On Keeping the Plates Spinning

It was Saturday evening and I was lying on my bed taking a breather. The day had been ridiculously busy, as it always seems to be with three children. Having cleared up from dinner, I was just mustering up the energy to join my family in watching X-Factor (don’t judge me, it’s one of very few programmes suitable for the whole family) when my phone pinged. I glanced over to see the familiar sight of a text message flashing up on my screen…

“Sorry S couldn’t make the party, I hope everything is okay.”

My heart sunk to the floor. I had completely forgotten about said birthday party, the one my son should have been at that afternoon, the one for which we had bought a present that very morning.

I immediately went into panic mode, feeling terrible for both my son and the little girl who had kindly invited him to celebrate her birthday. In short, I felt like a total failure and in true ‘mum guilt’ style, I spent the entire evening berating myself, working out how I could make amends.

This event took place about three years ago now but I have never forgotten it. With my rational head on, I realise that it was a small, fairly insignificant human error but the horrendous ‘mum guilt’ I felt as a result, was the real deal.

Not wanting to experience that again anytime soon, I began trying to figure out how going forward, I could ensure all the plates remained in place. Over the last few years, I’ve picked up many successful tips…

  • Incorporating an element of self care into my every day from coffee with a friend, to 20 minutes of yoga in the morning
  • Starting my day off with a bible verse or two
  • Going to bed earlier and not taking my phone with me
  • Writing physical (and not relying on mental) lists and ticking things off
  • Setting alarm reminders on my phone
  • Planning my diary in advance so that the ‘busyness’ is spaced out
  • Recognising when I’m at maximum capacity
  • Learning when to say my ‘best yes’ (I cannot recommend this book highly enough) and when I need to say ‘no’.

The start of a new school year can trigger overwhelm for many of us and I know for me personally, this last quarter of the year is hectic with four birthdays in the house and a wedding anniversary (cue lots of opportunities for smashed plates!).

When I started mentally constructing this post, my intention was to provide some helpful tips on how to keep the plates spinning. Then I started thinking back to the faux pas from three years ago and realised that the biggest lesson I learnt, was that hating on myself achieves nothing. There is no human being on this planet who does not drop a plate from time to time (Mary Poppins was a fictional character, remember) and no amount of planning and preparation will turn us into some perfect superhero who never makes a mistake.

Tell the negative committee

Of course acquiring some tips to help me drop less plates is no bad thing but it’s my change in reaction afterwards that has made the biggest difference. If ever I feel tempted to fall back into this habit of negative self-talk, I quickly remind myself that I’m doing my best and that’s okay.

And that goes for you too, by the way.

Share:

23 Comments

  1. September 14, 2018 / 8:39 am

    What an important post for this time of year! When the kids go back to school everything suddenly seems to pile up and there is pressure from all angles. My self care comes in the form of running and/ or walking every day, plus reading. Even my husband is finally starting to realise that it’s important I take this time for myself so that I’m able to keep functioning for the rest of the family, otherwise there would be an awful lot of smashed plates!

  2. September 14, 2018 / 10:56 am

    Totally get this I need chat with myself too today sometimes silly things really wind me up. And I drop plates all the time, I try so hard to be organised but it always goes wrong. I just don’t think it is in my DNA ha ha x

  3. September 14, 2018 / 12:35 pm

    Fab post Suzanne – I’ve also found the kind of tips you mention really useful. Saying no more often is one I really need to work on, although I’m getting better, I should still read that book! xx

    • Suzanne W
      Author
      September 16, 2018 / 11:23 pm

      I almost fell prey to my own weakness this evening then remembered that I have to practice ‘no’ more often!

  4. September 14, 2018 / 2:43 pm

    Oh you’re so right, things like that really do only matter in your mind don’t they? I have to keep a paper diary, my husband likes everything to be written on the calendar but I tend to put things in my diary and not the calendar so we can end up double booked. But I’m pretty sure we’ve never missed anything that was life and death.
    Nat.x

  5. September 14, 2018 / 5:13 pm

    I forgot a birthday party last year some time, I rely so much on my diary and if something doesn’t get put in there for some reason I tend to forget. Then earlier this year i forgot a doctors appt I really needed and had to wait 3 weeks for. It had been a hectic afternoon and my youngest was ill, it just flew out of my mind until I got the standard, but snotty text from the surgery saying how I had wasted time and NHS money. It got me so stressed, it still does. We definitely all need to be kinder to ourselves.

    • Suzanne W
      Author
      September 16, 2018 / 11:23 pm

      Oh we really do. I can just imagine how you must have felt. It’s not easy keeping them all spinning is it? A hand-written diary is the only way for me now, I think.

