THIS Mom Exhausted by Sizzlers

Letter Week is almost over here at Sizzle Bop. We have one more letter we want to share, this time from a Mom who is NOT a Sizzler herself, but runs a house full of them. She’s so busy meeting their oh-so-labor-intensive needs, that she finds she runs dry by the end of the day. Anybody feeling her pain? Take a look.



Do you or your readers have any wisdom for a mom who ISN’T a sizzler?  That mom who has an actual, real need to finish what she starts, to get from point A to point B without visiting point Z, 37-1/2, Mars and all points in between?

I have two boys.  I have your books, and your ideas have literally saved our family and our homeschool.  I love your wonderful messages and your blog. I’m totally on board.

BUT.  (You knew there was a “but…”)

At the end of each day, after I’ve done my Vaudeville show, my spinning and running, and ridden the roller coaster ride that is teaching in our house, I am literally exhausted and completely unhappy.  I have not had many of my OWN needs met. 

My needs are simple: to finish what I start, at least some of the time, to get to the place I started to go, to have some small amount of order and peace.  You can guess how many of those needs get met in a houseful of sizzlers.

It feels that I am catering to their quirks all day long, and because of their… “sizzliness,” they are not ABLE to do the same for me. It’s not that they don’t care, it’s simply that it’s just not possible for me to expect it in return.  So the cycle continues.  I do all it takes to meet their needs, and my own very real needs go unmet.  

As a result it becomes very, VERY hard to keep looking for the positive, to keep making it fun, to keep chasing rabbits with them, to keep them motivated, to stay enthusiastic about all of this.  I don’t always rejoice in intensity of emotion, in dawdling, daydreaming, ignoring my first 15 requests to do something, or in the constant neglect of my own very real needs.  And boy, do I get cranky.  I’m not naturally a cranky person but WOW can I become one.  

What’s a mother to do?  It’s all on me.  And I’m tired of being a Vaudeville act all day long.  I like classical music. 


Dear Classical Mom in a Vaudeville House–

I am honored by your letter. I have heard that women such as you exist who long to finish what they start, who find a rabbit trail excursion distressing, who seek this odd sounding thing they call “order”?

Remember, you’re talking to a woman. . .

  • who threatens to hold OCD support group meetings at her home in the hopes that someone will be agitated enough to clean.
  • who puts tethered helium balloons in the trunk of her car when visiting the mall so that opening it by remote will show the whereabouts her missing vehicle
  • who forgot the distance between herself and the bathroom sink such that when trying the flip-your-head-down-and-back-up-again method of hair styling, knocked herself unconscious.

I may not be the best choice for dealing with being the NON-Sizzler in a Sizzling family.

On the other hand, we moms, each of us, have things we want to accomplish–things other than the education of our children. (Don’t tell. They’re all fairly certain they’re the center of our universe.) While schooling is a clear priority, I am still a fan of also having some of my own needs met.

For me that includes things like

  • talking daily with an aging parent.
  • Cleaning (I know, it’s hard to believe, isn’t it?)
  • Writing
  • Occasionally watching a movie, reading a book, playing the piano.

Your list may be different. But the point is that if we are constantly doing some song-and-dance to keep our kids moving forward, we will exhaust ourselves, resent our kids, and come to hate homeschooling. Then, we will have nothing left to give to these children we adore. So I get this, even with all my teasing of you and your linear ways.Here’s the good news: You are part of this family too.

Your sanity matters. It doesn’t rank higher than everybody else’s, but neither should it be cast aside as though unimportant. Everyone should get to have some modicum of basic needs met in the family . . .INCLUDING mom. You have permission to see yourself as a member of the family with needs to be met.

Figure out what are the top three things you would like to see changed or added to your world, things that would provide some of that order and peace you seek. What would bring you the biggest increase of personal contentment? Then create a window of time or a device or a plan whereby you can get it. Sounds easy, right? But how?

Well, for example, when I am writing something rather intensive, if you pop in and ask me a question, even the teeniest tiniest of questions, I will absolutely lose my train of thought. (Actually, I flatter myself that my thought could possibly be a train. Such a solid behemoth doesn’t accurately reflect my thinking. My thoughts are more like grains of sand that I’m trying to get lined up and quickly sprayed with an affixative before a breeze sends them scurrying, never to return.)

I know this about myself. I know that any interruption will remove a thought (“. . .and a darn good one!” I typically bellow) permanently, forever, and probably always.

