Episode 3: Jenn Uren on OverwhelmFeb 16, 2021
Jenn Uren is the host of the This Mom Knows Podcast. She shares with us how she found herself buried in overwhelm and feeling like everything was out of control, how pride played into keeping her trapped in overwhelm, and how laundry saved her.
Read about how to build your own laundry routine.
This is a transcript of the This Mom Knows Podcast - Episode 3
So today I want to tell you about some overwhelm that I have experienced in my life. I we've all experienced overwhelm to some degree and and for some, it's a short season and for some, it's a long season. So I just want to share with you how I came to a point of getting out of overwhelm.
I'll back up a little bit and tell you when I was a little girl, I knew that if I asked my dad for anything, he would most likely say yes. And it was something that I I really respected and was careful not to abuse because I knew he would say yes, and I didn't want to take advantage of it. But he modeled really well, this idea of saying yes, whenever possible. Now, my dad is a dreamer. He's a risk taker. He's a visionary. And he's always had this entrepreneurial spirit to him. He could solve just about any problem. And if we had a tight space that needed to be used creatively, he would figure out what to build, what to make, how to use it, so that we could take this limited space and use it as effectively as possible. He was always been asked to do lots of things. And so he modeled really, really well for me this idea of "say, yes, now and figure it out later." You can get it done, but say yes to the opportunity. And somehow, he always found a way to do it, he delivered.
So I did the same thing. I started saying yes to whatever came my way. The problem was, I am wired very differently than my dad is. I'm a planner, I want to know what to expect, and I want to know what's expected of me. I'm a people pleaser. And so somehow the same Yes. And figuring out later, I felt like I was always coming in just under the wire. And that stressed me out, I was so afraid that I was going to let people down. And I didn't quite understand this about myself until one day a few years ago, I was listening to a podcast, and Gretchen Rubin was talking about her book, the four tendencies. And in it, she talks about how people are upholders, or questioners, obligers, or rebels, and what that kind of looked like for when it came to motivation, what motivates us, and it all clicked for me. And I realized that I'm an obliger, who is externally motivated. In my everyday life, this means that I will always prioritize what somebody else wants or needs for me over something that I want for myself. So if you say to me, "could you send me these three pictures by Friday," but I think that I need to have a blog post written up by Thursday, I'm going to do your thing first, because you need it. And you have a deadline. And my deadline was kind of made up, I put it on myself. And so I will always say yes, too, because I don't want to let you down.
So I said "Yes" a lot. And I felt good about all the ways that I was serving people, because I was I was saying, Yes, I was serving you. But with my Yes. Right. But somewhere along the way, you guys, I confuse things. And I began to believe that saying Yes was the same thing as; I began to believe that saying yes, was the serving, and not the thing I was going to do. And so I started saying yes, and then let people down because I wasn't doing things well at all. So in not wanting to let anyone down by saying no, I was letting everyone down by saying yes, nothing was being done well, and no one was being served. But I did not figure that out for a very, very long time. And I just kept piling on the yeses. And the thing about saying yes to one thing is that it absolutely requires you to say no to something else. It's like a math equation. And I love math. It makes sense to me. But I didn't worry about that in this sense. I just kept saying yes, and yes, and yes. And eventually things were really, really out of balance.
And so that's the thing about overwhelm. I don't know if you've noticed this, but it doesn't always happen quickly. We say it sneaks up on us, we think it happens quickly. But in reality, it's kind of been working its way up towards us long before it overshadows us. It's kind of like that tsunami wave out there. It's way out in the ocean working its way to shore but it's not until a few minutes before it hits that we're even aware it's there. And it's about to overwhelm us. And by then it's usually too late to get out of the way.
So this particular season of overwhelmed began when I miscarried our third child. I was 17 weeks pregnant. And the doctor's visit before this happened, they had said, "Well, now that we're in the second trimester, we don't have to worry about miscarriage." So it really, really caught me off guard and my world stopped. We had two kids at home. And I just I didn't know what to do. So I immediately pulled out of everything. And then once I was, once I was kind of stable again, just as quickly, I jumped back into everything. I filled my time. And I, I felt good about it, I was doing great because I was in control, or I thought I was in control. We had decided that we were done, we were going to be content with two children. And then I discovered that I was pregnant again. And that was scary, because I didn't, I didn't know if I would lose this one too.
So it ended up being a very hard and scary pregnancy. It was very, very sick. But I powered through, I tried not to let anyone down. And after the baby was born, like six, seven weeks after the baby was born, we moved, it took me a long time to unpack those boxes, but I did it. Then I started homeschooling our oldest. Then I started working from home part time. And then we started volunteering at a food pantry. Then we moved again. And the day after we move that time I had a fundraising gala, I was responsible for pulling off. So I had all these logistics happening. Then I started homeschooling our second that I joined the leadership team of the food pantry, and you get the idea. I just kept saying yes. And the yeses kept coming. But there were no no's - nothing came off my plate.
