motherhood

5 Strategies for Handling NOISE in Motherhood

I live for the peaceful moments when we’re out exploring, watching a seagull take flight above us or watching waves lap at our feet below.

It’s then that I could almost be convinced that the soundtrack of my life consists of the soft roar of the Pacific punctuated by the happy squeal of a child who just got touched by freezing water.

5 real-life strategies to help you handle the noise of motherhood with a little more...CALM. :) Unfortunately, that’s only the soundtrack of the occasional weekend excursion, at least in my world.

The rest of my life probably sounds a lot like yours:

“Mom, watch this!”

“Mom! Did you see that!”

“Mom! Did you know that your heart is only a big as your fist? Or maybe that was your brain…” (Sometimes facts get a little turned around by the time they get home from school, right?)

Children are loud. Their fighting (often over the smallest things ever conceived) feels like nails on a chalkboard to a mom who has heard it all day.

I find that even their happy play often SOUNDS like fighting.

Earlier this year I was describing this to my therapist—knowing there wasn’t a lot I could do about it but just needing to get it off my chest.

She said it seemed like my “alarm center” was getting triggered a lot. I was struck in that moment by how perfect her description was. The noise of my children often triggers an alarm I can hear in my head and feel in my heart. I feel my agitation rising almost as literally as I feel the bath water rising when I fill the tub for one of my kids.

I know I need to find shelter from the din or lose my marbles once and for all.

Does the noise get to *you*?

Maybe a lucky few of you are reading this thinking, “WHAT is she talking about? My kids—and the dog—are jumping off furniture right now while screaming battle cries in a British accent, and it’s all good!”

Hats off to you, my friend, because I would be hiding under the sofa right about then.

For introverts and highly sensitive people, a need for quiet is hard-wired—and I think this makes the chaos of motherhood a little more challenging for us.

Thankfully, this need is something we can work around, something we can work to accommodate. Here are 5 strategies to help you handle the noise (oh the noise!) of motherhood with a little more… calm.

5 Strategies for Handling Noise in Motherhood

1. Carve out reoccurring blocks of time for yourself

More goes into this than the simple desire to “have more alone time.” Finances and your stage of motherhood, in particular, are big players. I said it when I talked about reducing metaphorical noise in your life, but I highly recommend juggling your budget around to accommodate some blocks of babysitting that will give you regular stretches of quiet. Also, stretches of quiet are easier to come by once your children are in preschool or school. (Moms of babies and toddlers, we love you! And it does get better.)

Another option is asking for help from family and friends. If you explain your nature and what a difference the occasional afternoon off makes for you, I bet your loved ones will be more than happy to help out. As a bonus, asking for help and returning it is one of the best ways I know of to build a modern village.

2. Use technology as the sanity-saving tool that it is! 

I don’t even want to think about where I’d be without PBS Kids. I know and believe in all the arguments to get kids off devices and into real life, but I also know I wouldn’t have survived my early motherhood years without the help of kids’ programming and apps. Even now, with my children being 8, 6, and 3, I still use technology to break up our days and give me more time for quiet and low engagement.

3. Structure your days with blocks of noise & engagement followed by quiet & independence

I bet many of you do this naturally. I know I do. If I spend an hour making crafts with the kids at the table, I send them outside to play independently for the following hour. After I listen to their after-school chatter and survive homework time with three kids, I have them watch a couple of shows while I prep dinner in peace.

Noise and engagement followed by quiet and independence. It’s a constant give and take that keeps me sane. 🙂

4. Look for regular tripping points and see if you can fix them

Are your kids exceptionally chatty and prone to fighting right after school? Try handing them a kids’ protein bar the moment you see them. 😉 Are they bouncing off the walls when you’re trying to make dinner? Refer to point #2, or maybe try instituting some playtime in their rooms every day at that time.

Look for times when the noise level always gets to you, and think about how you could resolve it.