So, I have a hat. It’s a silly little paper thing. But I keep it near my desk. And when I know I’m heading into one of those intense-need-to-focus-or-all-is-lost modes, the silly hat goes on Mommy’s head. My children know, if they see the hat, they must save their thoughts for a bit. Sometimes it’s a pretty long bit.

Permit Yourself Therapy Here’s another. I don’t play the piano very often any more, but when I do, it’s sort of my personal therapy session. My kids know this, so they also know that interrupting me in the middle of a musical phrase is likely to set me off into spasms of twitching. For me, it’s like Roger Rabbit when he hears the tune of “Shave and a haircut. . .” and then nothing. His whole body screams for the ending and he simply can’t function until it is added.

So, if Mommy’s on the piano, they must wait. If you read our letter earlier in the week, you know that I expect my kids to put a hand on my shoulder if they want to talk to me but find me speaking with another adult. This piano rule is an extension of that concept. However, when I’m playing the piano, I don’t WANT a hand on my shoulder. (Remember, I’m in therapy here.) so the rule is stand to the side where I notice your existence, but please don’t break in till the end of the piece.

Of course, all my children know that in a true emergency, interruptions are permitted–you know, anything involving unwanted body fluids, or smoke or strangers in the house. . .or smoking strangers in the house. So some interruptions are legitimate. But be ready. There must be a clear repercussion if they interrupt during a time of the hat or the piano and it turns out NOT to be an emergency.

The main thing is to give yourself permission to have needs. Everyone ELSE in the family does. You’re also permitted. It may take awhile for the family to get the swing of this concept: oh-yeah-mom’s-a-person-too, but they eventually get on board. Why? Because it’s right. And they know it. And their future spouses will thank you for teaching it.

Here are some other possible ideas to try.

Share Schooling with Another MOM

Find a mom who also would like some time to accomplish some things that would be helpful to her sanity and team up. You school your kids AND hers one day a week. She returns the favor on another. Here’s what has really amazed me when I’ve done this. Instead of the schooling of my children suffering because I’ve brought others into the mix, it actually improved. For one thing, they wanted to get their work done so that they could go play. So we weren’t doing math at 10 at night. But another benefit was that since I knew I had to report to another adult what had been accomplished that day, then by gummy, I made sure we had something to report. I was a better teacher because I was accountable.

Have Very Little Stuff

I started my family with the idea that I was going to teach them order and cleanliness using my grandmother’s golden rule:

–a place for everything and everything in its place.

So simple. So useful. It was bound to succeed.
I finally learned that Sizzlers have so much already going on in their heads, that to ask them to keep an ordering system in there as well is almost impossible.
My solution in recent years is to get rid of everything that we possibly can. Give them less to keep ordered. We actually came up with several strategies toward that end in a piece back in February about Sizzlers and Chores.

Have a Mom Zone

This rule was born of the night that I slid out of my bed one night, walked across the carpeted floor, and imbedded a lego piece deeply into my foot. (well, it felt pretty deep.) I had forgotten my daughter’s Lego world that had taken over my entire bedroom the day before. That was my turning point. I decided that there would be one place in the house, just one, that would be mine. No children could play there, tumble there, put on a play there, or entertain friends doing their toenails together there. (All previously allowed.) I needed a sanctuary, and for me, it was to be my bedroom. I wanted a place that not only WAS pretty, but was permitted to STAY pretty. This may not be the choice for you. But have a place, even if it’s just a shelf.

Look for a Wife

Have you ever thought about all your do for your family and said to yourself, “Wow, I’d like a wife too”? Someone who made it their job to help you accomplish your goals and objectives in life? Okay, stop and think. If you had such a person, what would they do for you? This really requires that you pause and think.If you had a wife, or could hire an assistant, and could turn to her and ask her to do A, B, or C, what would you ask? Now think, is there some one in your world who’d be fully willing to help you with that now? Many husbands would be happy to help you obtain this respite. But you’ll have to be clear on what you want, and how he can help. I have a sister who is a willing occasional vision assistant, and a few good friend as well. When it comes to getting help with a vision, reciprocity makes for wonderful friendships.

So Leslie, while I  may not share your specific objectives, I completely resonate with the desire to stretch and grow and accomplish some things that aren’t part of tomorrow’s lesson plans. Here’s to a bit of calm and order in your day.

The rest of you out there, what do YOU do for yourself? Share the little things and the big things. This is one of those great times when the strength of many can produce things of use to us all.

