5 Tips To Deal With The Endless Work Of Motherhood

workneverdone copyOnce we have children everything changes. We have the responsibility of another life which brings a whole heap of work. We live in a strange 24 hour world of demands, where we work harder than ever before but often find it challenging to say what we have actually done.

As mothers we work harder than ever before but find it hard to say what we have actually done Click To Tweet

Frustratingly, it can feel like we never complete anything. The housework, washings and cooking is never over because as soon as we finish, it just needs to be done again.

Likewise, parenting itself is never completed. In fact, with parenting there are very few specific goals that can be attained. Caring and nurturing our children is a constant with no actual targets other than to do the best we can.

It is well known that humans don’t operate that well when we have lots of tasks on the go. Our brains don’t file away jobs that are part completed. Multiply each unfinished task by the 101 things that most of us are doing and our poor old minds get pretty fogged up. Ring any bells?

Ongoing work also doesn’t suit us as we don’t get that much needed sense of satisfaction and achievement from completing something. Sounds like life with children to me.

Many of us feel a job is well done once it is completed and this can be a real issue once we become mothers where nothing ever gets finished. So with all that in mind, here are five tips to help with that ‘never completing anything’ feeling.

1. Reassess what ‘needs’ to be done

We often believe there are things we ‘need’ to do. But, really questioning these assumptions can significantly ease the pressure we feel.

Most of us struggle to maintain the standards we had before we have children. But by being very careful about what we categorise as ‘need to complete’ tasks, helps us by removing the pressure to have things as they were before.

For example, I had to learn that having the kitchen in a good enough state that I could go in and cook the next meal was a ‘need to’. But having a tidy house was not a ‘need to’ task because I could manage without it.

Acknowledging that some things will never truly be completed as they were before we had kids, helps us drop them from the eternal list in our minds.

2. Prioritise your needs

Don’t forget to prioritise your own needs. They are as important as the chores and funnily enough when we have done something for ourselves we often have more energy for everything else we need to do.

When we have babies and young children and the day is spent just doing the urgent here and now things of feeding, nappy changing and rocking, then the priority might be to sleep in any spare time.

But with time that changes and other things can be undertaken. For me, when my son started sleeping more consistently through the night, I allotted ten minutes to write during his nap so that I could achieve something for I wanted.

3. Every so often write a “Have done’ list

One great thing to occasionally do when we begin to feel that we are getting nothing done is to write a ‘Have done’ list. As you go through the day write all the things you do, no matter how small. It is a bit of a pain but it is amazing in the evening to see how much is on there. I guarantee that any mother will use multiple sheets of paper.

4. Write your own appraisal

This sounds a bit crazy but stopping to asses what we do by writing our own appraisal is a great way to help us see what we actually achieve over a period of time.

Don’t forget to include the hundreds of out of hours jobs you do without complaining (well, mostly without complaining), the disturbed nights and the utter dedication that we all have for our kids. Any employer would be bowled over if we applied the dedication to a job that we do for our children without even thinking.

5. Know that it is not easy

Babies and young children can’t be scheduled or put on hold, until our to do list is looking less packed and we feel satisfied. Realising that parenting is actually pretty out of step with how we best operate, helps.

Caring for a baby is truly endless. The work in progress is everywhere, under our feet, in our wash baskets, at the bottom of the stairs and in our arms. But that is how it is for everyone and one thing that is guaranteed is that it will change. Slowly at first but then one day we get to look back and remember how life has altered, realising we do have time to get on top of things every now and then.

I would love to hear from you about any thing you did to help you with that feeling of never getting anything done.

So what is next?

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51 thoughts on “5 Tips To Deal With The Endless Work Of Motherhood

    1. Reassessing what needs to be done it actually quite tough and takes time to adjust. It takes being really challenged by tiredness for us to realise that many things we hold as important actually are not. Thanks for your comment.

  1. What a wonderful, helpful and refreshing post to read! You’re absolutley right in that parenting and all the work that comes with that is just relentless and I love these tips so much, especially the one about prioritising our needs. (Something that most mums are notoriously bad at). I personally find that when I make time for myself, I am a much better and happier Mum. Great post! X

    Katie / Pouting In Heels recently posted…How to have a GREAT family holiday (with little stress)My Profile

    1. Thanks Katie for your comment. I feel the same. It can feel the opposite, as if prioritising our needs will stop us getting stuff done but I have found over and over again that if I do something fun then I can get the chores done in half the time.

