I can’t get anything done!


Episode #107 – I can’t get anything done! 

Question of the Day: 

I am thrilled that school is back in session —really I am—but I am gobsmacked at how little time I have for myself. I’ve been holding my breath waiting for all my kids to be in school at the same time so I could finally get a moment of peace. Now that it’s here, I feel trapped and overwhelmed by the schedule and everything on my to-do list. Mornings are 100% about getting the kids out the door. There is no time for me unless I get up ridiculously early, and that feels like torture. Afternoons are complete chaos, trying to juggle carpooling, homework, and after school activities. I need to get dinner on the table all by myself while my attention gets pulled in a million directions. While the kids are at school, I really should be exercising because it helps my stress level but how can I prioritize myself when there are so many other demands on my time?  By the time the kids are in bed, I’m too exhausted to do anything. I’m so frustrated that this is my life and I can’t see any way out.  Monique P.S. My husband is a firefighter so he’s gone for extended periods of time. With fire season, it’s not like he’s off vacationing, but he’s so tired and out of sync with our routines that he is no help even when he’s home. 

Parent Educator Answer:

Can you hear what emotion Monique is in? Notice the energy with which she wrote this. Overwhelmed. Powerless. Trapped. Exhausted.  Usually, I would start by giving you some tips and tricks to help you solve your problem. A good time management tip is to make a list of activities that require no brain power that you can do while distracted like laundry and dishes. Only do these activities when your kids are around. Save the activities that require your attention, like writing emails or trying a new recipe, until you have time for yourself.  But any suggestions I give are just going to make her awful, when she already feels awful.  When we are feeling this overwhelmed and exhausted, venting to a compassionate witness is the best medicine. My guess is that Monique felt a reprieve just by putting her words into an email.    Life Coaching Answer: What gets in the way from getting what she wants?    Can you imagine there is another mom out there with the same schedule and routine who doesn’t feel this way?  Maybe there is a mom who feels busy and needed, but also valued and purposeful. Or maybe there’s a mom out there who feels guilty and ashamed for not getting more done in a day—she goes through her day quietly feeling like a failure. Maybe there’s a mom who doesn’t notice how much she accomplishes in a day—she doesn’t measure her worthiness by how much she gets done but cares more about how she looks. So many times we look to other moms as evidence to prove that we aren’t good enough or we aren’t doing it right. I want you to look to other moms as examples of our flexible brains and how powerful our thoughts are.  The reason Monique is feeling powerless is because of the words she is using. The words we use dictate how we feel. Words have power.  When we use words like “I CAN’T get anything done” or “I SHOULD be exercising” or “I NEED to get dinner on the table”  It creates a helpless and powerless feeling in the body. We feel trapped. We can’t see any way out. Helplessness is one of the worst things for the human psyche. All humans have an innate desire to feel free. Monique feels “trapped by the schedule” and “overwhelmed by the to-do list” as though they have more power than she does. The way she words“There’s no time for me”and “This is my life” as though she’s just reporting factual details, is going to give anyone the exact feelings she reports feeling.  Notice how you feel when you think the thought “I am tired.” Tired, right?  How about “I’m overwhelmed.” When I think it, my brain starts looking for all the things I have going on. The “I am” statement is extremely powerful. Whatever follows those two words, you are guaranteed to experience.  Our bodies don’t like when we lie. I wouldn’t suggest Monique saying “I am fully rested and happy to be here,” but she could ease into some softer “I am” statements with “I am tired but that’s ok.” “I am managing a busy schedule” to give her some more peace.    The good news is that all this is fixable. She’s a perfect candidate for the Supermom is Getting Tired coaching program because she would feel SO MUCH BETTER at the end of the 12 weeks!    The most important thing for Monique is recognizing that she is creating her negative emotions. She has more power than she realizes to change. Not in an “I’m not doing it right” way, (watch out for this inner demon who prevents you from making changes) but by thinking “There is a skill set I can learn that will dramatically improve my life.”    The second thing Monique can do is to stop using the words “I CAN’T” “I HAVE TO” “I NEED TO” and “I SHOULD”. These words all create a feeling of helplessness and keep us feeling like prisoners with our children, house, and to-do list as our prison guards.  To set yourself free from this mental prison, focus on what you want instead.  “I want to feel calm.”  “I want to pick my kids up at school.” “I want to feed my family.” If those don’t feel true, then switch to “I will” or “I intend to”. Remind yourself (daily), that you can do whatever you want to do.  You don’t have to pick the kids up at school. You could go to the movies by yourself and make them wait for you or walk home.  You don’t have to feed them dinner. You could listen to them complain or let them eat cereal for dinner. You might CHOOSE to feed them because you don’t like the alternative, but that freedom is yours for the taking.  You don’t have to drive the soccer practice carpool. You might choose to because you want to do your part and you like seeing your daughter happy and sweaty afterwards.  You don’t have to do laundry. Your kids can wear dirty stinky clothes and probably won’t even mind. You want to do laundry because you don’t want to be embarrassed.   We are always free. We are born free and die free. Even when we have three little monsters demanding food, time, and attention, we could walk out that door and never come back. We choose not to, because we love those little monsters.  Supermom Kryptonite – Fighting for Freedom with Negative Liberty   You cannot turn on the news these days without someone shouting, “They are trying to take away my freedom!” I’ve been talking about the FEELING of freedom that is really important for our spirits. To live our best life, we need to believe we are free to do whatever we want. If not, we get stuck in fear.    