For Moms On The Days When You Can’t Get Anything Done: 5 Ways To Cope

It’s incredibly difficult to get anything done with children around. They want your attention all the time, they ask for things like snacks and water, and they constantly want to show you something even though you have probably seen it a hundred times already. They are kids and it’s normal for them to want our attention. But it is hard for them to comprehend that sometimes we as adults need to do other things like work, or clean the house, or we need time to chip away at our growing  to-do lists. 

There are probably times when your plate is full and you feel frustrated and maybe even resentful that your kids won’t let you do anything. These feelings may be more frequent if your kids are home, like mine, because of the pandemic. Your kids may also be home and doing virtual school. From what I have been gathering from other parents in the above situation it isn’t as easy as turning on the computer and having the teacher do the lesson online. It involves a lot of your time. Time you may not have, especially if you still have to work. You aren’t alone in feeling these feelings. I am sure almost all of us feel this way right now. 

Me trying to study while my 3 year old uses my notebook as a foot rest.

So how do you cope on the days you can’t seem to get anything done because kids and other things get in the way? I can’t say what would work for everyone, but I can lay out what works for me. Keep in mind that I am a stay-at-home mom so I can’t completely speak to working moms BUT also keep in mind that while I am home with the kids I am also blogging, managing several social media accounts and I am doing a course in wine studies. With that being said here are my coping strategies on busy days when the kids just won’t let me get anything done. 

#1: Don’t Try

I know this may seem counterproductive but my first tip is to just not try. There are days when you know you just won’t be able to get to things. You can sense it right from the start of the day. On days like these I just let it go. It almost frustrates me to try on days like these. Like when my 1 year old tries to put a block into a round hole but obviously can’t, she gets so upset. I end up getting upset at my kids and that isn’t fair to them. It’s not their fault they are home and I have a to-do list the length of legal sized paper back to front. On days like these I try and remember that tomorrow is another day and I will try again then.

I know this would be difficult for working parents who are home with the kids. For them I would say to maybe lower your standards for your kids and yourself. Look over your list of tasks and pick the ones you must get done today for work. If the list is still long then give your kids some screen time with educational tv shows or apps so you know they are still learning something even if they are using the tv or ipad. Don’t stress yourself out about it or feel guilty. Like I said above, tomorrow is another day. Don’t stress about virtual school. Just go with the flow and it will all be fine in the end. 

#2: Make A Plan

Overhead shot of a notedbook with a to do list on it, a pen, a candle, and some stickers.
Photo by gorana b on Unsplash

So if tomorrow is another day you should plan on being prepared for tomorrow so you won’t fall into the same trap. I can’t guarantee that tomorrow will be better, but if you have a plan you have a better chance at having a better day than the last. 

Write down all your tasks and then prioritize them. Once you have done this  schedule in some time with the kids so they can have your undivided attention for a bit, thus making it easier for them to entertain themselves. I find if I put in even just a few minutes of playtime with them they are able to play on their own for a while. 

#3: Keep It Simple

If you can leave things for tomorrow then awesome, but if you can’t, just keep it simple. Are there leftovers in the fridge you could heat up instead of making a new dinner? Can you just make a simple 2 ingredient pasta instead of the roast chicken you had planned? Can you pick just one chore out of the list that you can do today to feel accomplished? Are there just a few major tasks you need to get done for work that day? Can you narrow it down to one? Can the kids play with playdough or paint next to you while you do that one task? Even just setting up a Zoom playdate for your kids with their cousins and/or friends so you can sit down and fold laundry, finish a report, or whatever it is will help. Looking at what you have to do, pairing it down for the day, and just making the day as uncomplicated  as possible for everyone should help with those feelings of frustration. 

#4: Get The Kids Involved 

I know this may be easier said than done, but hear me out. If it’s chores, then you can give the kids a cloth, and they can help out , or in the case of having a toddler “help out”. N just wants to feel involved and loves to help. Sometimes just passing her a rag is enough for her to feel like she is doing something with me. Same goes with cooking, have them be in the kitchen with you and get them to help you. Often N will start helping me and after a while will get bored and go play by herself. 

Overhead shot of mother working on a laptop on her bed with her child next to her scribbling in a notebook.
Photo by Tatiana Syrikova from Pexels

If you have work to do then maybe you can get the kids to pretend to work with you. Have them sit next to you and give them pens, paper, makers, or anything you may use at work and let them have at it. Just being next to you or feeling like they are helping you (even if they aren’t) is enough sometimes. 

#5: Brain Dump

I am taking this last tip from my counselor. I feel like I have an endless to-do list expanding in my head. It is always in the back of my mind and often makes me a bit crazy, especially on the days that the kids require more of my attention. This adds to the frustration. It also puts me in a funk. I get mad at myself and start to feel down about myself. It’s negative self talk that is no good for anyone in the household. My counselor advised me to find a big board or stick a sheet of paper on the wall with all the to-do’s that are in my head. She said by doing this it gets them out of my head and I can see them all in front of me. If they are out of my head I am not obsessing over them and I can clearly see the bigger picture. This makes it easier for me to tackle the things on the list. 

Plain white blank piece of paper on a clipboard.
A blank slate for your brain dump. Photo by Karolina Grabowska from Pexels

So my suggestion to you is to do the same. Even if it’s just a brain dump for the day’s tasks it will help you see the day clearer. You can do it before bed so you can get a better night’s sleep. I suggest to do a big overall life to-do list and then pair it down monthly, weekly, and even daily so you can slowly but surely chip away at the list. So if you find yourself on a day where the kids want endless attention, more water and snacks,and they just keep going, make a list of what you need to do then think of what you can actually do that day and it will help you see things clearer. Making these lists will change your mood instantly. 

I am not expert on these things. I speak from my own experience. Like the last tip, not all my tips are of my own creation. I have gathered them from other moms in my community so a big thank you to them for helping me navigate life with kids. When you are feeling defeated it is best to reach out to your mom squad and support people even if it is only virtually, as most things are these days. Please share  with me in the comments below or on instagram any of your tips on getting things done with kids around. I would love to read and share them. 

Overhead shot of a person in pink holding a pink cake  with spinkles and the words "Keep On Going" written in white icing.
Photo by Karley Saagi on Pexels.com

Whatever you do, try not to fret we are all working extra hard these days and balancing a lot. Remember you are doing a great job even if you could only manage the bare minimum both personally and professionally on any given day. You showed up and that’s all that matters. Your kids won’t look back at that snack plate you made for dinner because you didn’t have time as a mom who was not trying. They will remember how mom sometimes made them a plate of all of their favourite snacks to eat and how they loved it. That movie you put on at the end of the day and sat down and watched with the kids won’t be seen as mom not spending time with them, but the time mom sat and watched their favourite movie with them and they cuddled on the couch. We put too much pressure on ourselves. Let’s  give ourselves some slack. We deserve it. 

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