Let’s Talk: Coping During Challenging Seasons of Life

The following was written by editor Kara Fleck.

This isn’t the post I intended to write for today. The truth is, not much has gone according to plan the past few weeks. We’re going through a busy time of life at my house right now and I’ve been feeling challenged.

My husband’s work is starting to ramp up for their busiest time of the year, which means longer hours for him and less time at home.  We’ve learned to adapt to Christopher’s schedule over the years but this year, as I face the upset stomach and exhaustion of the first half of pregnancy, coupled with the flu that recently worked its way through our household, I’m finding that I’m feeling overwhelmed.

I have to keep reminding myself to step back and get some perspective.

I thought I’d share a few of the ways I’ve been coping and then open up the comments for discussion today on dealing with the busy seasons of life.

And so, to remind myself as much as anyone else, here are a few things I’ve learned during life’s challenging times:

Life Happens

Life just happens.  Illness.  Pregnancy.  New babies.  Family crisis.  A parent going back to work or picking up an extra job or more over time hours.  Perhaps your family has recently moved or is remodeling your home.

Some things we can control and there are also things we cannot.  For good, or for bad, events occur and circumstance present themselves that can be a challenge to navigate.

During those times, I’ve found I have to remind myself of a few things:

  • This too shall pass.
  • My goal is peace, not perfection.
  • My best is enough. Even if it is merely the best that I can do right now.
  • It is okay to ask for help when I need it.
  • Focus on the basics and let the rest go for a while.

What is Essential?

Melisa of A Little Garden Flower talks about how you should ask yourself “what is essential?” and then do only that.

It is always interesting to me in those challenging seasons of life what is truly essential.  Usually, there are many things we can let go of – either temporarily or perhaps even permanently – that just aren’t as essential as they appear at first glance.

I’ve gotten into the habit, as a list-loving person, of writing down a list of what I need to get done and then going back, with the question of “what is essential?” in my mind.  There are always things I can cross off of that list.

Helpful Resources

A few articles that I believe are helpful reminders during the challenging seasons of life:

Let’s Talk

What about you?  Are you currently going through a challenging season of life?  What works for you during those times?  What doesn’t work?

The comments are open for discussion and I’d love to hear what you have to say.

About Kara

Kara Fleck is the editor of Simple Kids. She is a small town mama, writer, knitter, bookworm, and hooligan. Kara lives in Indiana with her husband Christopher and their four children Jillian, Max, Lucy, and Amelia. You can find more of her writing at KElizabethFleck.com.

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  1. Um, yes. This was a great reminder, Kara. I’ve been sticking with the essentials and trying to go with the flow, but this was a good reminder to stop focusing so much on what’s not getting done. Easier said than done, but I can see that I’ve only been going through the motions of “accepting this season” but not really accepting it.

    Mandi @ Life Your Way´s latest post: 10 Ways to Get Small Children Involved in the Kitchen

    • That’s a tough one for me, too Mandi: I can usually physically rest but putting my mind to rest and shutting off that part of my brain that is constantly thinking about all of the things I’m not getting done isn’t first nature for me, by any means.

      I think there’s a lot of wisdom in your words re: really accepting the more challenging seasons of life, as opposed to “going through the motions” – something to strive for, even for those of us it doesn’t come first nature to, right? :-)

      Best wishes!
      Kara @SimpleKids´s latest post: Let’s Talk- Coping During Challenging Seasons of Life

  2. Giving myself permission to wallow in misery

    Making myself get over it and recognizing all the good in my life

    Sometimes it seems like most people only want us to be up all the time and that’s just not possible or even healthy. I want my child to see me coping with being sad, mad, frustrated, happy, angry, joyful, etc. So sometimes I cry. Sometimes I complain. Sometimes I laugh and laugh and laugh and when he asks why I tell him.

