Hope for When You’re Stuck in Survival Mode

How often do you catch yourself thinking “I just have to make it until bedtime…”?

Last week's journal prompt “Engage” got a lot of people thinking, many readers identified with being in survival mode.  When Lorien, the writer of those prompts, called me to check if the response she'd written to the following comment was alright, she read it aloud to me and I said, “You may not put that in my comment section.  It needs to be a blog post!”  If you are “just surviving” right now, I hope this helps you take heart.  ~Alissa

Parenting survival mode

By Lorien Van Ness

Anyone else feel like you are just surviving life? This comment hit home for me and I wonder how many other parents can relate:

Is it bad that I feel like I’m surviving life? I’m a mom of two, one 3 and the other 2. I survive them daily. If I engaged in them, I’d play with them more and interact with them. But I don’t. I survive by getting through each meal, snack, nap, tantrum, bickerment. I also survive my house. I do the laundry I keep the kitchen mostly clean, of dirty dishes and clean counter tops. But if I engaged I’d have my refrigerator cleaned out and other things would be clean. I mean really cleaned. I cant tell you the last time I cleaned my floors. Besides spot wiping when something has been spilt.

I’d love to engage in me. I’d like to know who I am, besides a wife and mother. I’d like to see what I like to do instead of what I have to do..

I’d like to disengage from other moms that “have it all together” come on. Let’s just be real with one another . Being a mom is hard. Not every moment is gracious and glorious. This is a hard job.

Thank you for your Should of article it’s all so true.,


To Tonja and any other parents stuck in survival mode:

I couldn't agree with you more; being a mom is one heck of a hard job, and not only does it often not feel gracious or glorious it is often tedious!  Caring for really young children is all consuming and it can really take its toll.

I don't think it is “bad” that you are in survival mode, I think its a way to cope, and believe me I have been there. In fact a large part of the reason I chose the word Engage for this week’s journal prompt is because I am often there now. I’ve noticed that I have been just trying to make it through the task at hand or the day as a whole.

I catch myself thinking I just have to make it until bedtime

And then that Should Mama follows it up with: How awful, I am missing their childhoods! I should be playing with them, enjoying them; they will only be young once!

…but I'll be honest and say that I am almost too exhausted to feel guilty… almost.

So why did I write a journal prompt about engaging? It actually wasn't in an effort to “should” all over myself, but rather to help discover where there might be little places I could engage in my life, in tiny, tiny doable pieces; to really examine what I could do and what I needed to let go of. After all I am no superwoman, I can't do it all. Because of the work I have done in the Everyday Connections course I know that if I can find small sustainable ways to engage with my life I will feel less guilty about being in survival mode when that is all I can really manage.

One thing I have come to see about having multiple toddlers and preschoolers to care for is that it is time and energy consuming on a level that is difficult to understand unless you have done it, but it doesn't last forever. Things will change, you will catch your breath.

  • Don't worry about engaging the laundry or the fridge; they will still be there.
  • Look at those things you want to be engaging in and think of one or two easy ways you could dip your toes into engaging.
  • Keep it short and simple. Aim for 5 or 10 minutes.
  • Let go of the big picture and focus on the moment.
  • Engaging is not about getting it RIGHT or doing it all, it’s about being present (if only for a moment).

Most importantly allow yourself some grace and don't allow it to become a should fest.

Be Well,

Do you ever get stuck in survival mode?  Do you have recommendations for small ways to connect with your kids and find bits of enjoyment even when things are really hard?  Leave a comment below and let us know!