Learning To Step Back and Giving Myself Permission to Breathe


Be intentional and make learning to step back a priority.


I am one of those people that tend to load up my plate until it is overflowing, and then I feel like I’m drowning. I am a people pleaser and perfectionist by nature, so my default is to say ‘yes’ to all of the things. As you might guess, this never works out well. I got to a point at the beginning of the summer where I felt utterly worn down. After a pandemic, a year of homeschooling, ups and downs with the adoption process, and a significant loss, I was wiped. Everything felt like too much, and the littlest of tasks began to feel overwhelming. 


a canvas on a table with the painting of a green leaf and the word, “Breathe” above it reminding us that it is okay to step back


I needed breathing space. While I was hesitant, I signed my boys up for summer school and camp. I knew if I didn’t, my mental and emotional health was going to decline. I could no longer continue to work full-time and mommy at the same time. I took a break from writing. While it is one of my outlets, I felt as though I was in survival mode and needed my calendar to be just the basics.


I outsourced tasks. Things around the house, like mowing the lawn, I was privileged enough to be able to hire out. I began trading the boys’ screen time minutes if they completed chores like emptying the dishwasher, putting away their clean clothes, and taking out the trash. Meals were pared down with simple recipes, and paper plates were bought to decrease dishes. Over time, the weight began to lessen, and I felt like I could breathe a bit easier. 


I am now at a point where I am assessing what things I get to put back on my plate. In an attempt to not land in the same place I was, I am trying to be thoughtful and intentional. It seems as though every parent has been forced to make what feels like impossible decisions this past year and a half. I believe that everyone makes the very best decisions they can for their families, regardless of how different they look.


I chose to send my boys back to in-person school this year and even opted for two afternoons of aftercare. My job is flexible enough that I am able to leave work each day to pick the boys up on time; however, I wanted to create some extra margin throughout the week. I now have two afternoons where I am able to complete work tasks at the office rather than at home, run errands, or just take a short break for me. This has been immensely helpful. 


a line in the lunchroom of kids being served lunch


I would love to be that mom that creates the cute bento box lunches for her kids with handwritten notes each day, but I’m just not. Kudos if you are, they are adorable. This year, the boys are eating school lunches. Could I make them lunch each day? Yes, absolutely, but I have chosen to give myself the few extra minutes in the morning and skip the stress of finding half-eaten lunches in the afternoons.


Lastly, I have stuck with allowing the boys to do one sport/after-school activity. The boys have been doing karate for the past year, and recently, my 8-year-old has been asking to do soccer. I love that he wants to try new things, but I simply can not be at all the places. I do not want to feel like a taxi cab driver. So, he was given a choice. He could continue with karate, or he could play soccer, but not both. 


My ego has a hard time accepting that I can’t be supermom, but the worn-out, tired version of me isn’t able to be present, patient, or consistent. I have been outsourcing tasks, keeping things simple, and taking things off our calendar rather than adding things, and so far, it’s helping. I have realized that there are indeed seasons for all things, and for our family, this season is one of balance and recuperation.