    When my son says I wish we had our own place I agree and we talk about how hard it is though it is really nice family is letting us stay with them. I lost my job over a year ago. It sucks. Except I’ve been able to spend more time with my son, as a single parent, then I ever would have otherwise. Ive tried to fill our lives with fun, free or cheap things and long lasting experiences. Going to the aquarium,
    music classes, getting a puppy, going out to a park everyday.

    I know what helps me feel better -journaling, eating well, focusing on the good, sitting in the sun, laughing with my son and sometimes letting myself recognize and admit that some things really REALLY suck. The other day I let myself make an I hate list about certain aspects of my life. Then I ate a few spoonfuls of nutella and felt much much better since then.

    I’m sorry you’re going through a hard time -I was sick my entire pregnancy and so exhausted at the beginning I really admire people who go through it while having other kids.
    Nina´s latest post: adult book reviews 22111

    • “I want my child to see me coping with being sad, mad, frustrated, happy, angry, joyful, etc. ” That is a good point: our kids should see us work through these things in a (hopefully) healthy way. Emotions are a natural part of life and it is normal that there are seasons of life that are busier or more stressful.

      :-) re: the nutella. I think I’ve been “medicating” with vanilla pudding LOL

      Thanks for your kind words, too. The morning sickness is getting better, but I am certainly looking forward to my energy returning.
      Kara @SimpleKids´s latest post: Let’s Talk- Coping During Challenging Seasons of Life

  3. Someone on a board I frequent asked for help and this was a great response we could all use, IMO (I emailed the writer and will link to a blog if she has one when I hear back) I am desperately trying to prove that despite being a mom and having a chronic condition I CAN DO IT ALL.

    Tell me if I relax I am not a loser..lol

    Who are you trying to prove something to?  Why?  Not to state the obvious, you don’t have to prove anything to anyone.  If I may be so bold, you’re trying to convince yourself that despite being a mom and having a chronic condition you can do it all.  What if you can’t do it all?  What if it turns out that you are the one person on the planet who can’t do it all?

    I’ll let you in on a secret:  All of us, we’re all doing it all.  It’s fun.  We’re having “Doing it All” parties.  You can’t come to our party until you prove to everyone that you can be a mom, go through the family stuff you’ve been going through, support yourself, be a good friend and family member, volunteer, deal with a chronic health condition and the stresses along with that, and, once you’ve accomplished all that, we require you be a medical doctor, CEO of a fortune 500 company, a size 0-2 (but with significant chest size), hair with no split ends, unchipped manicure, and if there’s a wrinkle on your skin anywhere, you can’t even get in the door.  And you can’t send your kids to daycare when you’re working your CEO/medical doctor/bestselling fiction writer job.  You have to be the primary caregiver.  And you can’t hire a maidservice or anything like that. 

    Nobody can do it all.  Nobody does it all, at least not alone.  The people I know who do it all have made enormous sacrifices (hence, negating the “allness” of what they are doing) or are pulled so many directions they are exhausted, worn thin, and bitter about the lack of appreciation they feel. 

    Not doing it all doesn’t make anyone a loser.  It makes a person smart.  Because when you are “doing it all,” it turns out, you are often “doing it all” for someone else.  No one else in this world is going to take care of Megan the way Megan can.  No one else knows exactly what Megan needs.  To even get close to “doing it all,” you have to be able to “do a little bit” for Megan.

    I can’t do it all.  I’m not even a mom and I’m perfectly healthy. I will never do it all, at least not all by myself. I don’t feel like a loser.  I do a heckuva lot, but there comes a point where I have to say no.  Because nobody is going to say it for me.  I need to sleep.  I need to get my brows waxed.  I need to work out.  I need to spend time with my husband and dogs.  And I need to spend time alone.  I’m not going to apologize for that.  I can’t do it all.  I don’t do it all.  And I’m awesome.  Not doing it all does not equal loser — it equals awesome.

    This was the original post -http://beautybling.yuku.com/topic/10739/Ot-Help-me-learn-to-say-NO

    • This is great!

