This​ ​was​ ​my​ ​afternoon​ ​the​ ​other​ ​day:​ ​the​ ​baby​ ​skipped​ ​her​ ​nap​ ​so​ ​I​ ​didn’t​ ​work​ ​like​ ​I​ ​planned​ ​to. And​ ​I​ ​definitely​ ​didn’t​ ​get​ ​to​ ​prepping​ ​dinner.​ ​So​ ​while​ ​she​ ​crawled​ ​around​ ​the​ ​house,​ ​I​ ​tended​ ​to the​ ​whining​ ​dog​ ​and​ ​started​ ​planning​ ​our​ ​meal.​ ​As​ ​I’m​ ​chopping​ ​onions​ ​I​ ​look​ ​up​ ​and​ ​see​ ​the baby​ ​pull​ ​up​ ​on​ ​the​ ​screen​ ​door​ ​and​ ​in​ ​the​ ​next​ ​moment​ ​watched​ ​her​ ​tumble​ ​out​ ​the​ ​door​ ​and down​ ​the​ ​steps.

My​ ​fellow​ ​Mamas​ ​know​ ​this​ ​story​ ​and​ ​many​ ​other​ ​variations​ ​of​ ​it.​The​ ​antics​ ​get​ ​even​ ​more complicated​ ​with​ ​multiple​ ​kids​ ​who​ ​may​ ​be​ ​heading​ ​off​ ​to​ ​school​ ​and​ ​every​ ​day​ ​feels​ ​like​ ​a saga.​ ​Moms​ ​are​ ​well-known​ ​for​ ​orchestrating​ ​the​ ​many​ ​facets​ ​of​ ​life​ ​with​ ​children​ ​and​ ​babies. We​ ​plan​ and we ​​schedule. We​ ​work.​ ​We​ ​make​ ​dinner​ ​and​ ​do​ ​laundry.​ ​We​ ​tend to​ ​hurt​ ​feelings.​ ​We​ ​feed​ ​our​ ​little​ ​ones.​ ​A​ ​lot.​ ​All​ ​while​ ​managing​ ​the​ ​messiness​ ​and​ ​chaos​ ​that has​ ​become​ ​our​ ​lives.

So​ ​how​ ​do​ ​we​ ​orchestrate this symphony and hold onto ​some​ ​sanity and semblance​ ​of​ ​ourselves?​ ​In​ ​the​ ​midst​ ​of​ ​this​ ​new​ ​life​ ​we’ve​ ​grown​ ​into it is important to find ways to make things a little easier and celebrate the small successes.

Here are some practical hacks and emotional/mindfulness techniques that can help you stay sane and not just survive the everyday cacophony but thrive and make beautiful music from the chaos!  

1.  ​Zoom​ ​Out​ ​and​ ​Look​ ​at​ ​the​ ​Big​ ​Picture

When​ ​we’re​ ​in​ ​the​ ​weeds​ ​of​ ​a stressful and disappointing​ day ​it’s​ ​hard​ ​to​ ​have​ ​a​ ​sense​ ​of​ ​humor​ ​or​ ​at least​ ​a​ ​sense​ ​of​ ​playfulness​ ​about​ ​your​ ​situation. ​There​ ​are​ ​absolutely​ ​moments​ ​when​ ​you​ ​will cry​ ​or​ ​yell​ ​or​ ​feel​ ​resentful.​ ​This​ ​is​ ​normal​ ​and​ ​expected.​ ​And,​ ​there​ ​are​ ​also​ ​times​ ​when​ ​you might​ ​remember​ ​how​ ​small​ ​this​ ​moment​ ​is​ ​when​ ​you​ ​take​ ​a​ ​step​ ​back.​ ​When you feel overwhelmed think of a stop light: red, yellow, green. Red is the overwhelm. Take a few breaths and stop what you are doing. Think of yellow as the place to shift your perspective in remembering you are doing your best and that you will get through it. Now that you’re not in crisis mode you can think through logistics and make decisions. Green is the time to go again. One​ ​of​ ​the​ ​hardest experiences​ ​in​ ​the​ ​moment​ ​might​ ​also​ ​be​ ​the​ ​most​ ​endearing​ ​memory​ ​you’ll​ ​have​ ​of​ ​your​ ​little one.​ ​So​ ​take​ ​each​ ​obstacle​ ​as​ ​it​ ​comes​ ​and​ ​remember​ ​that​ ​these​ ​hard​ ​moments​ ​will​ ​be​ ​a​ ​blip​ ​in your​ ​memory​ ​as​ ​the​ ​years​ ​go​ ​by.

