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The Juggle Struggle

The moms I know, both friends and clients, are in the midst of what I like to call "The Juggle Struggle". It's the time of year when kids' activities are in full swing - from sports practices and games, to band rehearsals and concerts, to clubs, to field trips, to all the end of the school year stuff. It's similar to the rest of the year, except towards the end of April and early May, it seems especially amplified with all the extra things to think about. While you are trying to keep up with the requests for field day volunteers you also must be thinking ahead to summer and figure out what to do with these kids for 10 empty weeks. And if you happen to wait to think about it until spring you are late to the camp sign up game.

Over the years, my Sunday morning routine has been to sit down at my computer and spend time trying to put the pieces of the puzzle together that is the week ahead. Just a few days ago, we had five of us with different activities or appointments all colliding on our google calendar within the same three hour span of time that is 4-7 PM. (Fortunately one is in college and not part of the current math equation). Who is taking who to this practice? How is Kid A getting to their game across town when I have to pick up Kid B from her activity at the same time? Oh wait, Kid C has a concert and Dad has a doctor's appointment. Oh and I have a meeting. So, over my coffee last weekend I had to make some decisions and prioritize. I decided we will have to miss Kid C's concert, I need to ask another mom for help transporting Kid B, and I'm not going to make my meeting. In years past, I would have stressed so much about trying to figure out how we can make it to everything but I've realized we can't do it all. Sometimes one of my kids has to miss a practice. Sometimes I have to say no to something to preserve my sanity. Sometimes I have to ask for help. And I've learned that that's ok.

Asking for help is not a sign of weakness - in fact, it's the complete opposite. Being able to recognize areas of life that are a struggle and seeking a solution for it is a sign of awareness and insight. Too often I see moms of young kids beating themselves up and having a ton of guilt because they can't do it all for their kids - or they need to rely on help from time to time and feel like a failure as a result.

To help yourself manage The Juggle Struggle I suggest adjusting your expectations. Adjust them for yourself AND others. Frequently moms come to me stressed and overwhelmed yet they continue to expect different results when doing the same thing. Nothing changes if nothing changes. So, to help minimize stress and disappointment, the first step is to set and manage expectations.

Identify what you expect from yourself.

Are you trying to be everything to everyone else but leaving little time for your own needs? I always tell my clients not to hold themselves to a higher standard than they would a friend. Often we are our own worst critics.

Communicate your expectations to your family.

Tell your partner what you need from him or her. Tell your kids what you expect of them in order to get out of the house. Frustrated that you are doing more than your fair share of chores? Take steps to share your frustrations and then work with your partner to come to a solution. And if your partner isn't respecting your needs or feelings, then seek help from a professional because you deserve a voice.

Identify what your family goals and values are.

Of course we want to give our kids opportunities and participate in lots of things. But only if that works for you and the rest of your family. We have had to make decisions over the years to not sign our kids up for the higher, more competitive level in their sport because we know that the practice and game schedule would be too much for us. We've explained to our kids that there are two of us and four of them and we can't do everything. They may not understand it in the moment but over the long run when mom and dad aren't spread too thin, everyone benefits.

Don't want to sign up for something because it's another thing to manage?

Don't sign up. Feeling obligated to go to that social event but not in the mood? Don't go. Identify what YOU need to recharge and it's always ok to change your mind. Now, don't go shirking all of your responsibilities but be mindful of what you agree to and what works for your family dynamics.

Realize that even the best jugglers drop a ball every once in a while.

Give yourself grace because you are doing your best to manage. If life throws you curveballs then prioritize what needs to happen vs. what you want to happen. It may mean that your to do list isn't even looked at because you are in survival mode. Get okay with the fact that even on the best days that to-do list isn't going to end.

May is Maternal Mental Health month. Whether you have one kid, five kids, or are trying to have a kid and aren't a mom just yet...realize everyone is juggling a lot. It's exhausting managing your family, your partner, and yourself. All the emotions, all the stuff. Make your mental health a priority by identifying and doing what YOU need to feel refreshed and to fill your cup. Because you can't keep any balls in the air if you fall on your face. Keep up the great work mamas - being a mom is tough, but so are you. You've got this!

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