Capacity Parenting


mom on computer and kids in background. capacity parenting. Des Moines MomIn my current season of motherhood, with a 4 year old and 1 year old, the seasons may change, but it seems I am in a constant state of busyness. Sometimes I tell myself I will be able to relax more and stress less when the summer is over, when I finish a certain project at work, or when my daughter hits a certain milestone (like sleeping through the night). But when as soon as that time arrives there is a new “thing” to take its place.

I think many moms can relate when I say that even though we are constantly in this state, it doesn’t make it any easier or us any better at it. There are good days, bad days, and really bad days. We know expectations can ruin motherhood, and just our day in general. Even though I thought I had my expectations in check sometimes I was beating myself up for things I felt I should have or shouldn’t have done in my day as a mom. I recently came across this concept of capacity parenting and it really helped change my mindset.

What’s Your Capacity?

We all know there is danger in pushing things past their maximum capacity. The same is true when we push ourselves past our capacity points. I realized that in pushing myself past my individual and mom capacity I was entering dangerous territory and setting my family and myself up for hurt.

Some nights I am up with the baby every 3 hours. When I wake up in the morning I don’t have the capacity to make a gourmet breakfast and engage in small talk with my toddler so cereal and Sesame Street it is. Or maybe I had a productive day at work and I am feeling really good when I get home. At that time I have the capacity to do pretend play with my daughter and make homemade pizza for dinner.

If I ignore my capacity when it is running low that’s when I am more likely to yell and be impatient with my daughter. I say things I don’t mean, and just go through the motions. On the flip side, if I ignore those times when I do have the cognitive and emotional space and don’t use them to my advantage I can miss out on some really special moments.

It’s important to note our personal capacity changes. It can change daily or sometimes even moment-by-moment. When the baby wakes up from nap with a fever, my husband calls and says he’s going to be late and a work project has a set back, the capacity I started with before all that happened has drastically changed. So I have to change.

There have been times when I have said out loud to my husband “I don’t have the capacity for this right now.” Our capacity ebbs and flows and I think it’s important to be in tune with it. If I try to do things outside my capacity I get overwhelmed and snappy. It doesn’t turn out well for anyone.

We have to be OK with changing plans because we have reached our limit. I would encourage you to take some time today and ask yourself if you are pushing past you maximum capacity on a daily basis. If so, try pulling back. Get take out for dinner. Turn on a movie for the kids. Go to bed early and leave the kitchen a mess. It’s OK. Even though the world seems to think different, we are only human after all.

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Casey is an Iowa captive by way of Alabama. She lives in Urbandale with her first responder husband Derek, black lab Dakota, and human daughters Avery (2018) and Nellie (2021). She loves being a mom and is navigating her journey with her own version of what motherhood looks like including shamelessly singing “Baby Shark” on command and eating Oreos during nap time so she doesn’t have to share. Casey works part time in the non-profit field supporting families that are grieving the loss of a child. In her “free time” Casey enjoys baking, specializing in boxed brownies and pre-made cookie dough. She also enjoys reading historical fiction books and watching Netflix. Her preferred forms of communication include sarcasm, emojis and gifs.


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