Decision Fatigue Is Real and It Is Weighing Us Down

I sat in front of my computer for two days, trying to figure out how to put my thoughts in to coherent sentences regarding decision fatigue. Alas, here it is, and I can’t decide if I like it or not. I’m not positive in my rationale, but I’m pretty confident analysis paralysis could be the theme of 2020 for parents…I think anyway. Well, maybe not. I don’t know. What do you think? Should I reconsider?

On any ordinary day, a mom wrestles a thousand different decisions as she manages the physical and emotional load she carries in order to raise a family. A mom knows when soccer signups begin, if a child is behind on a history lesson, when someone is about to outgrow their tennis shoes, and who might have a low lunch balance. She resolves disputes, helps with homework, and plans vacations all while also managing her own work and personal needs.

To say there’s a lot on our shoulders on any given day is an understatement. And in the year 2020, “understatement” is a complete laughable term when considering all that is carried on our already tired shoulders. The weight isn’t new to us, but this year especially, it is much, much heavier.

COVID-19 has dealt us all some pretty big blows. The shuttering of businesses, the abrupt end of school, and the constant worry our loved ones may contract a potentially deadly virus has turned the lives of Americans upside down.

Usually a very decisive person, and the default decision-maker for our household, I have found myself questioning every move our family makes. There’s a million questions swirling around, all with ambiguous answers that can change by the hour depending on the most recent and readily available information published. The struggles are complex and impossibly scary.

  • Is it safe to take my kids to the store?
  • Should we send our children to school and risk exposing our family to a potentially deadly disease? What if I don’t have a choice in the matter?
  • What will happen to their mental health if we decide not to send them?
  • Is it safe to play with the friends our children so desperately miss?
  • What happens to our jobs if our kids are remote learning for a majority of the year?
  • How will I teach my kindergartener to read?
  • Can we safely have our parents over for dinner?
  • Is it safe to visit great-grandparents when they are so lonely and desperate for interaction?
  • What in the world are we going to do when forced inside this winter?
  • How will our family function if I get sick and become unable to care for them for weeks at a time?
  • When will this all end?
  • Am I making the right move? What happens if the answer is no?

Couple all of this with the mundane choices moms make for our families in a normal day, week, month, year, and the emotional load is simply too much. Now even the simplest questions seem exhausting, and my decision fatigue seems to be getting worse.

What’s for dinner? After cooking what seems like 25,647 meals straight, I have simply run out of ideas. Pondering the notion makes my stomach turn.

Should we try to plan a local, affordable vacation? The thought of calculating the logistics is enough to make me want to just stay at home.

Is it acceptable to sign the kids up for indoor basketball? In any normal year, sure! But this is no normal year, and the stakes are higher. Things that have become autopilot for moms, now require an intense amount of brainpower and deliberation.

And. We. Are. Exhausted.

And our decision fatigue has led to cognitive overload, analysis paralysis.

It results in sleepless nights, pondering alternatives and brainstorming ways to make it successful for our families. It makes us short-fused. It feels as if we are slowly making our way around a hamster wheel, spinning and spinning, yet always end in the same place we began. There are no shortcuts, no easy answers.

As a planner, the pandemic has thrown my organized and thought out days into an upheaval. As foreign as it feels, I am trying to shift my mindset to planning things I can control rather than pondering the endless possibilities and fearing the unknown. What can I control? Well, I’m still trying to figure that out, but there a few simple things I am working on to help pave the way for clear-headed reflection.

  • I am choosing to be selective when I say “yes,” which means lightening my daily load of responsibilities. By simplifying my choices and paring down my decisions, I hope I will feel embolden in my conclusions. It might mean empowering my children to do more for themselves or handing over meal planning and grocery shopping to my husband even though that’s something I tend to handle. Little delegations seem to make a world of difference.
  • I am also choosing to find a way to ignore the noise, which is clouding and confusing my otherwise rational judgment. For me, that includes deleting LOTS of divisive “friends” on social media and choosing to put down my phone altogether. Instead, a quiet walk with our dog or bike ride in the morning helps to gain much more perspective than squabbling adults stating opinions as facts.
  • I am choosing to be a part of the solution, not a part of the problem. The issues we are currently facing are too big to merely leave behind, they are serious matters with very real consequences, which is why so many of us are currently living in survival mode, wanting to fight or flight. So I will do my part to prevent the spread of the virus. I will follow the rules, because it seems as though it is the only way we will be able to resume life as we once knew it.

We are nowhere near the end of this pandemic, as it is proving to be a game of endurance. Which means we, as moms, have to take care of ourselves in order to be able to care for our families. Remind yourself you’ve already made it this far. You have seen your kids through virtual schooling and citywide shutdowns. You have calmed fears, protected your family and been everything they needed you to be. Keep showing up, and doing the best with what you have. That is all they truly need.

We can do this. While I’m not confident in that statement, I’m faking it until I make it.

Kristin Ruthstrom
Kristin is a Lee’s Summit suburb transplant, after living in the Brookside and Plaza areas for over eight years. Raising three young boys with her husband, Jake, has helped her to embrace the messy, wild side of life where love is expressed in bear hugs and body slams. Professionally, she can be found teaching classes as an adjunct professor in the areas of Business, Marketing and PR. She is able to provide her students with applicable, real-life knowledge as she draws from several years working in the corporate sector. “Free time” (ha!, what's that again?) is spent on an occasional date night to favorite local restaurants, reading blogs on everything from home design to politics, riding her sweet beach cruiser bike and thinking of ways to convince her husband to do yet another home improvement project.


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