Are you too busy – spending your days rushing from one activity to another? Do you feel pressured to live up to other’s expectations – or your own self-imposed standards? Would you like to step off the ‘wheel’, find breathing space and simplify your life? 

As life seems increasingly busy, with quality family time and finances sometimes stretched to breaking point, parents can feel like they are on a treadmill day in, day out. Unrealistic expectations of ‘doing it all’ often leads to increased pressure on individuals and families. It can be hard to know how to break the cycle and regain a sense of control in your life.

Parents are commonly juggling careers, household chores, family schedules, school and sports commitments, maintaining relationships on top of finding time for themselves, quality time with children, or time simply to unwind, think and plan for the future.

The term ‘helicopter parent’ is often used to describe modern-day over-parenting. In previous generations, children were expected to play outside, learn by trial and error, and take ownership and responsibility for themselves.

Nowadays, many parents experience some form of external or internal pressure or expectation to do things ‘right’: using ‘correct’ parenting techniques; hosting the ‘best’ birthday parties; enrolling kids in music lessons, sport or other classes; keeping up with the latest technology, gadgets or fashion; or competing with other parents… the resulting pressure can be daunting, overwhelming and endless, with children (and adults) often ending up tired, scratchy and over-scheduled.

Parents’ time, energy and patience is already stretched from the demands of work and family life. Parents find themselves not only managing their own time and priorities, but those of their children as well.

Many parents are in danger of becoming exhausted, overwhelmed and burdened with guilt simply because they have forgotten how to live life by their own personal values and guidelines.


Children don’t want or need too many activities – what they thrive on is quality time with their parents. Aim to keep things simple, achievable and realistic. This relieves stress, pressure and feeling overwhelmed and supports a well-balanced life. Children and adults value time to play, imagine and be themselves, without structured activities everyday. We can all benefit from taking time out to slow down, relax and simply enjoy life as a family.


Being over-committed is counter-productive. Prioritise daily, focusing on and completing one thing at a time. Anything else you achieve is a bonus. Identify your priorities by asking: “What is the single most important thing I must do today?” This alleviates feeling overwhelmed, out of control and under pressure to get everything ‘done’.


Establish strong, healthy and consistent boundaries. Clarify your personal and family values: what’s important to you, what’s acceptable and what isn’t. Don’t be influenced or pressured by others – learn to say “No” without guilt or explanation.

Go easy on yourself, taking one day at a time. Avoid any additional or unnecessary commitments during challenging or stressful times. Have an ‘at home’ or ‘down’ day if you’ve had a busy week, sleepless nights or are finding it difficult to cope.

Common Sense

Ask yourself: “What is the worst thing that can happen if I don’t…enrol the children in extra-curricular activities/pay for expensive items/get involved in every opportunity available…?” Trust your intuition and common sense.

Avoid comparisons to other parents who appear to have and do it all. There is no such thing as the ‘perfect’ parent. Do what works for you and your family.

Support systems

Don’t try to be ‘super-Mum’ – this will only result in guilt, stress, resentment and burnout. Establish a strong support network. Learn to ask for and accept assistance or delegate where possible. Talk with a friend, family member or trained professional – remember you are not alone.

Remain calm

Rushing around leading a hectic, busy, stressful life often results in chaos, feeling overwhelmed or unable to cope. If you’re stressed-out, exhausted, angry or frustrated, it’s important to try to remain calm and in-control.

Practise slow, deep breathing or use similar relaxation techniques and coping mechanisms, or take some time out to unwind. Keeping a clear head, speaking calmly or using distraction can help overcome a difficult situation.

As a busy parent, juggling various roles and responsibilities, simplifying your life and focusing on what’s truly important allows you to have more time and energy, ensuring a stress-free, well-balanced family environment and a sense of calm and control in your life.

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Karyn Riley is a time management and life balance coach, author of “How to Keep the YOU in Mum”, inspirational speaker, writer and mother of two. For more information see www.rileylife.co.nz

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