How to beat the overwhelm as a professional working mum…

A friend has a postcard on her fridge that says, “I can’t decide whether to be a good example or a horrible warning”. This post is a bit of both!


Let’s be real for a moment. When you’re juggling family life with a demanding work schedule, it can get overwhelming at times. Whether this is running your own business or managing a senior role in your workplace. Click To Tweet


In most cases, it’s us mums…


In this article I want to share some tips that I’ve learned for keeping that sense of overwhelm at bay. I wish someone had told me these things when I became a mum in business.  


1. Make sleep a priority

Yes really, sleep. Before you throw your hands up in the air and stop reading, hear me out for a moment. I’ve been there and I know how hard it is to achieve quality sleep when your children are really little. I’ve pushed through one too many times and then got sick. I’ve kept going and then ended up shouting at my family or forgetting an important appointment. Sound familiar?  


Although it’s tempting to burn the midnight oil once the children are in bed, it’s not worth it and you’ll never be as productive as when you’re fully alert and rested. Your ability to focus is one of the key factors in running a successful, sound and productive business. Sleep is like drawing on a credit card. Eventually the debt becomes too big and needs paying off. It catches up with you in the end. 


Don’t just take my word for it though. Recent breakthroughs in science are really clear on this. 


Sleep is non-negotiable. It’s a necessity.  


Sleep deprivation affects every single system in the body. People who sleep just five hours a night are four times more likely to catch a cold than those who sleep eight hours a night. 

If you are awake for 17 hours it has the same effect on your ability to focus as a blood alcohol level of 5%, which is the legal limit.


Most people need between seven and nine hours sleep a night. The clue is in how you feel the next morning. If you are at the stage where your children are regularly waking you up at night, you need to be in bed for more than eight hours to get enough sleep, probably more like nine to eleven hours. 


If your night time sleep is interrupted and there’s nothing you can do about it, consider scheduling a short nap into your diary. And if you’re really struggling to get decent sleep, read the best-kept secret to boost energy and slow down aging. 


2. Create boundaries 


Your work will never be finished. Housework, homework or business work; there’s always ‘just one more thing’ that needs doing. It’s essential to create some boundaries around work time and family time. Both need protecting. Here are some things that helped me: 


  • Decide what hours you are working and stick to them.
  • Create a separate workspace that is not your bedroom or kitchen counter top. If you don’t have space for a study, then make a corner of a room into your desk space. When I first went back to work after having my second child, I rented a ‘hot desk’ in a cooperative workspace nearby. This was great for fostering a sense of connection to others. 
  • If you work from home and someone else is looking after the children, create a symbol that you are working and talk to your children about it. Mine is that I’m in my study and the door is shut.
  • Make time in your diary to stop and eat so that your blood sugar doesn’t crash. Anxiety and overwhelm can also be signs of hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar). 
  • Accept that there will be times when your boundaries are breached, and that’s OK. This might seem to go against all the other points, but really it doesn’t. You may have an urgent deadline for a project  and need to work a bit late for a week.  


3. Reset your expectations


This one is possibly the most challenging of all. Before I had children I naively thought I could keep things ticking along ‘on the side’ while looking after a baby. They don’t talk after all do they?  I thought. Life soon gave me a massive wake-up call on that one! 


It can be hard to accept you have limited time when you’re a parent and there’s still so much to do for your work. It’s especially hard when you really love the work and believe in what you do, like most of us. The reality is that life will throw you curveballs you cannot plan for. Your child is sick. They have a school play you only found out about at the last minute. You injure yourself or get ill. And so on. 


I have learned not to compare my achievements to others. One person’s situation is not comparable to the next. The reality is I’m not able to do as much as someone who has more time to play with. 


The world of work is also changing at breakneck speed, as more people work from home and the work-life boundaries dissolve. So don’t beat yourself up if you don’t achieve your day’s goals. Tomorrow is a new day, after all. 




  • People who sleep just five hours a night are four times more likely to catch a cold than those who sleep eight hours a night. (Read more ‘Walker, M (2018) Feel Better, Live More, audio podcast’).
  • If you are awake for 17 hours it has the same effect on your ability to focus as a blood alcohol level of 5%, which is the legal limit. (Read more at Meadows, G (2018) Feel Better, Live More, audio podcast, 24 March 2018.