If I Have To Make One More Decision I’ll Scream

In the morning before the rest of the house is up and moving, I tend to take a moment to breathe in the calm and mentally prepare myself for the day. Another day of chaos, another day where I’ll be the main person in charge of making all the decisions.

Some decisions are small, like what I should wear today. (I almost always default to my uniform of black leggings and an oversized sweater.) Other times, the decisions are a bit more complex, like whether I email my daughter’s teacher about an incident she relayed from school or wait to see how things play out.

And of course, don’t even get me started on the mental bandwidth it takes to prioritize the rest of my day. If I work until 1pm, will I have time to run a few errands on my lunch break? Should I start the Crockpot on my break, hoping maybe (just maybe) a hands-off dinner means I can get on the elliptical for the second time this month? Oh, and should I make time to get my daughter’s snack together for the soccer game later tonight, or can that wait until the 11th hour on Saturday morning? Every day requires tons of calls about everything in our lives, and lately, all this decision making is really burning me out.

When did I start to dread decision making? Isn’t this what I wanted all those years ago when I was a teen and counted down the minutes until I entered young adulthood and had the freedom to choose whatever I wanted? Every choice and every decision would be mine and mine alone to make. I relished the autonomy and getting to be in charge. Decades later, I’m done. Decision making feels less like freedom and more like a drain on my existence the more and more I do it.

Of course, part of it is that I’m not just making decisions for me. The truth is, moms are on a never-ending carousel. When we get the kids ready in the morning, we help them decide what to wear. When we work at home (or for someone else), we decide how to prioritize our day. When we get home, we decide what’s for dinner and whose TV day it is, all while wondering where the hell we will find the energy to finish our to-do list after the kids go to bed. It seems I’m the only one who ever makes a decision, big or small, and it’s exhausting. It seems ridiculous that after a long day, even the most simple question like “what’s for dinner?” will cause a meltdown. And yet, here I am — truly, just those three small words make me feel like I’m losing my mind.

I’ve talked to other moms, and I know that I’m not the only one struggling with this. So what gives? Why do I feel like the responsibility of raising my family is running me into the ground? Turns out, there’s a word for that: it’s called decision fatigue.

Yes, fatigue is the exact right word. I’m drained and ready to throw my hands up in the air when I’m asked to make one more choice after an entire day of making decisions. And I bet you feel the same.

You know how billionaire CEOs like to choose the same outfit every day, as a uniform of sorts? It’s one less decision to make, one less thing to think about. And honestly, it makes total sense. They say it frees up more mental bandwidth to deal with other, more important decisions. And if the ultra-wealthy (who have hired help to answer the question “what’s for dinner?”) feel like they need to adopt this habit to help them avoid decision fatigue, maybe I should too. I mean, I can’t go out tomorrow and hire a personal stylist to take dressing off my plate or a personal chef to create and execute a delicious menu, but I’ve made a few adjustments to help ease the decision fatigue and burnout that always follows.

Pinpoint what’s dragging you down. There are tons of decisions I make in the day-to-day that totally zap my energy from the get-go, but dinner is the bane of my existence. What are we eating? Do I have enough time to cook today? Am I ordering for pick up or cooking at home? For me, everything related to groceries, menu planning, and choosing dinner drains my battery. That means if I can just get dinner running on some sort of system, my whole life will improve.

Plan ahead to mitigate day-of distress. Do I love spending Sunday afternoons making a menu for the week ahead? Not really. But what I love even less is logging off my PC at the end of the day and choosing what to serve my minions after a long day. It doesn’t always go exactly to plan, but saving myself from having to make this decision at 6pm every day means more often than not, we’re having an actual dinner, not just cereal.

Delegate and let other people make decisions. I decided to share the task a little: my daughters, 11 and 9, now chose two meals to add to the menu for a week. They don’t always agree on everything, but they know the meals they choose must be something we all eat (begrudgingly or not). This way, they’re getting a dinner they’ll enjoy and I don’t have to think about it every single day — it’s a win-win!

It’s also worth mentioning that it’s okay to lean on your partner or people in your inner circle. We all could use 28 hours in a day, but the next best thing is relying on the people in the trenches with you. Maybe if you’re tackling menu planning this week, they can wrestle your kids into the bath or take charge of filling out permission slips. When they ask if you need help, be honest and ask them to take the reins for a while. (Just try not to pull your hair out when they inevitably exclaim how much work it all is.)

Making decisions is part of life, but it can still get overwhelming. If you feel mentally fatigued by all the choices you make throughout the day, you aren’t alone. When you can, let other people make the choices, and if there’s a way to simplify your routine by taking some of those small decisions out of the mix, don’t be afraid to do it.

Holly Garcia writes about parenting, mental health, and all the lifestyle things. She hails from the Midwest, where she’s raising her daughters and drinking copious amounts of coffee.

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