5. Talk yourself down 

I’m continually exploring the idea that what we tell ourselves IS our reality. Sometimes when I’m in the middle of the noise and I know there’s nothing I can do about it, I repeat words in my head like these: “Your kids are happy. YOU are happy. Everything’s fine.”

Practice this: Talk yourself down from the point of alarm; breathe yourself through the noise.

I’m really curious (even more curious than normal, if that’s possible!)—

Does the noise get to you, or can you roll with it? What do you find yourself doing to handle it?


A Helpful Resource

If this struggle is especially real for you, I have an ecourse called Talked Out, Touched Out: Learn to Thrive as an Introverted Mom.

You’ll finish the 8-lesson series with more acceptance of who you are and with the tools to help you feel much more calm and centered as an introverted mom!

Our next session will open in the early spring, but until then feel free to grab a PDF of 12 tips for introverted parents—from introverted parents. Just sign up here, and be sure to check the box that says “Printable: 12 Tips for Introverted Parents.” You’ll also be first to know when the course opens again.

All the best!

44 Comments

  • Reply
    Erin
    October 19, 2016 at 5:24 am

    Yes! I am a highly sensitive person as well. I spend my drive home from work excited to play with the kids but often find myself stretched to my limits from the noise once the chaos ensues. I’m really bad at #1, am learning a good balance of #2 & #3, and realize I need to spend some time on #4 & #5. Thank you for putting this feeling into words.

    • Reply
      Erica Layne
      October 19, 2016 at 10:01 am

      #5 is the biggest one I’ve been practicing lately. It’s hard, but it helps! Thanks so much for reading and taking the time to comment, Erin! Good luck the madness! 😉

  • Reply
    Lauren
    October 19, 2016 at 7:48 am

    Heavens yes! “Engagement and noise” is key – I find that the noise gets to me most when I’m not involved in the noisy activity. That’s why screens+kids=snappy mommy here; not only do I hate the noise, noise, noise, but I hate being interrupted when concentrating. Parenting littles is hard for me as a result and I accept loooong bedtime 1-on-1 times to make up for it.

    • Reply
      Lauren
      October 19, 2016 at 7:52 am

      Clarification: screens FOR ME are a trigger for crankiness, because the kids see me looking at an inert box and figure I’m available for them, while I’m actually reading something complicated or composing a business email or whatever.

      • Reply
        Erica Layne
        October 19, 2016 at 10:02 am

        Oooh, such interesting observations, Lauren! I totally get you. And this is a great reminder of why it’s so important to be self-aware and to look for those things that just put us too close to the edge. Best wishes!!

  • Reply
    Rachel Thueson
    October 19, 2016 at 8:37 am

    It gets to me too. Especially now that Sierra is nonstop talking (which is great!) AND she is CONSTANTLY asking me
    why why why?! And Sawyer repeats everything she says usually very loudly. 🙂 I really feel my patience wear thin towards the end of the day. I guess that’s why we always watch a show before bed, I’m ready to check out and get a little me time/quiet time! Being a mom stretches me to my limits. These are great suggestions.

    • Reply
      Erica Layne
      October 19, 2016 at 10:04 am

      Hehe, I can just imagine those dynamics playing out (Sawyer repeating Sierra LOUDLY), and it makes my auntie heart want to burst! That said, I know as a mom—especially at the end of the day—how much it would get to me. You’re doing awesome, Rach! And hooray for the before-bed show!

  • Reply
    Amy Carney
    October 19, 2016 at 1:15 pm

    Oh yes! You are not alone! I have a loud house at times with 5 kids! I grew up with only one sister and we were very quiet. Luckily, my husband grew up youngest of 4 boys, so noise doesn’t bother him a bit. I think how we grew up has to do with how we feel about the noise in our own families now. Sometimes, I say to my husband I’m getting a headache, I have to get out of here and into some quiet for a minute to regroup! Enjoying my quiet right now before the beautiful, noisy after school afternoon 🙂

    • Reply
      Erica Layne
      October 19, 2016 at 1:32 pm

      Haha, I’m glad you savored those last few minutes! I’m in the middle of the chaos right now, and today I’m even better at recognizing the beauty in it. 🙂 Thanks so much for reading, and you have a great day!

