Mental Clutter in Parenthood


Many of us have been decluttering our homes for some time. But what about our brains? Mental clutter is real. Parenthood can feel heavy. We are tackling the 10 reasons that parenthood feels cluttered and overwhelming. If you are committed to self-care but aren’t sure where to start, I want to invite you to join us in The Mental Unload™. It starts Thursday, July 15th.

Want to listen to this week’s sponsor, Goodnight, World?

Now many, many of us have been decluttering our houses for some time, but when it comes to de-cluttering our brains into calming and quieting the chaos in our minds, it can be hard to know where to start. If you felt like cleaning out your closet was overwhelming for me personally, my closet was a walk in the park compared to clearing out and developing a better understanding of what was going on within my brain. So today we're going to talk about the 10 things that make

Parenthood feels so heavy. Hi, this is Denaye. I'm the founder of Simple Families. Simple Families is an online community for parents who are seeking a simpler more intentional life. In this show, we focus on minimalism with kids, positive parenting, family wellness, and decreasing the mental load. My perspectives are based in my firsthand experience, raising kids, but also rooted in my PhD in child development. So you're going to hear conversations that are based in research, but more importantly, real life. Thanks for joining us. Hi there. And thanks for tuning in today's sponsor is Goodnight World. Goodnight World is a new podcast series developed by a collaboration of Sesame Street Workshop and Headspace. That's right

Team of early childhood experts and meditation experts working together to help your kids get ready to sleep. I tuned in and I loved that each episode has familiar characters, familiar voices, accompanied by soothing sounds and music. Each episode takes listeners on a journey through some of the beloved Sesame street locations like big bird's nest and Abby's fairy garden, but also two locations unique to Headspace, like a magical art gallery and a gentle train ride through the countryside. It's really, really relaxing. Don't be surprised if you find yourself dozing off to check it out. I hope you love it. As much as I did. You can search Goodnight World anywhere that you listen to podcasts. I'm also going to include a link in my show notes, thanks to you. Goodnight World for your support. I hope your July is going just fine. Here in New York, life is feeling more and more normal every day.

In fact, it very much feels like we went from zero to a hundred busy schedules have been resumed and even maybe amplified to make up for lost time. This week, I'm launching a new round of the Mental Unload, which is my program that I run three times a year that focuses on reducing mental clutter and improving partnership. So with all that being said, I thought it was a good time to bring back this series on Mental Clutter. I started this series last year on Instagram, and it was so popular that I decided to bring it over to the podcast. And so many of you have said that you've enjoyed this episode. So I thought it might be helpful for you to hear it again. For those of you who are interested in joining me in tackling your mental clutter, we are starting the mental unload on Thursday.

It's a four step systematic process with a strong sense of community that will help you step by step. Understand what's going on in your brain and intentionally start figuring out what you want to keep and what you want to let go. If you want more details on that, you can go to You can find all the details there again. That's All right, here are 10 pieces of mental clutter that may be weighing you down in parenthood. And you don't even realize it. Now there are more than 10, but we're only focusing on 10 for today. All right? So let's get to the 10 things that make parenthood. So heavy. Number one, Social Media spending mindless time on social media feels a lot like eating marshmallows to me. They taste good in the moment, but they pretty much make you feel like crap afterwards.

If there's a bag of marshmallows in my house, it's really easy just to walk by and pop a few in maybe one or two or perhaps a whole handful, but I always regret it. Why did I do that? Why do these things taste so good in the moment and make me feel so miserable after the fact as parents, we don't have a lot of free time, but when we do get a few minutes here and there, we often grab our phones and go straight to social media. But one thing is for sure, spending idle time scrolling social media does not help us recharge our batteries. In fact, it actually adds to our mental clutter, even though social media can give us a quick and easy dopamine fix, it's kind of like consuming empty calories. It's not going to fill you up with the good stuff and there's a good chance.