  2. I am on baby number five and the thing that stopped me fretting continually about sticky floors and mountains of washing was something a client said to me.
    She said as the children grow up and fly the best what will they remember about their childhood; a clean house or great trips out and time with their Mum.
    I’ve lived by this since. Just go to bed ridiculously late to still get my clean floors!! X

    1. Thanks for that Emma. It is so true as well. Kids really don’t care about everything being tidy but they do know about the love and fun they experience. It is those things that shape them, not a tidy house. Great tip.

    1. Hi Rachel. Thanks for your comment. I would love to know how you find the ‘have done’ list and how many pages it spans. Let me know if you can fit it on your ‘to do list’:-)

    1. Thank so much for your comment.

      You made me remember a mum who mentioned the state of her car after I told her that mine is so far down my priority list, it never gets a look in. She told me that two weeks back her little boy was hungry and she had no snacks but had been shopping so opened a box of cereal which he promptly spilled. Two weeks on and she had not got round to clearing it up – such is life with multiple children. the forever ‘I must do that’ only for life to take over and it to go right out of our heads. You are so not alone:-)

  3. I love this list! I love that you included writing a have-done list! I started doing that shortly after my daughter was born (over 2 years ago!) and it has helped immensely. Being able to see that I have accomplished something when it feels like I have done very little keeps my spirits up!

    Brandyn Blaze recently posted…Mommy Meetup Mondays Week #20My Profile

    1. Wow Brandyn, you are the first person I have met who has done the ‘have done’ list. I found it really helpful too. Thanks for the comment.

  4. What a great post – I always feel like I have so many things on the go and my mind is often boggled up. I remember when Zach was tiny, I got nothing done because he was always feeding or always sleeping on me. I’d feel guilty about not getting anything done until I looked down at my beautiful boy and realised that I was getting something done – I was being a mum. And when he was a little bit older and went through a stage of knocking papers/leaflets/anything off of the coffee table, it stayed on the floor until he went to bed haha! Thanks so much for linking up with #TwinklyTuesday

    1. Hi Lisa, Your comment has reminded me of the saying that ‘We are human beings, not human doings’. Motherhood is often about ‘being’ there for our kids. They don’t care what we do. Yet for us it can be hard because we often define ourselves and get satisfaction from what we do. I remember that feeling well. Thanks for your comment.

    1. Hi Becky, Let me know if you do the ‘Have done’ list. It would be nice to have an idea of how many pages you fill up.

  5. Good, simple, practical advice. Number 1 in particular is spot on. It’s always worth critically appraising what is ‘need to do’ and what is either ‘nice to do’ or stuff that we do just because it’s become part of the routine. I did a similar inventory at New Year around some of my routines, in terms of work, family life and blogging, and jettisoned a load of stuff that I don’t miss at all. Okay, I’ve since filled up the spare time with a load of other stuff, so maybe I need to take a step back and do it again … 🙂
    Tim recently posted…ShutterbugsMy Profile

    1. I think that happens to us all. It is not a one time job to reassess our work load. We need to do it every so often. Thanks for your comment.

  6. Great post and love these tips on dealing with the endless jobs that never quite get finished. I love the idea of a ‘have done’ list to remind yourself how much you have achieved. I once wrote down a day in my life (and included a lot of the little things) and that really helped me to appreciate how much I really do in a day. If my to-do list gets too long these days I divide in into ‘essential’, ‘desirable’ and ‘if time allows’ and that really helps take the pressure off too.
    Louise recently posted…Cousin relationships explainedMy Profile

    1. Thank you Louise for that. I like the dividing of the list. Sometimes it can be hard not to put a job on a list, so the categories would make it easier. Great tip.

    1. You are so right, it is hard. For most of us it is a gradual process of reassessing our work load repeatedly. However when we find it too difficult to stop doing something, even when stopping (or reducing) is in our best interest, then it is worth considering what is holding us back. Often there is a deeper belief about ourselves in there and that is what we need to challenge. For example, we might feel that if we don’t have everything done then we are not good enough or we must always work hard to prove ourselves to others. Asking the question ‘What does it mean about me when I don’t do……..?” is the best way to get started. Once we know what our deeper held beliefs are then we can really challenge them and begin to make the changes we want.

