I slashed through the cardboard with a serrated knife because, like everything else in my life, my kitchen shears were misplaced. Packing tape, then the packaging itself, then styrofoam went flying. It was a race to the bottom of this box, and I knew what I would find.

Days earlier, on a family vacation, I had confessed what all women across the globe at one time or another confess: I was overwhelmed.

My husband and I had snuck away for a dinner out with Grandma watching our four kids. It was December in Florida. Warmth, waves, smiles, fun. And as I sat there across from my husband with chopsticks in hand and a rainbow sushi roll between us, all I could think about was what we’d be returning to after our flight home the next day.

I think the question posed was, “What are you most looking forward to in the New Year?” and I promise I didn’t want to ruin the moment, but my eyes betrayed me. Misty and pink in an instant, they revealed all my feels, all my dread. And then my words did, “If I have to load up that refrigerator and meal plan for the week one more time, I think I might die.”

Truth be told, I was tired of it all. The laundry. The food. The carpools. The homework. The bathrooms. The baths. The bedtimes. I simply was exhausted by domestic life.

Once my tears subsided, I demanded that Scott not fix anything. I specifically told him I just needed to get this overwhelm off my chest and that I’d lose my mind if he swooped in with any solution. He promised.

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My dear husband, true to his word, waited about three days.

It was back home that he approached me with this fabulous plan to take the meals off my plate. He was going to help reconfigure our budget so that three ready-made meals per week were at our disposal. I’m not going to lie; even though he disobeyed, I was secretly and hopefully ecstatic.

But then the enormous package came, and, in an instant, I realized what he had actually done. Ready-made my patootie. Nope.

He had gone rogue and purchased one of those kits . . . the type that begins with washing your hands and a bundle of produce, middles with lots of dicing and olive oil, and ends with an Eiffel-Tower-high heap of pans in your sink. Ready-made meals didn’t require washing my hands. How inconvenient.

I had been duped. 

So, in the darkness of that 4:30 p.m. winter afternoon after a particularly hard day, when Scott was not yet home from work, I cursed my missing kitchen shears and his name. This box was clearly the devil, evil to its farm-to-table core. I was looking to offload, not follow pages of tedious instructions. I was a red-faced, angry, crazed version of myself.

This, my friends, is what overwhelm will do to youit will make you a raging lunatic.

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That my husband had patiently listened to his wife and responded so lovingly didn’t matter. That we had the resources to afford such a service didn’t matter. That the contents of said box were filled with organic, perfectly plucked fruits and vegetables didn’t matter. That my family was healthy and happy didn’t matter. That, upon a small search, my kitchen shears would turn up in the junk drawer didn’t matter.

What matters when you’re overwhelmed is that you’re overwhelmed.

There’s no room for anything else. Like gratefulness or perspective or a level head.

So, on the other side of that mom overwhelm (and thankfully that misguided kit experiment), here’s what I have to say: If you’re overwhelmed, let your single most important project be to un-overwhelm yourself. Go for that walk. Take that nap. Get that babysitter. Read that book. Take that bath. Pay somebody to do that laundry. Get hold of real ready-made meals.

Your perspective will slowly return to you. (And hopefully your kitchen shears, too.)

Tricia Arthur

Tricia Arthur lives in Denver, Colorado with her family, which includes a husband, four kids, and a guinea pig named Frank the Tank. Her writing has been featured here on Scarymommy, the guest blog for ADDitude Magazine, and her own personal blog, www.triciajoyarthur.com. When she is not running, reading, writing, meditating, or schlepping around her brood, she is working to improve how she manages her ADHD neuroatypicality and that of her unique kids.