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.
1. Mindless Social Media
Spending mindless time scrolling on social media feels a lot like eating marshmallows. They taste good in the moment, but make you feel like crap afterwards. Marshmallows are so easy to pop right in your mouth. Just one. Maybe two. Okay, perhaps another handful.
Oof. Why did I do that? Why do things that taste so good in the moment make me feel miserable after the fact?
As parents, we don’t have a lot of free time. One thing is for sure:Spending idle time scrolling social media does not help us recharge our batteries. In fact, it may add to our mental clutter.
2. Idealizations of Family Life
A family trip to the beach for sunset:
- Idealized Reality: The sun is setting with minimal cloud covering. The family is frolicking in breezy white linen attire. The smiles and laughs are light and natural. Everyone is barefoot.
- Actual Reality: It’s too cloudy to see the sunset. The toddler is wearing a Batman t-shirt. The children repeatedly attempt to run into the water. Mom is stressed out and gritting her teeth. At least one child can’t stand the feeling of being barefoot in the sand.
The truth is...When we are chasing idealized images of family life, actual reality looks ugly. Are you getting caught up in how things are “supposed to be”? This is mental clutter.
On a casual Tuesday while the Glazed and Lacquered Roast Turkey is 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.
Let’s talk about self-imposed pressure. Pinterest (and the interweb) offers us no shortage of picture perfect meals, crafts, and hobbies that can quickly leave us feeling like we aren’t doing enough.
Do what delights you, but don’t let Pinterest plant seeds of self-doubt. You are enough just the way you are.
4. Performance Reviews
Each year, annual performance reviews at your job might make you nervous. They leave you thinking: Am I doing things right? Am I good enough? How can I improve? Even if you aren't performing perfectly, the feedback from the evaluator is generally constructive and positive. That is, until you take on the job title “Parent".
As a Parent, it can feel like you get hourly performance reviews. The evaluator (your child) rarely holds back. She’s a stream on nonsensical emotions with expectations that make your head spin. Despite best efforts, it appears she's never satisfied with your hard work.
5. Recognizing Seasons of Life
There’s something so inviting about gardening. I crave the ability to grow my own food to provide for my family. The slow, intentional nature of taking it day-by-day as the seeds I have sown sprout from the Earth…the whole idea is so attractive for me.
But right now, with young children, I suck at gardening. It doesn't feel relaxing to me, it feels like mental clutter. My lettuce bolts. The birds eat every last blueberry. And most days I don’t have the energy to water it.
So I’m pressing pause on this dream. Am I failure at gardening? Nope. I'm simply choosing to save this dream for another season of life. I don’t have to do everything and be everything right now. What can you save for another season of life?
6. The News
A generation ago, we only heard about missing children on the milk carton and we rarely knew of a case of childhood cancer. The news came with the morning paper and the evening television broadcast. On a given day, parents consumed maybe 10 to 20 news stories.
Contrast that with today, where we may be exposed to 100+ news stories. The news surrounds us. Nearly all day long we are exposed to it via phone alerts, social media, podcasts, etc.
Not only broadcast news, but in this generation, our social networks are larger. If a friend of a friend of your sister’s friend has a child that choked on a strawberry, you have seen the story on Facebook. Now you worry every time your child eats a strawberry.
If the news feels heavy, that’s because it is. You are carrying a ten-fold load of it compared to the parents who came before you.
7. The Perfect Partner
“I want him to spend quality time with our baby. But when I ask him to do that, he puts the baby in the jogging stroller and goes out for a run. That’s not quality time!”
A friend shared this reflection which resonated deeply with me. In early motherhood, I was battling perfectionist tendencies. I had idealized images of what “quality time” looked like with my kids. Down on the floor playing. Eye contact. Reading books. Phones put away. Rinse and repeat. I believed that I should be interacting with my kids like this at all times. I didn’t keep those idealizations to myself—these perfectionist tendencies spilled onto my partner too.
Your partner is going to have a unique relationship with your children. It is not yours to micromanage. Support it and recognize that even though it is different, it is still meaningful and beautiful.
8. Looking Next Door
Too often we glance next door to see what the Jones’ 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.
What society tells you that kids need to be happy:
- The latest hit toys
- Piles of candy
- Newly decorated bedrooms
- Perfect, Superhero Parents
What kids actually need to be happy:
- Time spent together
- A habit of exercise + movement
- A relationship with nature
- Happy, Imperfect Parents
9. The Contradictory “Shoulds”
You should stay home with your children // You should have a full-time career.
You should feed your kid lots of green vegetables // You should let your children choose what they will eat.
You should make sure your children get a full night sleep // You should never let your children cry.
You should limit screen time. // You should make sure children know how to use technology.
You should follow your heart and do what is right for your family. Then mute the rest of the “shoulds” because they very clearly contradict one another.
10. It's Not Too Late to Take Action
Mental Clutter doesn’t have to be a life sentence. You can make change. 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, June 25th.
Hi there. Welcome to episode 224. Today we're talking about mental clutter. 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. Thanks for tuning in today. We are talking all about mental clutter. I've been doing a 10 day mental clutter, 101 series over on Instagram, and it's been really popular. So I decided I'd bring it over here to the podcast as well. 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 feel so heavy. Now there are more than 10, but we're only focusing on 10 for today. For those of you who are interested in joining me in tackling your mental clutter, we are starting the mental unload on Thursday, June 25th. The mental unload is a program that I developed to help mothers tackle the overwhelm that they face on Parenthood. 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 simplefamilies.com/unload. I do run this program three times a year, and this is the first time in a very long time that I've done a coupon code, but I'm doing 20% off for this summer session. The code is M as in Mary, U L as in love, zero six, two that's "MUL062" for 20% off. I won't be running this program again until November. So I would love for you to join in when we start on Thursday. All right. So let's get to the 10 things that make Parenthood's 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 afterward. 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? Well, 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 in 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 Lennon, 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 as family. Life is messy and unpredictable and dynamic, but when we let go of these idealized images, we can start to embrace imperfect people right in front of us. And the 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, 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 certainly.
Number four performance reviews. 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 a 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 going to 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 choked on a strawberry, you have probably seen the story on Facebook. And now every time your kid eats strawberries, you worry. If the news feels heavy, that's because it is. And you're probably carrying a tenfold 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 looked like with my kids, getting down on the floor, playing constant eye contact, reading books, phones, put away, rinse, and repeat. I believe too, 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 to often weak Lance 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 sheds 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.
And 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. 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 series. If you want to get the written version, you can go to simplefamilies.com/224. If you'd like to share this episode with friends, one great way is to screenshot yourself, listening to it, and then 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 simplefamilies.com/unload and use the coupon code "MUL062" for 20% off.
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 from my participants and I absolutely love hearing the progress. If 2020 has been a big heavy year for you, then maybe now is the right time. 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 find the self care and the path to emotional wellness that suits you. Thanks for tuning in this has been episode 224. I'll talk with you soon and have a good one.