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Stressed Out Mommy

Stressed Out Mommy


Dear Rachel,

I am the mother of three young children whom I absolutely adore. However, I feel like I am falling apart running after them. I grew up with a mother who was always stressed out and I don't want to be that to my children. Yet I don't know how to take care of all their needs and keep my home together (not to mention my marriage). I can't stand a messy home but trying to clean after them seems endless and useless. The second I get something clean one of them spills apple juice all over the floor. And I hate living in a messy and unkempt home. How do I keep it all together and be a loving mother?

Stressed Mommy

Dear Stressed Mommy,

Relax. If you told me you had three small children and had a perfect home and no stress in life, I would tell you to market the recipe as you would make millions. There is no such thing as having young children and feeling like you have it all together. Let's face it, just leaving the house to go to the grocery store requires a diaper bag, sippy cups, a stroller and endless toys. There is no way of going anywhere with three small kids and looking or, often, even feeling like life is carefree.

But... that doesn't mean that life needs to remain frantic and hectic. It is high time that you sit down (without your children around) and start making some lists to prioritize what is most important to you and what is most important for your children. Then, once you have that together, you need to accept that you cannot do everything but you can ensure that what is most vital gets taken care of.

You cannot do everything but you can ensure that what is most vital gets taken care of You mention that you can't stand the mess in your home. And you also write that you don't want to always be stressed out when you are with your children, which results from cleaning up after them all day. So, here is a suggestion. I do not know your financial situation or what you can afford, but why not look into getting some help around the house? And since your children are small, rather than having cleaning help once a week that is thorough and expensive, see if you can find someone who can come and help an hour or two a few times a week. Especially now during the summer there are often high school and college kids around who would love to make some extra money. Have them help with dishes, folding laundry, picking up toys, sweeping and washing the floor, etc.

One of the biggest motherhood mistakes is feeling that we have to do it all. We don't. But more importantly: we can't. We have to delegate and figure out what we can handle and what we need help with. Make sure when you do this that you decide what it is that you want to be doing and what it is that someone else can do.

I will never forget how I hired a babysitter when my kids were young to take the kids to the park so that I could fold laundry and straighten up. One day it occurred to me how ridiculous that was. Why was someone else getting to play with my children in the park so that I could fold clothes? So the next time she came, I asked her to fold the laundry and straighten up—and I took my kids to the park.

We all need to prioritize. Figure out what you want to be there to do and what someone else can do for you. Chances are you will want to be the one playing with your kids, bathing them, reading to them and putting them to bed. But someone else can help with the more mundane tasks that are overwhelming you.

And if hiring help is not an option, enlist your husband to help you as much as possible; explain to him how much the constant cleaning is detracting from your ability to be happy and positive both around him and your children. Often our spouses are simply unaware of how overwhelming the endless cleanup can feel and the toll it can take.

We all need to prioritizeLastly…accept that things are not going to be perfect, or the way they were before you had kids. One of the biggest things that changes when we have children is that we lose the control we seemingly had over our lives before. We no longer can sleep, eat or do what we want when we want. And even when we do take care of something, our children can instantaneously destroy our hard work.

But this is an opportunity for us to recognize that we don't control this world, that we need to do our best and put in our effort but ultimately accept that things may not be 100% as we would like.

There is a story of a woman who spoke to the Lubavitcher Rebbe about a situation similar to yours. The advice she was given was to hire help to take some of the cleaning load off of her shoulders. The woman, however, replied that the cleaning lady never cleaned as carefully or as well as she wanted. To this the Rebbe replied that she shouldn't look in the corners!

I hope you are able to find someone to help you around the house so that you can focus on what is most important to you—your husband and children. And remember that your children do not need a perfect home, or a perfect mother, but they do need a happy mother. I wish you much luck in being that happy mother to them!


"Dear Rachel" is a bi-weekly column that is answered by a rotating group of experts. This question was answered by Sara Esther Crispe.

