannie, it’s so good to hear from you, since I no you understand. Hearing that you, too, have cancelled plans helps me to forgive myself when I’ve been beating myself up. Thank you. (And I did take a nap today! It felt REALLY good!)

  3. Susan says:

    My dear girl – take a breath. Anyone who knows and loves you knows you are doing your very best. If someone is going to judge you because your house isn’t picked up or the meal you invited them for isn’t ready the minute they walk in the door then what kind of friend – or family member are they anyway?

    You’re a mom of 5 and a wife of someone who depends on you and a caregiver of all. Take a breath – that’s why God created crock-pots, pizza delivery and take-out! No one in their right mind should expect everything in it’s place and a perfectly set table in your situation.

    You are amazing and we know where your strength comes from – rest in that. If you have to cancel a plan or two along the way – that’s just life for someone in your situation. We love you for you and all that you do. Just take a breath, put up your feet, pour a cup of coffee (or a glass of wine) and take a moment just for you. You deserve it.

    • Michelle (Parrish) Cox says:

      I totally agree with this one! And I have 16-18 years on you..but I have multiple health issues myself, plus my seriously disabled mama has been with us for over three years..I am her caregiver..with the help of my wonderful hubby..carpooling for the kids..its a no-brainer, as for help with the toddler at least one day a week..maybe a friend ir family member has one close to the same can trade back and forth..
      As for the what you can, and dont sweat the small stuff..throw things in closets, close doors, etc..
      Order pizza..most places also have salads now..make a pitcher of iced tea and one of lemonade..voila..dinner
      Save your will need it when they are all teenagers…our blended gave me five teenagers and a preteen all at once..and I was still working full time, and hubby had two jobs..I learned to let go and decision I ever made!!
      Now we happily have 15 total grandchildren…and loving life..
      My daddy had parkinsons and related dementia for the last twelve years of his life..I draw a lot from thise days..whatever gets you thru..lastly, call me anytime, day or night..I am here for you are doing a wonderful job

      • stephanie says:

        Michelle, you’re so kind. Thank you for your wonderful words of wisdom. I know you’ve been there, done that… and so much more. Thank you.

    • stephanie says:

      You’re right, Susan. My friends are far too kind to hold toys on the floor, a late meal, or any such nonsense against me!

  4. Megan says:

    Anyone coming over to a house with a toddler should expect a mess…and you know that good friends jump in to help, so don\’t stress about a clean house…that\’s not why your friends are coming over! They come for the company of a relaxed hostess. People around you have a need to serve the Lord in a very real way and remember that sometimes you can provide that opportunity. Just ask! I\’d much rather clean someone else\’s house…and feel great about helping them.

    For me, I have a loose schedule of household cleaning (hardly ever happens on these days, but makes me feel more in control to have a plan)….
    -Wednesdays- bathrooms
    -Thursdays- mop kitchen
    -3 or 4 or 5 days a week – spend a few minutes on laundry
    -bedrooms on Saturdays
    -basement once a month
    -kids have weekly/daily chores they are required to accomplish (bathroom mirrors and sinks, vacuuming, taking out recycling, etc.)
    -but if anyone drops by unexpected….you may not be able to see the kitchen countertops under dishes, school paperwork, mail, tools and random projects, you\’ll probably trip over shoes/toys, and the bathroom will be far from spotless.

    -slow and steady wins the race….when I really get in the weeds it\’s because I haven\’t done ANYTHING for days. If I keep at it a little at a time–3 minutes here, 7 minutes there….things are less overwhelming.

    Hope this helps! You\’re not alone…

    • stephanie says:

      Megan, thank you! I was once in the habit of doing that little bit every day and then the craziness of life got in the way. It’s a great routine to be in and I will do my best to recapture it!

  5. Jeni says:

    I heard some great advice the other day that may help. Make your to do list. Decide what things you absolutely must get done. Draw a line (she calls it the suck line, as in, everything below this line will just suck this week and that’s ok), then only focus on the things above that line. Repeat the following week (or day). Somethings that were below the line may move up, or they may not, and that’s find too. Above all, hang in there and find peace in knowing that every day you are doing the very best you can.

  6. Beth says:

    Not really an answer to your question, but it is what came to my mind: A priest asked Mother Teresa (aka Saint Teresa of Calcutta) if she ever worried about the things she could not do that were on her “always over-scheduled and overworked daily to-do list”. She looked at him somewhat puzzled and said that she would never worry about anything she did not get done that day because if God had wanted it done, he would have supplied her the time to do it. And she never forfeited her prayer time for another cause. God is giving you just enough time to do what He knows you can do. Use every minute to be present to the one(s) you are with and to share with them your immense love and compassion and you will find your way. Prayers cover you, sweet lady.

  7. Megan says:

    Just want to say I continue to pray for your family and I think you are one amazing mom and wife whom I look up to!

    One thing to maybe look up is a “yes” space for your littlest one that is gated (Look up yes space from Janet Lansbury and RIE parenting; I don’t necessarily prescribe to one way of parenting but I’ve gotten some tidbits here and there from her blog). It can be a small space with not a lot of toys (maybe 3 bins you rotate in and out). This limits the mess to a contained area that can’t be dragged to other areas and also if you need to go to another room, unload groceries, etc. you know without a doubt he’s safe. It also promotes independent play 🙂 I know with older kiddos who can roam freely it may not work great if he wants to be with them, but maybe for the times they are at school and you need to tend to other things. You probably already do something similar, but just wanted to share what I’ve had success with when I have a multi tasking day and I feel like I’m picking up every hour! Continued prayers!

  8. Christina says:

    1. I keep a laundry basket in the foyer for discarded or dirty clothing.

    2. When company comes, collect dirty dishes etc into a plastic tub that you can quickly stash in the dishwasher.

    3. I find that when I have to much clutter hanging around it means I need to clean out the closets. Once I clear out the closets I have room to put things away!

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