      “Not doing it all doesn’t make anyone a loser. It makes a person smart. Because when you are “doing it all,” it turns out, you are often “doing it all” for someone else. No one else in this world is going to take care of Megan the way Megan can. No one else knows exactly what Megan needs. To even get close to “doing it all,” you have to be able to “do a little bit” for Megan.”

      Kara @SimpleKids´s latest post: Let’s Talk- Coping During Challenging Seasons of Life

  4. Wow, this was an amazing reminder- thank you!
    I think we all can get stuck on the wheel of trying to do it all even when life has thrown us some challenges. If I just work harder, it will all be OK. If I just do more, it will get easier. If I have enough lists, my life will be in order. When I get to that place I have to remember to take care of myself. Eating nutritiously, getting enough rest, staying active, taking time for prayer and meditation – I know that these things all keep me at my best so that I can navigate the difficult times.
    The hardest part as a mom is that the day is filled with so many other needs that seem bigger than me. It’s not natural for me to put myself first. I really, really have to work at it and I often fail. But, when I step back and realize that I can’t give from a place of deficit, I’m able to focus on refilling and refueling.
    When I make it a priority to take care of myself – even as dishes sit in the sink and dog hair gathers in the corner – my kids and my family get the best from me and that investment is worth it.

    • I think you’ve said it perfectly here – that there are so many other needs that seem bigger than my own.

      It took me a long time to get to the point where I could just let the dishes go and the laundry pile up. For a while I thought those were “essentials” but, really, I’ve learned that for me and my family, those things are nice but not essential at all.

      Wise words you’ve shared here, Melissa. Thank you! :-)
      Kara @SimpleKids´s latest post: Let’s Talk- Coping During Challenging Seasons of Life

  5. This reminds me of the importance of COMMUNITY! It’s not just “okay to ask for help,” but asking for help is essential. It’s also a good reminder to seek out ways to give a hand when those around you are in the weeds.

    I was just reflecting on where we were a year ago (I was starting back to work and my non-sleeping, colicky baby still had feeding issues). I realized how my friends really pulled me through that season – with food, playdates, and just words of kindness. Now that we are on the other side, it’s nothing (and everything) to make a double batch of soup for a friend.
    Alissa´s latest post: Wordless Wednesday- Snow Day

    • Community – yes, you are so right! I’m very blessed that I have people in my life who notice things like if I haven’t called for a while or they haven’t seen or heard from me. I tend to go into “hibernation” mode when things get stressful and I’ve got people who will come to me to check in.

      I love that you are paying it forward by reaching out to those who need you. Even words of kindness can be such a boost. And, you’re right, that batch of soup or plate of cookies doesn’t take much but can mean so very much.
      Kara @SimpleKids´s latest post: Let’s Talk- Coping During Challenging Seasons of Life

  6. I also have to remind myself to take advantage of the resources we’ve built for ourselves when we’re in the challenging seasons: break out the frozen lasagna, “guilt free non-suppers,” and 2 for 1 burrito coupons!
    Alissa´s latest post: Wordless Wednesday- Snow Day

  7. What a wonderful reminder. As a work at home mom with multiple projects in the works and more stuff to do than time to do it in, I had found myself getting really angry over snow days. Feeling like my 3 hours of silence in the morning being taken away from me due to snow was something to be angry about. I did some of the things you mentioned, but mostly I stopped and really took some time to remember WHY I decided to work from home. It was so I could be available to my daughter. Here she was at home, and I wasn’t available at all because I was too mad to be there.

    Silly. It may or may not all get done, but it doesn’t have to get done today. There will be time enough to work on it tomorrow, so I took a break, let go of the anger and got into having some fun with my kiddo.