  6. September 14, 2018 / 5:55 pm

    Suzanne,

    “Which of my existing responsibilities should I neglect so as to make time for this additional responsibility?” If you’re ever asking yourself that question, you’re “at maximum capacity” — or beyond it! If you’re ever in the situation but you don’t ask yourself the question… be thankful that most of your plates are paper, not porcelain. In any event, stay away from those Mary Poppins accounts on social media.

    • Suzanne W
      Author
      September 16, 2018 / 11:21 pm

      Yep. I’ve been asking myself that very same question this evening so thank you for these wise words. And yes, social media does NOT help!

  7. September 14, 2018 / 8:18 pm

    I feel exactly the same at the moment. SO many commitments and things to think about. Oh my. All the birthdays too. Don’t worry…and you’re right, we do so much that it’s OK to drop the ball. You’re an amazing Mum xx

    • Suzanne W
      Author
      September 16, 2018 / 11:20 pm

      Thank you lovely. If we could just remember that we are doing our best, I think we would be a lot kinder to ourselves! xx

  8. September 15, 2018 / 9:17 am

    I hear you! We’ve got so many plates spinning at the moment and I’m all over the shop as a result. I haven’t dropped anything yet, but know I will and I know I’ll feel awful too. As you say though, as long as we do our best everything will be okay.

    • Suzanne W
      Author
      September 16, 2018 / 11:08 pm

      Yes I think it’s about recognising that before we destroy ourselves mentally!

  9. September 16, 2018 / 7:12 am

    Yes – all the plates spinning over here too and it’s inevitable that a few are going to get smashed at some point. Mama guilt sucks – I don’t think anyone is a stranger to it unfortunately. I’d maybe add in the tip of asking for help if you feel overwhelmed (whether with something practical like completing an actual task or something more emotionally supportive like having the kids for an hour so you can either get stuff done or have a bit of time for yourself). I’m terrible at thinking that I have to ‘do it all’ when, in fact, that’s not the case.

    • Suzanne W
      Author
      September 16, 2018 / 11:09 pm

      One of my weaknesses is thinking I have to prove myself so end up saying ‘yes’ to way more than I can actually cope with. In some ways it’s easier now they are older but they now need (very last minute) lifts everywhere! xx

  10. September 16, 2018 / 8:20 pm

    I think I am naturally an organised person, but I can totally relate to that horrible feeling of mum guilt when you drop a plate and it smashes infront of your eyes. Sometimes we just need to recognise when we need time out, and I am definitely getting better at this as the kids are getting older. I think this term is always going to be busy in the lead up to Christmas, and no doubt we will all have to do lists coming out of our ears x

    • Suzanne W
      Author
      September 18, 2018 / 2:44 pm

      Mum guilt is the absolute worst isn’t it? I wonder if generations before us suffered? I think we are SO hard on ourselves these days, I really do. xx

  11. September 17, 2018 / 11:06 am

    Thankfully this has never happened to me – yet!! But honestly Suzanne my luck will run out sooner or later because I’m so blooming disorganised and never write anything down. My best mummy friend at school is amazing at plotting everything into her phone and setting alarms (thankfully she texts to remind me) but I must start to do this! Thanks for your advice I must do better… my plates are spinning out of control at the moment!

    • Suzanne W
      Author
      September 18, 2018 / 2:43 pm

      The main thing to remember here is that we don’t need to do better! We are all doing our best already, no? Tbh, dropping a plate usually serves to remind me that I could change a few things but the best thing I did it stop beating myself up! xx

  12. September 18, 2018 / 3:29 pm

    It’s hard isn’t it. Three young kids, a part time job, blogging and everything else that life brings – life is just so busy!! It doesn’t help that my memory is terrible possibly because there is so much going on in my head. I have resigned to the fact that I have to get to bed early (as much as I don’t want to some evenings), I have to write everything down so I now carry a notebook in my bag and every single task goes in this book. I also realise that for me something has to give, I can’t do everything. Admitting this to myself has definitely helped. Great post xxx

  13. September 18, 2018 / 4:58 pm

    Crikey, you really did beat yourself up. I think sometimes we have to laugh at these things as we all top the ball at some point don’t we x

  14. September 19, 2018 / 1:30 pm

    This post really resonated with me. As much as I’m an organised person, I think I’m coming to realise that until Arlo is at preschool that I can’t do as much as I used to, and that’s okay. I definitely say ‘yes’ too much to kids clubs, parties etc, and I need to make sure we carve out plenty of downtime too x

  15. September 21, 2018 / 7:11 am

    Super post! Did exactly the same thing myself just as The 9yo (then only just 4) was transitioning from day nursery to nursery school. Not sure I even mentioned it to him for fear of recriminations! I felt terrible. I’ve since learned many of the same techniques as you mention and NEED to take 10 mins a day to plan tomorrow, recap on today and every week/month I do the same to ensure I’m staying on track and meeting my own needs & goals as much as my family’s. Life lessons! Thanks for sharing x

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.