Lately I’ve been wandering through various food, family, and homeschooling Facebook and blog sites, and the word “overwhelmed,” is showing up entirely too much. Like this:
“I am homeschooling a five-year-old and I have a toddler and a new baby. The curriculum takes 4 hours a day, and I feel overwhelmed.”
“I’m trying to feed my family more healthfully, after years of eating take-out, and I feel overwhelmed by how much time it takes and how much it costs.”
“I just went back to work full time, and I’ve been feeling overwhelmed by the laundry, food preparation, and shopping.”
Maybe it’s just distance or age (which I hope is as much associated with wisdom as it is crow’s feet), but I look at the first woman and think,
“The child is 5. Are you trying to do too much?”
And the second, “Eating healthfully is a lifestyle, and you don’t adopt it overnight.”
And the third, “Nobody else in the house knows how to cook?”
To all three readers I want to say, “Slow down. Breathe. You’re pushing yourself too hard — and probably trying to live by somebody else’s standards.”
The word “overwhelmed,” is a symptom of a problem, a statement of powerful obviousness with which I’m sure all of these women would agree. What they may not realize is that they are not the problem. The goals that they are setting for themselves are.
Too often, when we try new things — like homeschooling or healthy eating — we rely upon the expertise of others, but some of these others have been doing for years what we’re just starting, and they’ve got their own way of doing it.
And no matter how long we wind up doing what we’re just starting, we may never do it another person’s way. For instance, when my oldest was five (and the second was 2, and I was pregnant with the third), we homeschooled by sitting on the couch and reading books. It was fun; the two-year-old wasn’t ostracized; my lower back got a rest; we all learned various facts about the white rhinoceros and the Indian elephant; and most importantly, I wasn’t overwhelmed to the point that I wanted to give the whole thing up.
Eating more healthfully is a continuous process for our family that began 20 years ago, and every day we do something a little different, to the point that the bean soup with Gjetost cheese we had for lunch today would have been an unimaginable aberration 20 years ago. At the same point, two weeks ago I bought and enjoyed a cream-filled doughnut. I have forgiven myself; I hope that others can.
Wherever you are in your goals and life changes, be there, and not in the middle of somebody else’s experience. Recognize that you learn a little bit more each day, and you add one day’s experience to the next, so that when enough time goes by, you will have made, and internalized, some significant changes. If you meet someone new to the whole thing, be kind, and share your experiences gently, not as if they are paradigms for the rest of the world to follow.
The only hard and fast rule about doing new things in your life and doing them well is this:
When you feel overwhelmed, something’s wrong, and it’s time to step back and figure out just what it is. Overwhelmed is not the new normal.