I have these little notepads, maybe 4x6" in size, with a neon pink binding on top. I have a few hundred of them, they were my father-in-law's work notepads and we inherited a huge box of them when he passed away. I never thought I'd get through them, but the other day, I peeked in the box and realized five years later, we were half-way through.
While I generally keep all my lists, notes and well, life, electronic, each morning I wake up and write with a pen on one of his notepads my day's to-do list. It's all the stuff that has piled up overnight in my brain. I quickly jot each one down in categories, "morning tasks" (things I can do while the toddler is still awake), "errands," (ones I can run within a two hour time-window because of the babe), and "nap time," (things that would be best with no little ones interrupting).
Some days, we live like champions, me making it through three quarters of the things I ambitiously wrote down that day between meeting needs, needs and more needs. And every once in a while, I even receive genuine help from my pint-sized, "Big-boy Supppp-er Helper!" (Please imagine his right arm reaching to the air like Superman as the toddler shouts that one. Like, where does he even learn these things?)
But most days, I'm completely overwhelmed. I see the list and I know I won't make it through half of it. And as I walk around, picking up baby girl from her crib in the morning, or giving the toddler a high five for a success in the big boy potty, I see and remember more things to add to the list. Clean the toilet, call about that bill, vacuum the bedroom, wash more toddler underwear, call to make a nine month well-check, clean the weird stuff off the baseboards, call that friend, find a dentist, pick up new handsoap, get that gift for the wedding, touch up the paint here, there, everywhere. I add and I add, writing in the margins, in-between lines, and on back, until it's filled so full I don't even know what to tackle next.
Sometimes, trying to make any progress at all feels very overwhelming.
And when I get like that, I don't even know what to do. Sometimes, I just want to give up, raise the white flag, sit in the corner and finally let my toddler do what he's wanted to do all day - scribble all over my face with his new markers - hey, at least one of us can feel productive.
But don't do that, cleaning marker off your face is the worst - not that I'd know.
Here's what you do: "Do the next thing."
It was my mom's mantra to me, over and over again, she'd tell me when I was lost and confused and hilariously/adorably thought my life was "SO BUSY" back when I was single.
Do the next thing.
What's the secret to those people who seem SO productive and busy and accomplished, all while seemingly put together and wearing a smile? They do the next thing.
Doing the next thing doesn't mean you get everything done. In fact, sometimes it means that your to-do list is ten-thousand miles long and you only get ONE thing done that day. And sometimes it means that you make it through seven-thousand miles of that huge long list. (Because let's be honest, as moms, I'm not sure we'd ever make it through an entire list - even with a babysitter.)
But doing the next thing does mean that you don't have to worry or feel overwhelmed or stressed about not getting things done - because all you need to think about is getting the next thing done, not ALL THE THINGS. Doing the next thing means you can accept that you didn't make it quite as far as you would have liked, because you recognize that sacrificing your needs and expectations is just apart of being a mom. It means that you can be happy and feel accomplished at the end of each day no matter what your list looks like, because you weren't ruled by your to-do list, you. ruled. it.
So take heart today momma and do the next thing. You can live at peace with all there is to be done while raising littles. Focus only on the next task, not everything at once. Rule your to-do list, tiny soldiers, and itty-bitty household kingdom with a calm heart and grace-filled gaze, with purpose and focus as you do the next thing.