Sara Esther Crispe, a writer, inspirational speaker and mother of four, is the Co-Director of Interinclusion, a non-profit multi-layered educational initiative celebrating the convergence between contemporary arts and sciences and timeless Jewish wisdom. Prior to that she was the editor of and wrote the popular weekly blog, Musing for Meaning. To book Sara Esther for a speaking engagement, please click here.
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poledra January 31, 2016

Real Solutions Anonymous--Four kids and you work? Where's Dad? The solution here is to get him to do some housework! Reply

Sonia December 25, 2014

Hi, I am a mother of two (a 3yr old and 10 yr old) who just can't seem to get along for anything in this world. They drive me crazy I feel to go for long walks and not come back sometimes. I never have alone time and now my partner is out of work whick frustrates me more. These days I am always angr and stressed what do I do anybody. Reply

Anonymous December 12, 2014

This advice is ridiculous. I am a mother of four, one still nursing and up most of the night and I clean other people's homes. I wish someone could offer some real solutions other than farming out your household duties to someone else,

Also, while dusting can 'wait til tomorrow' the majority of other household chores cannot and 'leaving them' for another day is just allowing more work to pile up for yourself hence making another day a nightmare! Reply

Stress MOM November 20, 2014

I'm a super stress (and pregnant) mom also. I have a 2 and 1 year old kid plus having a baby seems so difficult for me to handle. I'm a WAHM mom, hubby is sick thus I do all the chores, look after my kids, take care of my hubby, and do my work plus take care of this little bun inside my womb and what else? I think I'm going crazy and I was so desperate because I can't handle it all. :(( MY salary is just enough to feed us so I can't hire a helper.. PLease advice! Reply

Anonymous July 10, 2013

Clean home I learned to go with the flow. I made sure the house was not dirty, but did not worry if it was just messy , eg. Toys everywhere. It will get easier with time.
I did have a rough idea of a schedule, and aimed to have my own time in the evening, even if it was just 30 mins or an hour reading and having a cup of tea. I also stopped at least 15 mins during the day no matter how messy or busy it was, just to re-align my self so to speak, have an awareness of my own state of mind, and deliberately made myself relax mentally if needed.
Think of it as a season of your life, there will be other seasons.
Children will remember your love, not your tidy house. Reply

Anonymous December 30, 2012

Here is a great poem Cooking and cleaning can wait til tomorrow, for babies grow up we've learned with much sorrow.
So settle down cobwebs and dust go to sleep, for I'm rocking my baby and babies don't keep.
Not sure who wrote this, but it has always meant a lot to me. Reply

Lisa Providence, RI January 9, 2011

Stressed Out Mommy What you're going through occurs in all families. Parenting is a very hard and very stressful job.

No one likes a dirty and messy home, but that's how it is when you're raising children. Have you ever thought of asking your children to help you? There are children who do want to help their parents. Just don't make them feel guilty and ashamed of themselves for being children. Reply

Leah Chicago, IL November 23, 2010

I'm a mother of 3 kids under 2 and my inspiration comes from a story where the Lubavitcher Rebbe insisted that a woman get cleaning help. Cleaning help isn't always a luxury- it can be a necessity.
2 other tips I got:
1. use paper goods when things are really busy
2. break down cleaning, etc. in an organized way. shop for the week and shabbos on monday. polish silver and mop floors wednesday. cook on thursday. set up friday. and generally, clean as you go along, don't wait for messes to pile up.

these tips really helped me, hope they're helpful! Reply

Samantha San Antonio February 15, 2010

That sounds like my house too!!

When my daughter was much younger, we had scout meetings every week. Never could the place spotless, and I really never did try all that hard.. Much more fun to be with the girls Reply

Shulamit Melbourne, Australia February 15, 2010

Messy house I'm a mother of seven and a Bubby (grandmother). My house often looks like it's been hit by a tornado. I will never forget the comment made by a shabbos guest, who said she loves our home because it's" full of mess and full of love." Reply

Anonymous Brooklyn, NY August 3, 2009

For people on a budget Actually there are some excellent pointers for people on a budget.

