When Joy Looked like a List: My Stress Test


It happened on the day that everyone needed everything. My babies woke up crying before 6:00 a.m. The attitudes, the crying, the  struggle with breastfeeding, my baby awake while my toddler slept and vice versa. Needs. And then needs. All day long. While I tried to breastfeed my baby, then lay him on my lap while I pumped and then fed him a bottle, I snapped. I needed to scream and not hear a single demand for a long time. A very long time. 


So there I was, alone behind a closed door, wondering what was happening to me.

I indulged in my feelings for a few minutes, and then I asked myself this: “Why do I feel this way? Why?” And the lightbulb went on. The needs and demands were surface tension, not the root of the pressure I felt. I immediately grabbed the closest back of an envelope I could find and wrote a list of everything that had been quietly swelling in my subconscious over the past weeks. I quickly came up with a list of nine major sources of stress, none of which were “crying baby” or “2-year-old drama.”

The list included things like “we don’t have a babysitter” and “we disagree on several parenting decisions” and “my house isn’t clean and I feel I can’t fix that right now.” My children appeared on the list by way of needing to figure out my breastfeeding trouble and needing tighter boundaries at nap time and bedtime. I sat back and looked at this piece of paper, giddy to realize that the root of many frustrations lay elsewhere, not in the little things that made this day difficult, and best of all, not in my children.

Misplacing Blame

This matters because I love my children and my husband and I never, ever want to wrongly blame them for my frustrations.

Sometimes — oftentimes — people expose frustrations. And often, their behavior is the cause of it. But I never want to believe that who someone is as a person is the cause of my stress. If I believe that, then every time the sun comes up again and I wake to find these little people still in my house and still under my care, I’ll be angry and defeated before I can even say “Good morning.” And y’all, I have 18 years left until my kids are out of high school. Can I tell you how happy I was to realize that they aren’t the reason I hit a breaking point?

We all want to win at being Mom. I never want my children to think they are my burden. I want them to believe with everything in them that they are my joy. And they’ll believe that easily when WE believe that. Moms, there are simple things we can do to cut down on the overwhelm. We just have to think about it for a minute and then act on what we’ve discovered. 

The 4D’s

I used the 4 D’s trick with my list, and assigned one D to each item on the list. The 4 D’s are: Drop it, Delegate it, Delay it, and Do it. It’s been about a week since I made that list, and just this morning I had my house cleaned professionally, and she’ll be back in two weeks. A lactation consultant will be here the day after tomorrow. And my toddler is now clear on her boundaries and is honoring them.

Ladies, we can do it. Little by little, through the highs and the lows, there is a way to keep our joy alive. 


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Anna likes to think she’s rooted in the Wild, Wild West, as she was born in California and grew up in Colorado. She married a big-bearded Texan, and together they have a two-year-old daughter and a son due to arrive Summer 2018. She’s an easy crier, particularly when it comes to beautiful stories about people with a lot of heart, a lot of courage or a lot of character. Motherhood has affected her deeply and reinforced the importance of creating a life of intentionality and joy. She and her husband Chris love a good story, a good laugh, and a good song. You can find her on Instagram @annaclonts.