    That little mind shift has made a world of difference in our house. :) Thanks for the reminder, and the great suggestions.
    Jackie Lee´s latest post: Centering Exercises- Get Your Day Started Right

  8. I have definitely been there, and I’m sorry to hear you are struggling right now! In fact, I’d say that I’m just coming out of that season of life (maybe within the last 6 months) from the last 3 years of dealing my son’s medical issues and constant related stress, combined with my own medical issues (chronic sinus infections, miscarriages). I was only doing the basics, not much else. I asked for help frequently from my husband, my parents and my husband’s parents. My house didn’t really get cleaned, we didn’t go out much, and we certainly didn’t do any entertaining. I’ve always loved cooking for my family, but even that got put on the backburner at times. I found myself thinking “this too shall pass” frequently, and reminding myself to just do the best I could, given the circumstances. I think you mentioned some great tips. I think asking for help, getting enough sleep (even if you have to ask for help in order to do it), doing the bare minimum in terms of housework and cooking, eating as well as you can (tricky with morning sickness and food aversions/cravings!), and prayer would be my main tips. Since these particularly difficult seasons of life can be a strain on marriage as well (speaking from experience here), I’d also suggest keep up a weekly date night (even a date night at home) with your husband, even if that just means spending an hour talking instead of watching TV. Hang in there!! :)

    • “Since these particularly difficult seasons of life can be a strain on marriage as well (speaking from experience here), I’d also suggest keep up a weekly date night (even a date night at home) with your husband,” Excellent advice, Cara :-)

      I can remember when my oldest was born my mom suggested making a list of things that people could do for us so that when someone asked us, we could tell them what we needed. I remember thinking, at the time, that was kind of silly. Certainly doesn’t seem silly now!

      Getting enough sleep is a good reminder, too. For me, it is key to keeping my attitude in check if I am taking care of myself in that regard. Trying to burn the candle at both ends doesn’t do anyone any good.

      Great reminders, Cara! Thanks for being so open about your own struggles.
      Kara @SimpleKids´s latest post: Let’s Talk- Coping During Challenging Seasons of Life

  9. Thanks for being real and sharing honestly here, Kara.

    I can really identify with this today, too, and some days the “essential” is harder to accept.
    Simple Homeschool – Jamie´s latest post: Educational Philosophies Defined- Part I

  10. Getting to the basics. Following simple routines. Cut yourself some slack.
    This is a great post!
    Living the Balanced Life´s latest post: Being productive in stressful times

  11. Wow, this is us right now. We’re in the process of packing up our house to make an overseas move… my husband is being discharged from the Army and we’re going back to the States after being in Germany for 3 years (most of my son’s life, he was 9 months old when we moved here). It’s difficult, I feel as though I’m doubly upset about the whole thing because I am European and will be sad to be leaving for a second time. We’re stressed out.

    But, we’ve been blessed with a wonderful family. My in-laws are letting us stay with them for a couple of months until we find jobs and get back on our feet. My parents, who live in England, have been helping from afar as much as they can… even if all they can offer is emotional support. Friends and family who live in the city that we’re moving to have already been helping us by researching places for us to live.

    I’m not the sort of person who finds it easy to ask for help, or even to accept help when it is offered, so all of this support has been wonderfully overwhelming and we feel truly blessed.
    Satakieli´s latest post: The Big News

  12. I don’t think I handle the challenging seasons well. I tend to shut down. I usually turn my focus solely toy kids (making sure they don’t see me suffering too much). I want them to see me cope with challenges, but want to make sure they feel secured and loved also.

    I’m not writing because I have a suggestion to add, but a question to ask… For the mom’s that say focus on the essentials… how do you define the essentials? and what do you do when your definition differs from your spouses/other’s definition?
    Angela´s latest post: Kids and Money is a hot topic!

    • Great question, Angela! I think it is also one which is going to have perhaps a different answer depending on who is answering and what is going on in their lives at the time.

      For me, determining what is essential is a matter of determining what is vital to get done. Not what would be “nice” to have done, but what is truly necessary.