1. As the the Lubavitcher Rebbe said "Don't look in the corners". In other words adjust your attitude. Yes, a clean and neat house is important. A spotless, sparkling house is NOT.

2. Communicate with your husband. Ideally, you get him to help. Worst case, you make sure he understand what you are up against and doesn't add to your pressures.

3. Prioritize. Which things MUST happen in order to keep things functioning and decent? Which things are worth some time and energy, but can wait? And which things only merit time and attention only because you are in "high expectations" mode instead of "real world" mode?

I'll add something not in the article but that others mentioned - get the kids to help, and clean up after themselves as much as possible. Obviously that increases with time, but a three year old CAN mop up a spill with a paper towel or two and CAN bring a plate to the sink, etc. Reply

Mandy Bet Shemesh July 16, 2009

there is hope I also have 3 messy children, but now they are a little older, I get them to help a little. some jobs they love , for example one daughter (9) loves hanging out the laundry. Another enjoys sweeping the floor. Get them to help, and asking doesn't help, bribery works wonders (when they help they get a treat).
Just enjoy them. too many women out there don't even have kids or a husband. Reply

Samantha San Antonio, TX July 15, 2009

I remember a poem that basically tells us that in time, the fridge won't be sticky, the floor will be clean and the rooms will remain clean. No dust, no mess, no children. It is important to remember that the little ones will be little only for a small amount of time - so enjoy them while they are there.

I like the idea of someone to come in and help - maybe someone just to watch the little ones while you hide in the bathroom, under a ton of bubbles?

My babies are 21 and 24 now, and I miss them horribly. They are managing well (they come home to lick their wounds, and get a good meal/clean clothes) and we spend every minute chatting, curled up on the sofa together and playing Wii. After they go home, I clean the house. And it stays clean. And I miss them.

Enjoy your babies! Give them all a hug from me! Reply

Carrie July 15, 2009

re: cleaning help We are on a tight budget too. If hubby isn't willing to help, than you need to look at your monthly spending. Do rent movies? Eat out? Have overdue library fines? All these things added up could pay for a college student to come in once a week to clean house for an hour. Every little bit helps. I used to say I couldn't afford it either, but I have come to realize with 3 young children and a job it's costing me anyway. Pray about it and I am sure HaShem will direct you to your solution. Reply

Celine Bennett Elliot Lake, Ontario Canada July 13, 2009

give it up! Mother of 3 teens, came from a family of clean house and was in military too, I still have a hard time giving it up! But give it up anyway and if anyone says anything just answer: "I didn't realize you came because you were interested in buying my house?" That works everytime!
I'll never forget the Eulogy of a certain person, the only thing they could say about her was that she really cleaned her house well, that did it for me!
I wasn't born to clean! I'd rather spent time with my loved one and G-d than clean!
Please give it up! Reply

chava ormond Beach, fl July 13, 2009

best thing i ever did i cant afford much, but i ended up getting cleaning help after posting an ad and what i can afford on craigslist. i received quite a few response and hired someone at $8/h twice a week - pretty much before Shabbat and after. this lady straightens up my house in about 3 hours, she is fast & I am happy! I have 3 babies under 3.

:) Reply

Dee Stover Hiawatha, Iowa July 13, 2009

3 yr olds love to help! I have a friend with many children who all have chores if they are 3 yrs or above. At age 3 children love to help mom. It will not be perfect, but it will keep them busy and not making more messes. They love to pick up, sweep, mop, wipe the table, organize socks or clothes, etc. They will learn to be responsible at a young age and not expect others to wait on them all the time. It is good exercise and promotes a team atmosphere. Reply

chaya July 13, 2009

cleaning help this is very nice but you don't provide any solutions for people who cannot afford cleaning help. Reply