      I don’t know if this applies to you but if it does I hope it helps. Goodluck

  7. A beautifully written article. Some great tips and a good reminder to look at the bigger picture. I very often find myself quite stressed about all the jobs that (I see as) need doing. I race around like a mad chook while my husband leisurely sips a coffee apparently oblivious to the mountains of washing, dirty nappies and tea that needs cooking. I wish I could be more relaxed about all the everyday jobs but I have tried and I find it more stressful to try not to think about them! I have no other tips, other than to read this post a few more times 😉
    Gretta recently posted…Pantry OrganisationMy Profile

    1. Hi Gretta. Thanks for your comment. You are right, there is a balance to be struck on our work load. Do too little and it is counter productive but try to keep everything in tip top condition with children is impossible and leaves no time for the good stuff in life.

      I dont know if this applies to you but there is another tip I have that works at a deeper level when we find we cant stop ourselves from doing stuff that we know we could leave.

      When we feel so pressured and cant stop doing something, even when stopping (or reducing) is in our best interest, then it is worth considering what is holding us back. Often there is a deeper belief about ourselves in there and that is what we need to challenge. For example, we might feel that if we don’t have everything done then we are not good enough or we must always work hard to prove ourselves to others. Asking the question ‘What does it mean about me when I don’t do……..?” is the best way to get started. Once we know what our deeper held beliefs are then we can really challenge them and begin to make the changes we want.

      If this does apply to you, then I hope it helps. We all have our deeper held beliefs about ourselves and they are good to question every so often.

  8. This is such an amazing read. There are a lot of things that I want to say but since being a mother I lack the brain and the energy to write and say it and this is one of those things that I would have written.

    A never ending story is how I also define parenting and … sometimes just mental noting everything is already tiring. So this tips are so nice to have just to remind myself to stop and see everything that I had done and then plan on whats the next step.

    I hope I am making some sense. #sharewithme
    Merlinda Little ( @pixiedusk) recently posted…Through Sebastian’s EyesMy Profile

    1. Thank you so much for your kind comments. You are making sense and I am glad you have found it useful. I love your phrase ‘A never ending story’. The work is never done but it does get easier with time and until then being selective helps keep us sane:-) Good luck

  9. Hi, I’m a first time visitor and I must say this was beautifully written and also I LOVE the name and concept behind your blog. You are so right, when people ask what motherhood is like I say ‘intense’ but another word I’d use is ‘relentless’ (of course I have many more positive words too!). It can feel so overwhelming, but you’re spot on about taking the time to pat yourself on the back, and also prioritising according to what you think is necessary, and what is actually important.

    I’ve always put spending time making memories with my kids way above keeping that perfect home or being that mum at who’s always baking for the school fair (yup, I buy). What I take from your post is the importance of that ‘have done’ list – boy do I need that, because my daily to do list gets seriously insane! Thanks for the post.
    Babes about Town recently posted…WWE RAW London: Babes Night OutMy Profile

    1. Thanks so much for the compliments. I am glad you liked the post. I agree with you, the memories with our children are the things that are valuable in the long run. And I love the word you used ‘relentless’. I interviewed lots of women for the book I am writing and it was a word that a number of mums used. I would love to know how many pages you use up when you write your ‘have done’ list. I bet it is a lot. But I also know that contacting me back would just be another thing on your ‘to-do list’ that you could do without:-)

    1. Hi Katy, I used to do it occasionally and it is amazing to turn that sense of getting nothing done into ‘Wow, that’s a lot!’. Thanks for commenting.

  10. Too right, it ain’t all that easy is it?! I love the idea of a have done list, such a great idea to remind yourself of what you have achieved rather than always focussing on what you haven’t!

    Thanks for linking up to #TheList xx

  11. So easy to forget how much we do achieve each day, so you’re right. I used to do many appraisals at work but wouldn’t think to do one for home too! Great list and it has touched a lot of people. Jess x #sundaystars

    1. Hi Jess. Thanks. The ‘Have done’ list is getting the most praise and I can see your comparison with work.

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