      For example, for today, my list of what is essential looks like this:
      – Feed everyone 3 meals (note: focus on nourishing, but not necessarily complicated or even cooked. See the non-supper post at Simple Bites for ideas.)
      – Basic hygiene for the kids and I (teeth brushed, hair brushed, faces washed, etc)
      – Homeschool main lesson
      – Pay the bills that are due this week

      That’s it. Just those 4 things.

      Feed the kids, clean the kids, teach homeschool, keep the lights + water on. That is what is essential for today.

      Now, if I can get to it, I will wash the dishes after each meal and do a load of cloth diaper laundry, but for today those things aren’t essential. Life won’t fall apart if the dishes stack up and we’ve got enough clean diapers to go another day.

      Would life run smoothly and will the house magically stay spotless clean for a sustained period of time if this was how things went around here every day? Well, no.

      But for today, that is what is essential, the basics. This is my focus.

      Hope this helps! :-) I’m interested in hearing what others have to say and how they determine what is essential.
      Kara @SimpleKids´s latest post: Let’s Talk- Coping During Challenging Seasons of Life

      • Wish I could give this post a thumbs up. :) Great example of the essentials.
        Jackie Lee´s latest post: When Should Kids Start Team Sports

      • I agree with Kara 100%! The “essentials” differ from person to person, and may also vary for you depending on what struggle you are facing (for ex: cooking may be difficult to do when facing severe food aversions). My essentials are usually limited to getting dressed, brushing teeth, meals, paying the bills, and maybe reading a book with my child.

        Note the things that are NOT on the “essentials” list for me (washing hair, makeup, making the bed, vacuuming, running errands, blogging, responding to email (unless urgent), checking email, doing elaborate things to entertain my child….

        I also absolutely agree with Kara that cleaning the dishes and laundry are in the category of “if I can get to it.” Unless you’ve got no clean underwear, you can probably put it off until tomorrow. Also, the world will still go on if you don’t do the dishes (and that would be something I would ask my husband to do from time to time, if I actually cooked).

  13. We had an extremely difficult challenge that we had to face last November, and we will be heading into a challenging season in May. Our lease is up, and we’ll be looking for hopefully a house to rent. Then we will have our niece and nephew for a week the first week of June. I’m already starting to think about easy meals that don’t require much prepping for when we’re in the process of moving. We can’t always know ahead of time that we’re headed into a challenging season, but I know I’ll feel better and not stress so much if I have our meals planned and ready to go. It’ll keep us out of the drive-thru lane too! Pray you will feel better quickly, Kara!

  14. I was thinking about this post ALL DAY LONG yesterday. Geez, I already commented twice, but here I go again…
    I think in the challenging times, it’s also important to remember and embrace the 80/20 Rule:
    – Do you feed your family healthy, nurishing meals most of the time? Then embrace this time as the 20% to pull out the box mac n’ cheese.
    – Do your kids get a bath nearly every night? Then this is the 20% of time they go without.
    – Do you limit television? Then this is the 20% of time that an extra show or afternoon movie will let mom take a nap!

    In challenging times, we’ve got to remember that it’s OKAY to adjust our (self imposed) standards. These times are temporary – we’re not creating lifelong habits by the things we do 5, 10, or even 20% of the time.
    Alissa´s latest post: Wordless Wednesday- Snow Day

    • I really like this 80/20 rule Alissa :-)

      “These times are temporary – we’re not creating lifelong habits by the things we do 5, 10, or even 20% of the time.”

      So, true! And, yet, I think it is easy for many of us to fall into the trap of feeling guilty about those small, temporary things when really, as you point out, we should be looking at the big picture.

      Thanks for the gentle reminder :-)
      Kara @SimpleKids´s latest post: Simple As That- The Emergency Hug

  15. I’ve been using the word priority a lot. Instead of saying what I don’t have time to do, I say that it’s not my priority right now, and that is how I decide what is essential. This allows me to say no and not succumb to the guilt-trips that I can so easily lay on myself.