It could end up leaving you feeling worse than you started. Number two Idealizations we all enter into parenthood with these idealized images of the way life is supposed to look like with kids. Let's take the example of a family trip to the beach to watch the sunset in the idealized reality, the sun is setting there's minimal cloud covering amazing for photos. Your family is frolicking probably in breezy, white linen attire, all smiles and laughs, feeling light and natural. Everyone is barefoot, but actual reality, these family trips to the beach for sunset, they take a lot of planning and then when you get there, it might be too cloudy to even see the sunset. And you're definitely not wearing breezy. Linen, the toddlers, wearing a Batman shirt. The children are repeatedly attempting to run into the water. When you just want to sit there and gaze, and mom's getting stressed out, gritting her teeth.

And it's likely you have at least one child who can't stand the feeling of being barefoot in the sand. The truth about these idealized images of the way that family life should look is that when we're chasing these images of family life, our actual reality starts to look ugly. When we get caught up in how things are supposed to be, or how things are supposed to look real life doesn't look nearly as good. Family Life is messy and unpredictable and dynamic, but when we let go of these idealized images, we can start to embrace the imperfect people right in front of us. And actual reality is so much more dynamic and interesting. I promise you that. Number three, Pinterest. Now, if Pinterest serves you well and you love Pinterest, just go on with it, do it. But here's what Pinterest says to me on a casual Tuesday, while the glazed and lacquered roast turkeys in the oven, developing that burnished mahogany skin, you can use your free hand to crank out a homemade unicorn kaleidoscope craft with your enthusiastic kiddos while simultaneously knitting a new hat with your toes.

Sounds ridiculous. Right? Well, let's talk about self imposed pressure Pinterest, and the internet in general offers us no shortage of picture, perfect meals, crafts, and hobbies. And because we have so many options right at our fingertips that can quickly leave us feeling like we aren't doing enough. And like, we aren't good enough. I encourage you do what delights you, but don't let Pinterest plant seeds of self doubt. You are enough just the way you are. And you're already doing more than enough. A life with simple food and simple fun is enough. Don't let the internet tell you friendly. Number four Performance Reviews. When I was working in a more traditional job each year. My annual performance review made me so nervous. I always went into these meetings thinking, am I doing things right? Am I good enough? How can I improve? And even though I was never performing perfectly, the feedback from the evaluator was generally constructive and positive.

That is until I took on the job title of parent as a parent, it can feel like you get hourly performance reviews and the evaluator AKA your child rarely holds back. He or she is a stream of nonsensical emotions with expectations that make your head spin. And despite your best efforts, it appears that he or she is never satisfied with your hard work. So please remind yourself that childhood emotions are not indicative of your performance as a parent. Your job is to keep them healthy and safe, but not to keep them happy all the time, because that's not gonna happen. Childhood emotions are unpredictable. It gets him like our kids will laugh and cry and scream and circle through the whole range of emotions every 10 minutes. It doesn't mean that you're failing. It means that they are learning. They are a work in progress.

And so are you frankly, so take a deep breath. You are doing better than, you know, number five, Understanding the Seasons of Life. For me personally, there's something so inviting about gardening. I crave the ability to grow my own food and provide for my family. It just seems like a really slow, intentional taking it day by day activity. You know, the seeds I have sown sprout from the earth. The whole idea is really attractive to me. It's very whimsical, but the truth is I just don't enjoy it. And right now with young children, I suck at gardening, my lettuce bolts, the birds eat all the blueberries. This year. There were actually only nine blueberries and most days I don't have the energy to water it. So I'm pressing pause on this stream. Am I a failure at gardening? No. I'm simply choosing to save it for another season of life, a season where I might approach it with a different perspective, a different mindset, a season where I might actually enjoy it.