When people shout about politics “taking away freedom” they are talking about civil rights or civil liberties, “The rights of citizens to political and social freedom and equality.”  I don’t want to minimize this important distinction by saying you can feel free whenever you want.    These are arguments of people “fighting for freedom”. See if you can guess what they are arguing for.  (Mask wearing) “Requiring someone to wear something or do something is an overreach of governmental power” (pro-choice) “Every human being has a right to own their own body and should be able to decide what to do with their body.” (carry concealed weapons) “THIS issue is fundamental and essential to maintaining liberty as are the rights of free speech, free press, freedom of religion and other encroachments on liberty.” (anti-vaxxers) “We are for medical freedom and body autonomy. Our bodies are ours, not for someone else to govern. We are fighting for our freedom.” (euthanasia)  “We have the right to pursue life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Doctors should not be allowed to decide who lives and who dies.”   Let’s use the recent Texas court decision to ban all abortions after 6 weeks of pregnancy as an example.  Women in Texas can still FEEL free by thinking “I still have choices. I can go to another state to have an abortion. I can take the morning after pill or find a “back-alley coat-hanger clinic” to do the job.” Texas has ruled to remove civil rights for half their population. Now making it one of the least free states in our country.    There is actually something called the Human Freedom Index: A Global Measurement of Personal, Civil and Economic Freedom. In a very long and well researched academic report, the authors ranked countries in freedom and civil liberties, from highest to lowest.  Which freedoms are considered in this Index? • Rule of Law • Security and Safety • Movement • Religion • Association, Assembly, and Civil Society • Expression and Information • Identity and Relationships • Size of Government • Legal System and Property Rights • Access to Sound Money • Freedom to Trade Internationally • Regulation of Credit, Labor, and Business.   Unsurprisingly, the top 10 countries that rank highest on happiness ratings, also ranked highest on the freedom index: Finland, Switzerland, New Zealand, Norway, Austria, Denmark, Canada, The Netherlands, and my family’s country of origin, Luxembourg, made the list in 2020.    The U.S. ranked 17th on the freedom index and 18th on happiness.    The Freedom Index defines freedom as a social construct that recognizes the dignity of individuals and is defined by the absence of coercive restraint. “Individuals have the right to lead their lives as they wish as long as they respect the equal rights of others.”   Countries that rank highest in freedom trust their citizens to make decisions that are right for them. They respect free will, as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone else.   So I can choose not to wear a mask at a grocery store, but when I do, I compromise the freedom of others to shop safely. So my freedom restricts the freedom of others. The government creates laws to help people enjoy their civil liberties.    I love knowing that if I buy property, no one can take it away from me or without consequences. There are laws in place to protect my freedom to come home and not find squatters in my house.  My beloved Costa Rica scores high on happiness rankings, but low on the freedom index because the legal system does not impose restrictions on criminals. They have negative liberty, meaning non-interference by government, so people can do what they want without consequences, but this impacts the security and economic freedom for a majority of citizens.    Think about it this way.  Negative Liberty is noninterference by others. If your kid doesn’t want to go to school, negative liberty means no interference. We’ve created laws that make this illegal because getting an education increases the child’s civil liberties, which increases access to economic, social freedom. When your teen says, “You have no right to take away my cell phone! I should be free to watch porn all day if I want to!” You can say you are actually increasing his civil liberties, giving him access to education, jobs, transportation and relationships with real people. By restricting this one freedom you increase his access to a more fulfilling life.  Positive Liberty removes the constraints that impede one’s personal improvement of the fulfillment of individual potential. Positive liberty cannot be imposed by others because we naturally have conflicting views on whether and how to achieve self-improvement. Positive freedom means different things to different people. If you told your teen they have to play football to fulfill his potential and have a meaningful life, it restricts freedom because no one else can impose their idea of self improvement.  When politicians decide that women are not allowed to make medical decisions about their own bodies, they are taking away freedom like a country that imposes marriage for 13 year olds.    Supermom Power Boost: Practice feeling free Freedom is not just an important FEELING but also a VALUABLE CIVIL RIGHT. Let’s make sure we have BOTH. One, by not imprisoning yourself with your thoughts and two, by not imposing your values and ideologies on others.  Today’s Supermom Power Boost is to practice the feeling of freedom so you can experience how good it feels.  The more free you feel, the happier you will be.  When you interact with others, your joy will leak out and infect others.  When you experience the benefits of freedom, you’ll want to encourage others to seek it for themselves (without assuming you know what’s right for them).    My favorite way to practice freedom is with the thought, “I can do whatever I want!”  I walk around my house thinking, “I can do anything I want to do right now! I can tidy, but I don’t have to. I can get on an airplane to Tahiti, but I choose not to. I can sit on my couch and read a book, but I would rather fold laundry. Isn’t this exciting?!  I can be married, or single. I can earn money, spend money, or invest money. I can MAKE my teenager cuddle me, but I choose not to because she does not like it and I don’t want to take away her civil liberties!  I am free to become the best version of me!   

Quote of the Day: 

“There are two ways to go to the gas chamber, free and not free.” Jean Paul Sartre “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” Viktor E. Frankl

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