    I also find it helps to shift my focus and make “done” lists, rather than “to-do” lists. It always surprises me how much I actually accomplished when it feels like I did nothing.
    Pamela´s latest post: Fourth Grade Update

  16. Alissa, I love the 80/20 rule! I just had my 3rd child 5 months ago and, honestly, homeschooling, working 1 day a week and being wife & mommy is kicking my rear right now! It is so important for me to realize that letting go of my self-imposed standards sometimes is OKAY. For instance, last week my husband had an unexpected evening meeting one night. I had 2 choices: stick with my original dinner plan and totally stress out OR pick up fast food on our way home from ballet and NOT spend the evening yelling at my kids. I went with plan b (felt only a little guilty) and the night was good. The essential that night was enjoying my kids.
    Paula´s latest post: Cultivating an Uncommon Union- From the Husband

  17. The discussion here is so packed with encouraging realistic notes. Kara, when you talk about essentials, I have one to add – although it may not be doable when you’re physically sick . . . Move around.

    I’ve found that when I get overwhelmed if I can get outside on the bikes with the kids or simply go outside and run around a bit, we all benefit with clearer heads and sanity. Sometimes I’m tempted to put exercise off because “I don’t have enough time” or “I’m just too tired” but even a little walk around, some stretching can make all the difference in gaining a little clarity and stress relief. And in fact, even when you’re not feeling good, a little movement, just getting up and walking around the house a bit straightening things up gets the blood circulating and restores some energy.

    So while I don’t always follow my own advice 100% – It helps enormously when I do.

    BTW, it does indeed help when activity becomes a family thing and essential. The kids are used to the idea of jumping on the bikes or going outside to play soccer – they initiate it too.

    And my husband gives me some nudges when I let myself off the hook on this one and I’m always grateful afterwards although just before I may think he’s being unreasonable!
    Sarah Clachar´s latest post: Warm Winter Clothes- What To Wear Outdoors

  18. We are currently being “challenged” by life – I fell on 12/18 and broke my foot and had to have surgery….have not been able to put any weight on it, can’t drive, hobbling around on crutches while homeschooling a 5-year-old and 7-year-old and “chasing” a very active and mischievous 2-year-old. My husband is working 16-hour days. Yes, the bare minimum is getting done around here, to say the least! The kids are watching too much TV and playing too many video games, but this too shall pass. My mantra: “Keep Calm and Carry On.”

  19. I just want to add one thing that has really helped me get through the last two years – what I’m sure will be the most difficult time of my life for the rest of my life. I wanted to start teaching my three-year-old to pray and since we never seemed to have time, we prayed in the car. I would ask him what he is thankful for first, and sometimes if he had a concern, and then I would say a prayer. Well, on the way to my mom’s house, we go through an open space area (we’re in NM) and down this big hill, and we get this amazing view of the city and the mountains. So, this simple desire to teach my child to pray became sort of a morning mantra for me – what is going right and how thankful we CAN be if we just take a moment to BE thankful. This has completely changed my daily attitude and allowed all of us (my sons are now 5 and 3) to survive this hard time.

  20. I hear you Kara. Loud and clear.

    I think something’s in the water:


  21. Some of us (I might be the only one reading this site, however!) have chosen to simplify life by having just one child. I’m not criticizing those who have 2, or 3, or 6, but just as that is a personal choice, so is having one child. And I find that I am criticized for “denying” my child a sibling, or people make insensitive comments. Just sayin’.

    • 1 child, 6, or 16 – all are welcome here :-) Thanks for chiming in! I think you’ll find there are more than a few Simple Kids readers with one child (and a few who aren’t parents, too).

      And, I’m very sorry to hear you’ve been criticized. Families come in all shapes and sizes and, unfortunately, there are those out there who can find a way to be cruel or insensitive, no matter the circumstance.

      Best wishes!
      Kara @SimpleKids´s latest post: March Preview- Rhythm and Routines- Creating Kid-Friendly Spaces


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