Whole Parenting Family

Three Ways to Stop Overcommitting


told to you by someone who struggles massively with over-commitment. It’s always been a teeter-totter for me.


feel good about it,

feel great about it,

feel burnt out about it,

crash & burn.

Revitalize and start again. All like a phoenix. Oh, how poetic I art.

In my own attempt to simplify, and not in that new trendy minimalism way were you bid your material possessions adieu softly whispered as you caress them on their way out the door (did you read Indiana’s hilarious post on Marie Kondo??), but to cut back to my balancing point, I’ve discerned three truisms about coping with overcommitment.

1) Do you have time to clip your nails or q-tip your ears?


I have very basic (read: low) hygiene standards. Bathing regularly is easily met by a small baby who likes to play in the bathtub but anything above and beyond that: hair styling, moisturizing, makeup (what’s that?), taming eyebrows, caring for or painting nails, etc, don’t happen very often.

When a new opportunity presents (like three did this past month–three things I really wanted to say yes to and had to say no instead!!!!!), I first ask myself, do I want to do this? If the answer is yes, then I ask, but am I clipping my nails and cleaning out my ears right now?

The answer to that is almost always no. So that tells me to decline regretfully.

2) Accept there are two kinds of friends: low maintenance and high maintenance and no one has time for the latter.


If I had a penny for every time I was late, canceled, or had to postpone (that’s when you email back and say I’d love to–call me in the summer??) I would be rolling in the many pennies by now, almost five years into motherhood.

I’ll never forget this one playdate when I had an eight month old. Clearly you could tell I was a first time mom as evidenced by the fact I thought an eight month old wanted a playdate. The friend cancelled on me the morning of. I was so outraged.

My baby had been up most of the night teething. I had still managed to shower and put on makeup and dress my squirming baby. I was packing (with like thirty things, remember, first time mom??) my diaper bag (this canvas monstrosity that was overpriced when I bought it on sale as a newly pregnant, easy target, shopper). My friend texted her reason for wanting to cancel. Again, outraged city over here.

Didn’t she know I had put so much effort into making myself presentable to hang at her house? Didn’t she know I was so tired but had overcome it with my determination to not be a flake and cancel on her?

It would have served me better to have cancelled on her first! She probably had had an equally terrible night and had two kids and was a pro at this thing. I was still adhering to my pre-baby rigidity of commitments that must be honored. I was that friend, the high maintenance one.

Now if a friend can’t roll with the schedule demands of a work-at-home mom with three small kids who are regularly diseased and ill-sleepers, she’s on the see-you-in-ten-years list. Not that I don’t like her or even love her, but low-maintenence means my tendency towards feeling terribly guilty and overcommitting is manageable.

3) Listen to what you say when you talk to those closest to you.


I went through a phase where all I did was complain. I’m just coming out of this phase after almost a year of being terribly over-committed. Waking up to what I was actually saying to those closest to me has been liberating in every respect.

Every text conversation with my sister Molly late at night because we were both nursing our waker-uppers-babies was negative.

Every AA came home from work, all I could focus on was the little I accomplished that day. The frustrated pieces of my sanity were strewn amongst three small children, competing for my time and energy I wanted for ME for MY projects for MY desires.

I hit a wall, big time. I cried about feeling abject failure. Then I looked at my life, my charmed life, and laughed at myself. The only failure would be to fail to be present to the joys and delights.

People who over-commit may share this trait with me: the desire for external fulfillment. For external affirmation that I. Am. So. Valuable.

No amount of my energies and efforts can prove that to myself. I have to believe I’m valuable because of who I am, not how I am. And I do believe that, for the most part!

It’s been humbling and good to experience my weakness in this area smacking me in the face, and so awesome to wake up and see my kids are still right here, laughing and scream-whining, wanting me to hold them and running away from my attempts to wipe their noses. My husband is eating my burnt dinner, bringing me roses & ice cream bars for my birthday. My siblings and parents surround me with their undaunting and ever-present love. I lead a charmed life indeed.

Say no to overcommitting. It’s just not a way to live your life, plagued by guilt and always running and running and never feeling done. And please q-tip your ears.





  1. Heather @ Real Catholic Mom on April 12, 2015 at 11:51 pm

    I still clean my ears, but …

    • Natural Mama Nell on April 13, 2015 at 9:08 am


  2. Anne on April 13, 2015 at 10:13 am

    Oh how this resonates with me. I am a chronic overcommitter. I feel sometimes like I’m losing myself in the daily grind and big feelings of motherhood and so I tell myself, “you deserve to do something you’re excited about!”. And so I sign myself up for something or broadcast to family and friends how I’m going to start running/writing/sewing again. And then I do and inevitably a kid gets sick or my husband goes on a work trip and I crash and burn and lose my temper and blame everyone but myself and then simmer in self pity. “Why can’t I just do something for me!”

    But I am not quite as at peace with the need to not overcommit as you are. In my heart of hearts I feel like God gave me these yearnings in my heart to create and participate in activities and organizations about which I’m very passionate. But as a stay at home mom with a very small network of support, it’s just too hard to follow those longings without failing my family in patience and time.

    I often wish I was perfectly content to abandon my hobbies for a few years while the kids are small. I wish I could wholey give myself over to these years of chubby cheeks and middle of the night nursing sessions and sweet, sweet snuggles. But it’s still a struggle for me. If I give up my hobbies, I begin to resent my family for taking them from me. But if I pursue my hobbies, I get overwhelmed with commitments and get angry with myself for being unable to juggle it all.

    Anyway, sorry for the long comment. I just really appreciated your honesty in this post.

    • Natural Mama Nell on April 13, 2015 at 4:30 pm

      I love your response! I have picked my hobbies to devote time to, but really learned I cannot do all 15 things I want to do! I can do about three things outside of mommying and wifeing. Follow your heart! Don’t give up your hobbies!! But just pick fewer to pursue?

  3. CJrMom on April 13, 2015 at 2:16 pm

    So.well.said. It was because of posts like this that I signed up to get emails from you! It took me 5 kids in 7 years to get to this point! But you have liberated us all with this concise wisdom. Just this morning my hubby (a contractor) saw me making grilled mushroom and cheese stuffed meatloaf…for someone else…and he said he figured out why I make all his favorite foods for other people…is because he designs and fixes other peoples home more than ours…lol. We’re both rottenly guilty.

    • Natural Mama Nell on April 13, 2015 at 4:31 pm

      You’re so kind. HAHAHAH I love that you and your husband had that moment!!

  4. Michele on April 13, 2015 at 4:54 pm

    This is soooo great, Nell! I especially needed #2. I feel so guilty disappointing high maintenance friends, and this helps!

    • Natural Mama Nell on April 14, 2015 at 7:14 pm

      I’m so glad. Shed that guilt. So shed it!!

  5. Kelly Meagher on April 13, 2015 at 9:50 pm

    Loved this as always, Nell. I feel like in it all, you were saying that having a semblance of peace and contentment in your day to day life is where it’s at. But you used such practical, measurable means to get there. It’s something I’ve been thinking on a lot and striving towards.
    Thanks for sharing this!

    • Natural Mama Nell on April 14, 2015 at 7:15 pm

      When you’re a maker like you (and I try to be), I think it’s extra hard to be just be just be not do!!! Xxoo thank you for sharing your thoughts.