This is how I explain the headspace of mothers today: “If you want to know what’s going on inside my head, think of a computer with 236 internet tabs open all at the same time.” Next time you’re trying to explain your exhaustion to your husband or partner, feel free to use it.
That is life as a mother these days. A head full of information, clicking from tab to tab all day long, shifting from: “what time is it, do I have time for yoga, no, bugger (insert guilt), what day is it, do the kids have swimming/library/homework/soccer/ballet/a cold (insert another run of thoughts related to what needs to be done/packed/arranged for all those), have we run out of porridge/bread/butter, what am I going to put in lunchboxes, did that email come in, do I need fuel in the car, what meetings are on today, did I replace the shoelaces in those school shoes, shit no I didn’t, bugger, bad mother, what am I going to wear, not that won’t fit (insert bad feeling here), what’s the weather like, what’s in the wash, bugger the washing basket is full, don’t forget to put a load on and DON’T FORGET TO HANG IT OUT TODAY….” and that’s all in the first couple of minutes of being out of bed. We haven’t even started with the amount of information that comes along once we start looking at the day’s papers, emails, Facebook posts, conversations, work meetings, and to do lists.
If I ask my husband what size shoes the kids take, he would wonder why I was asking him, because it’s not something he needs to know, is it? But I need to know. Along with a trillion other details that come together to make life tick over every day.
Sound familiar? I bet it does because I hear it all the time. From clients who need clarity. Who need some head space. From people looking for someone to tell them what to do because they never seem to be able to find the space for a single thought at a time in order to make their own decisions. It’s why people have become so reliant on books and others to tell them what to do – their heads are too full of noise and information to find clarity around what they need for themselves.
For mothers these days, it’s worse than ever. Smartphones and the internet just add to the mind clutter and information over-load. It makes choices harder – have your ever googled a recipe idea and felt overwhelmed by the sheer number of options? We have so much choice now we can feel stuck about which one is right.
There’s no way of knowing how many thoughts in a day a person has, although some people have estimated 60,000-80,000. That’s an average person, so let’s push that number higher for a mother. It’s a lot, either way. Our brains are constantly assessing a stream of information, from the sounds we hear, the sights we are seeing, the smells around us, what we are physically feeling. And in today’s language, also the information we are reading all day long. One report from 2009 suggested the average American consumed around 34 gigabytes of content and 100,000 words of information in a day. It also found much more of the information we’re processing is now interactive, as compared to how it was when we were kids back in the 80s, due to the rise of the internet.
With more thoughts and information, less time outside or spent in down time, it all adds up to a feeling of being frazzled and fatigued. It also affects our bodies in a number of ways – raises stress hormones, impacts digestion, affects our mood, hormones and weight because our minds and bodies are innately linked. What affects one affects the other. Our bodies may be evolving to cope with this new world, but not faster than Apple is. So we feel the effects on a daily basis.
It’s more important than ever that we understand what’s happening in our daily life and how to manage it, not only for the sake of our own health and happiness but also for that of our children. If we can’t manage it so that it doesn’t affect our health, how can we expect them to? It’s only going to get worse for them as I can’t see technology or the pace of life slowing down anytime soon.
The first step is to be aware of your thoughts and feelings of pressure. Secondly, monitor your online time – does it need restricting? Thirdly, create time and space in your day for nothingness and nature. A daydream never hurt anyone!
I’d love to hear your comments on this issue – does your mind feel over-loaded?