2. Create​ ​an​ ​Intention​ ​to​ ​Live​ ​Your​ ​Life​ ​as​ ​a​ ​Creative​ ​Act

No,​ ​it’s​ ​not​ ​the​ ​same​ ​as​ ​sculpting​ ​clay​ ​or​ ​writing​ ​lyrics​ ​but​ ​orchestrating​ ​your​ ​life​ i​​s​​ ​a​ ​creative act.​ ​Navigating​ ​the​ ​day-to-day​ ​demands​ ​and​ ​fitting​ ​it​ ​all​ ​into​ ​an​ ​impossibly​ ​short​ ​day​ ​is​ ​an​ ​art, not​ ​a​ ​science.​ ​It​ ​requires​ ​flexible​ ​thinking,​ ​imagination,​ ​and​ ​yes,​ ​a​ ​sense​ ​of​ ​humor.​ ​The​ ​mom who​ ​makes​ ​a​ ​game​ ​out​ ​of​ ​getting​ ​dressed,​ ​encourages​ ​her​ ​baby​ ​to​ ​eat​ ​greens​ ​from​ ​the​ ​garden to​ ​get​ ​her​ ​veggies,​ ​and​ ​tickles​ ​her​ ​child​ ​with​ ​toes​ ​so​ ​she​ ​can​ ​eat​ ​with​ ​her​ ​hands​ ​is​ ​certainly using​ ​creativity​ ​as​ ​a​ ​resource​ ​for​ ​making​ ​something​ ​tedious​ ​into​ ​something​ ​enjoyable.

3. Stop Making Long To-Do Lists!  

When life feels out of control we tend to go into task mode which many times means making long to-do lists. Moms love the gratification of checking off tasks like grocery shopping on Mondays, bills on Tuesdays and laundry on Wednesdays. But, for new moms or families with young children, making to-do lists can be counterproductive and can set you up for failure. It’s hard to have a set plan when every day is a new adventure with little ones around. Kids get sick. Babies have fussy days. And you can only do so much. Be realistic about how much you can accomplish in a day and prioritize what really needs doing. Ask for help when you need it and try to get comfortable with non-essential things not getting done.

4. ​Make​ ​it​ ​Mindful

Similar​ ​to​ ​living​ ​a​ ​creative​ ​life,​ ​this​ ​doesn’t​ ​mean​ ​meditating​ ​while​ ​sitting​ ​on​ ​a​ ​pillow​ ​in​ ​silence because​ ​that’s​ ​likely​ ​not​ ​your​ ​life​ ​right​ ​now.​ ​Practicing​ ​mindfulness​ ​during​ ​simple,​ ​everyday moments​ ​might​ ​look​ ​like​ ​noticing​ ​your​ ​anxiety​ ​rise​ ​as​ ​your​ ​toddler​ ​climbs​ ​the​ ​tallest​ ​structure​ ​in the​ ​park,​ ​or​ ​feeling​ ​the​ ​weight​ ​of​ ​your​ ​baby​ ​in​ ​your​ ​arms​ ​as​ ​you​ ​rock​ ​her​ ​to​ ​sleep,​ ​or​ ​taking​ ​in the​ ​joy​ ​and​ ​loss​ ​of​ ​seeing​ ​your​ ​eldest​ ​get​ ​on​ ​the​ ​bus​ ​for​ ​school.​ ​It’s​ ​about​ ​living​ ​in​ ​the​ ​moment instead​ ​of​ ​replaying​ ​all​ ​the​ ​things​ ​that​ ​have​ ​gone​ ​wrong​ ​in​ ​your​ ​day​ ​or​ ​listing​ ​all​ ​the​ ​things​ ​you have​ ​to​ ​get​ ​done​ ​later​ ​on.​ ​Practicing​ ​awareness​ ​of​ ​your​ ​thoughts​ ​and​ ​feelings,​ ​especially​ ​when they’re​ ​not​ ​pleasant,​ ​is​ ​like​ ​waking​ ​up.​ ​Once​ ​you’re​ ​awake,​ ​you​ ​can​ ​see​ ​things​ ​as​ ​they​ ​truly​ ​are and​ ​not​ ​as​ ​a​ ​story​ ​you​ ​play​ ​in​ ​your​ ​mind. Try writing affirmations or reminders to check-in around the house, especially places where you tend to congregate with your little ones. My personal favorite affirmation is “I’m doing my best” as it reminds me that so much is out of my control and I am doing my part in showing up. What are your favorites? Post in the comments section so we can share the love.

4. Create​ ​Space​ ​for​ ​Yourself

Most​ ​important​ ​to​ ​creating​ ​sustainability​ ​in​ ​your​ ​role​ ​as​ ​orchestrator​ ​is​ ​to​ ​create​ ​space​ ​for yourself.​ This means actually scheduling time in your calendar where you cannot cook, do chores, have appointments, or work. Try to do this once a week for at least an hour. You will not believe how recharged you will feel to have this time all to yourself. Setting boundaries is always a balancing act for families and many times even harder for women who tend to be “supermoms” . If it feels selfish or lazy, remember this is to prevent burnout and to sustain your ability to tend to others. If you have nothing to give then you are not of service to anyone else. Sometimes this means saying “no” to making dinner and even going out to dinners with family or friends. And, that’s ok. When life gets hectic making time to do nothing can be essential.