So all these things, as you can imagine, required something of me. My time, my mental energy, my physical energy. And the more I gave of my time, the less I had, the less time I had to take care of myself. The more I gave the emptier I became and you all know the saying, you can't pour from an empty cup. And it's true. And it's got a really simple solution, you refill the cup.
But simple is not the same as easy. And when you're in the thick of it, you can't even see the simplest of solutions. So I hit this point where I couldn't sleep, I couldn't think. I felt like I was chasing my tail. I was going nowhere fast. And I felt like my life was out of control. And some days I would find myself so focused on following my family around and cleaning up after them. I wanted this house to be perfectly pristine. And as much as I like a clean house, it wasn't the clean house that was motivating that. I realized, when that happens, I began to recognize that I was controlling the only thing I felt like I could control. And it was driving my family bonkers you guys. But I did not know how to change it.
So during the season, when I would talk to my closest friends, I would often tell them, it was like I felt like my brain needed to have a defrag program run on it. Like it just needed to be put back in order like I would do with my computer hard drive. I had too many tabs open, too many files open in my head, nothing was connecting, and it just wasn't working. And really, I was slowly smothering myself. And I was dying. If not physically, emotionally, my kids were losing their mom, my husband was losing his wife and I was losing myself.
Through all of this, I still felt this really strong sense of obligation. I had this obligation to live to the standards that I thought other people had placed on me. Things that I thought they expected from me because if I didn't live up to them, right, I've then let them down. So I tend to be a very organized person, I tend to look at the details, I tend to juggle many things at one time. And so people have called me organized, capable and responsible. And so because that's what people called me, that's how I felt they saw me. And that's the standard I knew I had to live up to or I would let them down.
So I kind of found myself in this quandary. If I admitted that it was way too much that I had too much going on and I couldn't handle it, I was not only letting people down, I was essentially exposing myself as a fraud because I'm supposed to be organized, capable, and responsible. So facing it, and admitting that just sounded so much harder and scarier than just trying to continue to manage it all. So I just kept at it. And back then I did not have the skill or the knowledge to articulate it at that time. But that was my motivation, was what other people were going to think.
But let's be honest, you guys, let's just call it what it really is. It was pride. Pride is what told me, I could do it on my own. It's what caused me to worry about what other people were gonna think about me. Pride is what put myself last. Pride stood in the way of me making hard decisions. And pride was hindering me from being the wife and the mom that my family needed. Now it does say in the Bible in Proverbs, Proverbs 16:18, it says that pride comes before the fall. And I am here to tell you that that is totally true.
And that fall, came on a sunny Tuesday afternoon in October, when a friend tracked me down and out of the blue asked a simple question. One that absolutely turned my world upside down. And that's a story I'm going to save for Episode Six. And while I will leave you hanging there, and make you wait to hear that question, I am not going to leave you hanging in the midst of overwhelm with me. I'm going to tell you what happened. And give you hope, hopefully.
I dug my way out of it. And now five years later, I'm on the other side of it, life is still very full. But everything I do now is done with intention and purpose. And I have learned to say no. So how did I do it? That's the question, right? Well, for me, it all started with the laundry. Yep, boring, dirty laundry. And as I sat in the middle of it all feeling like life was spinning out of control. I knew something had to change. And as I racked my brain to figure out where to start, it dawned on me that the one thing I could control that wasn't driving my family nuts by trying to keep the house clean. The one thing I could control with the laundry. And I don't mean I could control the volume of it, because we have a lot of people in our family and I certainly could not do that.
But I could control the piles and the process. And as I thought about all the things that were involved in laundry from whose laundry I was doing, where their dirty clothes were being placed each day to When did I have pockets of time to put stuff in the washing machine and throw it in the dryer, to folding and putting away clothes, I began to notice some patterns. And so I built a routine around those patterns and laundry was transformed. And it wasn't overnight. It took a few weeks, a couple of months. But as I kept at it, it totally changed. So instead of piles being there, just looking like they were never ending and I could never conquer them. launch it became something that just happened. And it was I was on top of it. And that gave me hope. And that gave me the courage to keep moving forward and tackling the next challenge.
So step by step, challenge by challenge that overwhelm began to fade and the light returned. So my hope is that through This Mom Knows, you will find the resources and connections to help you face whatever challenges it is that you are looking at in your life.
I'm so glad that you stopped by today and I'm looking forward to getting to know you better and I'm looking forward to chatting with you again soon.