I don't have to do everything and be everything right now. And neither do you. You can save things for another season. Another time in your life. Number six, the News, a generation ago we only heard about missing children on the milk carton, and we've rarely knew of a case of childhood cancer. We got the news with the morning paper and the evening television broadcast on a given day. Parents may be consumed like 10 or 20 news stories. Now contrast that with today, we might be exposed to a hundred plus news stories for some of us many more than that. The news surrounds us and it inundates us all day long. We have phone alerts, social media podcasts, et cetera, but it's not only the broadcast news, but in this generation, our social networks are larger. So if a friend of a friend of your sister's friend has a child that took on a strawberry, you have probably seen the story on Facebook.

And now every time your kid eats strawberries, you worry if the new feels heavy that's because it is. And you're probably carrying a 10 fold load of it compared to the parents who came before you. Number seven, the Pressure to have a Perfect Partner. I remember back to a conversation with a good friend who was a new mom, who said to me about her husband. I just want him to spend quality time with our baby. But when I asked him to do that, he puts the baby in a jogging stroller and goes out for a run that is not quality time. Now this reflection resonated deeply with me because in early motherhood, I was also battling perfectionist tendencies. I had these idealized images of what quality time look like with my kids, getting down on the floor, playing constant eye contact, reading books, phones, put away, rinse and repeat. I believe to that. I should be interacting with my kids like this at all times. And I didn't keep these idealizations to myself. These perfectionist tendencies spilled onto my partner too. The truth is your partner is going to have a unique relationship with your children and it is not yours to micromanage, support it and recognize that it's different, but it's still meaningful and beautiful.

Number eight, Looking Next Door. Too often we glance next door to see what the Joneses are doing. The truth is we need to stop looking next door and start looking inside ourselves for answers. If your gut tells you that simplicity is enough for your children, trust it. Trust in simplicity because it is enough. Now, if you look next door, you look to the Joneses. You look at the greater society. This is what they're going to tell you. Kids need to be happy. The latest hit toys, piles of candy and sugar, newly decorated bedrooms and perfect superhero parents. But the truth is what kids actually need to be happy is time spent together with the people. They love a habit of exercise and movement. Our relationship with nature and happy, imperfect parents.

Number nine, the Contradictory Sheds. You should stay home with your children, but you should have a full-time career. You should feed your kids lots of green vegetables, but you should let your children choose what they eat. You should make sure that your children get a full night's sleep, but you should never let your children cry. You should limit screen time, but you should make sure that children know how to use technology. What you should really do is follow your heart and do what is right for your family. And then press mute on the rest of the shuts because they very clearly contradict one another. And if we listen to them, we will constantly feel like we are doing things wrong and we are never enough. Number 10, Take Action. You do not have to continue to carry this mental clutter throughout your years of parenthood.

In fact, I just had a parent email me this week saying that she's 51 years old and she feels like it might be too late for her. It is not too late. It doesn't matter how old your kids are. It doesn't matter what stage of life you're in. You can absolutely start sorting through all that clutter that's accumulated in your brain and letting go of the things that are no longer serving you. I hope you've enjoyed this episode. If you want to get the written version, go to the show [email protected]/episode 271. If you want to share with friends, take a screenshot of yourself, listening to it and post it up to your Instagram stories and make sure you tag me in it so I can reshare it as well. If you want to join me in the mental unload this week and start tackling this mental clutter, go to, and you can find all the details there if you've never done an online program and you're not sure what to expect. I think you're going to like it. I hear such amazing things for my participants and I absolutely love hearing the progress. We make time for things that are important and your mental wellbeing is absolutely important. So whether that's joining me in the mental unload or finding your helping hand in another way, I encourage you, prioritize your well-being taking care of yourself is taking care of your family. Thanks for tuning in and have a good one.

Denaye Barahona

Denaye Barahona is a loving wife and mama of two. She's a therapist for moms, an author, and the host of the top-ranked Simple Families Podcast. Denaye holds a Ph.D. in Child Development and is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. She has been featured on the likes of The Today Show, Netflix, The Wall Street Journal, Real Simple, Forbes, and numerous other media outlets.