Last, becoming​ ​a​ ​parent​ ​is​ ​an​ ​emotional​ ​rollercoaster​ ​full​ ​of​ ​intense​ ​grief​ ​and​ ​joy​ ​and​ ​also mundane​ ​boredom​ ​and​ ​frustration.​ ​It’s​ ​important​ ​for​ ​us​ ​to​ ​process​ ​what​ ​we’re​ ​feeling,​ ​what we’re​ ​struggling​ ​with,​ ​and​ ​what​ ​we​ ​need​ ​to​ ​feel​ ​better​ ​because​ ​these​ ​little​ ​things​ ​compound​ ​over time​ ​and​ ​can ​become​ ​overwhelming.​ ​As​ ​an​ ​art​ ​therapist,​ ​I​ ​encourage​ ​moms​ ​to​ ​make​ ​art​ ​as​ ​a way​ ​to​ ​visually​ ​check-in​ ​because​ ​many​ ​times​ ​what​ ​you​ ​make​ ​in​ ​art​ ​is​ ​different​ ​than​ ​what​ ​you’d say​ ​or​ ​even​ ​write.​ ​Making​ ​art​ ​uses​ ​a​ ​different​ ​part​ ​of​ ​the​ ​brain​ ​and​ ​many​ ​people​ ​have experiences​ ​where​ ​they’re​ ​surprised​ ​about​ ​what​ ​they​ ​made​ ​and​ ​what​ ​they​ ​learned​ ​about themselves​ ​through​ ​the​ ​process.​ ​These​ ​art​ ​pieces​ ​can​ ​be​ ​small,​ ​quick,​ ​and​ ​are​ ​definitely​ ​not​ ​for the​ ​purpose​ ​of​ ​framing​ ​on​ ​your​ ​wall.​ ​They’re​ ​about​ ​recharging​ ​and​ ​resetting​ ​so​ ​you​ ​are​ ​better able​ ​to​ ​give​ ​and​ ​provide​ ​for​ ​your​ ​family.​ ​One​ ​art​ ​therapy​ ​directive​ ​that​ ​I​ ​turn​ ​to​ ​most​ ​frequently​ ​is a​ ​mandala​ ​(meaning​ ​sacred​ ​circle).​ ​Making​ ​art​ ​inside​ ​or​ ​outside​ ​of​ ​a​ ​circle​ ​provides​ ​some structure​ ​and​ ​containment​ ​while​ ​also​ ​giving​ ​freedom​ ​to​ ​express​ ​what​ ​you’re​ ​feeling.​ ​I​ ​like​ ​to think​ ​of​ ​mandalas​ ​as​ ​a​ ​mirror​ ​for​ ​your​ ​internal​ ​life​ ​and​ ​you​ ​may​ ​find​ ​a​ ​ritual​ ​of​ ​mandala-making helpful​ ​in​ ​containing​ ​the​ ​emotional​ ​baggage​ ​of​ ​your​ ​days.

Only​ ​a​ ​parent​ ​knows​ ​how​ ​rewarding,​ ​fulfilling,​ ​messy​ ​and​ ​hard​ ​it​ ​is​ ​to​ ​be​ ​an​ ​orchestrator.​ ​As​ ​you go​ ​through​ ​your​ ​days​ ​managing​ ​who​ ​goes​ ​where​ ​after​ ​school,​ ​and​ ​figuring​ ​out​ ​when​ ​you​ ​need to​ ​leave​ ​to​ ​get​ ​to​ ​that​ ​important​ ​appointment​ ​on​ ​time,​ ​take​ ​in​ ​the​ ​moment​ ​for​ ​what​ ​it​ ​is:​ ​a moment​ ​that​ ​will​ ​pass​ ​for​ ​better​ ​or​ ​for​ ​worse.​ ​And​ ​when​ ​things​ ​don’t​ ​go​ ​the​ ​way​ ​you​ ​thought they​ ​would,​ ​that’s​ ​ok​ ​too.​ ​As​ ​parents,​ ​we​ ​do​ ​our​ ​best​ ​with​ ​what​ ​we​ ​have​ ​while​ ​also understanding​ ​that​ ​our​ ​children​ ​are​ ​our​ ​most​ ​precious​ ​teachers​ ​who​ ​will​ ​push​ ​us​ ​beyond​ ​what we​ ​ever​ ​thought​ ​we​ ​were​ ​capable​ ​of.

Ali Haeffner, MA, LPCA, ATR-P is an art therapist specializing in the unique challenges of being a helper, healer, mother or mother-to-be. She believes art therapy is a path for gentle questioning and to refill our cups, a practice she takes to heart as a mom herself. For more information, visit her website at

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