Thanks for joining us this week for LETTER WEEK.

As always, we sincerely hope you find something new to try.

Carol Barnier &
Your friends at Sizzle Bop!
P.S. For the rest of you with my own music-based twitching problem, allow me to relieve your misery. TWO BITS!!!!!!! (ah, relax into the completion.)

9 Responses to “THIS Mom Exhausted by Sizzlers”

  1. Mitzi Says:

    Wow – what a timely letter for my household! I have been struggling with my 2 sizzler children (I’m not a Sizzler) and getting them to get through a homeschool day without a tantrum or to sit still for longer than 10 minutes. I am completely wiped out by the end of the day. My hubby and I have even been contemplating sending them back to public school just so I can have some sanity back. Of course, in the long-run we know that’s not the best solution where we live. Thanks for your insight.

  2. Renae Price Says:

    I have three children, ages 12, 11, and 5. The 11 y.o. is our Sizzler and had me burned out last year. Over the course of the past 12 months, we began an intensive year of behavior modification therapy for him, and investigated some pharmaceuticals which turned out to have more side effects than we were willing to accept. I also decided I needed to do more for MYSELF, a definite non-Sizzler.

    I started a once a week coffee date with two friends of mine. We meet at a coffee shop 5 minutes from my house and I leave the kids at home. I can be home really quickly in an emergency, but that hasn’t happened yet. I absolutely know that no schoolwork will get done while I’m gone, but I also realize that very little gets done in any 1-2 hour span even when I am home.

    I am convinced that this one decision has had an enormous positive impact on my life, and the ripple effect has been good for the rest of the family. Not only has it given me a break from the chaos associated with Sizzlers, it has also allowed me to grow a couple of very deep adult friendships.

  3. sherrisiegel Says:

    Reblogged this on Sherri Siegel and commented:
    Sizzlers are anyone who is highly distracted and always on the move. There is excellent advice in here for parenting and life in general, as it can get really hectic at times.

  4. Mitzi Says:

    I’m back with another comment… My 2 girls are ages 10 1/2 & 12 and both have issues of one kind or another (dyslexia, ODD). Both are sizzlers, too. We are on our 3rd year of homeschooling, and it hasn’t gotten easier. They both constantly whine (and sometimes scream) that they want to go back to public school – they remember it as being easier (ha!) and the oldest just wants to ‘see my friends’. She actually doesn’t have any ‘real’ friends there, but having ADHD made her unaware of the teasing she received when she was at public school grades K-3. I have them learning at their own pace at home, and don’t have them on medication. There is no way, especially with my oldest, that she can function in a classroom with no medication, at least without driving the teacher totally nuts. The school is the one who originally asked us to look into having her diagnosed (even though it’s illegal for them to do so). Without medication for the last year, my 12 y.o. now weighs 70 lbs (she gained 14 lbs. in that year). When she was on medication, the doctor was upset because she weighed so little. It’s a no-win!! Either medicate and focus and be terribly underweight, or don’t medicate and have no focus, but want to eat all day long (it’s a great reason to not sit and do lessons, right?). I feel like we’re between a rock and a hard place, and there doesn’t seem to be a ‘right’ answer. Thank you for letting this TIRED, stressed-out, homeschooling mom vent!!

  5. Autumn Says:

    I love the hat idea!!! Tomorrow’s art project – my sizzlers are going to be decorating a hat for me. I’m hopping that will speed the connection. You know, something like…. “Mom’s wearing that crazy hat we made. That’s suppose to mean something. Hmm, what was that suppose to mean? Hey, I see a piece of old candy under the table.”

    I also loved the wristband idea from the Chores for Sizzlers post. A psychologist made a similar suggestion using small post-it notes. Turns out post-it notes are not annoying enough and usually don’t stick to sizzlers.

    • carolbarnier Says:

      It’s a great idea to have the kids actually create the hat. Then, they are much more invested in the concept. I didn’t figure this out till hat number two. Thanks for checking in!

  6. Emily Streeter Says:

    Okay- so I could be talking out of turn- but honestly the workbox system by sue patrick has been a lifesaver. I have an 8 yr old boy, 6 yr old, 4 and 2 yr old girls and a 10 month old. Even when I don’t have tons of academics to put in and all my prep done my kids know that if they finish they can go and get something out of a workbox that is just for them. I know they will be working on something I want them to do- that 10 minutes is priceless.

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