  • Reply
    Linda Sand
    October 19, 2016 at 3:15 pm

    When my daughter was little we had quiet time after lunch. She had to stay in her room but did not have to nap; she just had to be quiet. Because *I* needed that. We’d both be sorry if I did not get my midday quiet time.

    • Reply
      Erica Layne
      October 19, 2016 at 3:46 pm

      Amen to that, Linda! I wouldn’t survive without quiet time either, once they give up their naps. My daughter does the same.

  • Reply
    Kathy
    October 19, 2016 at 9:46 pm

    I thought it was just me. The chaos and noise of 2 boys stresses me out when I am already tired. I recently discovered the Spa station on Pandora and pop in my headphones when it is too much.

  • Reply
    Joanna
    October 21, 2016 at 11:02 am

    Oh surely you’re not alone! Kids are mostly noisy and loud, mine aren’t the noisiest ones among the group out there (that’s how I practise #5). Though I accept it as the fact that kids are noisy and loud, it still always takes a huge huge effort to calm myself down before I can calm them down, phewwwwwwww

  • Reply
    Allison
    October 22, 2016 at 7:41 am

    Excellent post! This is something I struggle with at times (especially during school breaks) and I appreciate the tips. #5 in particular is one I need to use.

    • Reply
      Erica Layne
      October 24, 2016 at 10:37 am

      Agreed! I will have to remember to re-share this early summer, when I ESPECIALLY need it! Best wishes, Allison!

  • Reply
    Melina
    October 23, 2016 at 2:45 am

    Thank you for this! I’m also an introvert and HSP (and suffer from stress burnout) and it’s really hard sometimes to be the mom I want to be. I try really hard not to yell at my kids when they are just being happy but it’s a struggle for me. These strategies are great and I already use some of them but it’s a great reminder to use them more. So thank you again!

    • Reply
      Erica Layne
      October 24, 2016 at 10:38 am

      I can totally relate, Melina! Good luck to us both! 😉

  • Reply
    Leah
    October 27, 2016 at 4:21 am

    I am so glad you brought this up! I felt alone, like a bad mom for not being able to deal with the noise. I homeschool our 2 so I’m with them ALL day. Sometimes ( most) by the time my husband gets home from work, the last thing I want to do is cook dinner. It seems like wherever I can find refuge or solace away from the noise, someone finds me.

    • Reply
      Erica Layne
      October 29, 2016 at 11:31 am

      Home-schooling moms are saints. That is all. Hang in there, Leah! Wishing you extra fortitude! 😉

  • Reply
    Jamie
    November 3, 2016 at 11:53 am

    The noise SO gets to me! We adopted our youngest two at the very noise ages of 4&5 and I basically lost my mind that first year! Add homeschooling to the mix and that made me lose even more sanity. 😉 Thankfully my husband steps up and takes over as much as possible, like on weekends, and that, plus taking up running, have helped. But I know exactly what you mean by even happy play triggering that alarm response. I’m so with you!

  • Reply
    Clare
    November 6, 2016 at 8:32 am

    Loved this article, thanks for sharing! I’m an introvert and love my quiet time too, so I can identify with all of this! When my kids dropped their naps, we continued with ‘quiet time’ in their rooms. This winter I moved toys to their rooms, and left books and puzzles in the living room. It helps keep the main living space more calm, and they get use to the routine eventually. 🙂

  • Reply
    Ashley
    November 9, 2016 at 2:39 pm

    I feel like I could have written this post! I’m a highly sensitive person and I’ve figuring this stuff out the hard way the longer I’ve been a mom ;).

    • Reply
      Erica Layne
      November 9, 2016 at 2:52 pm

      I think even IF we read something like this post, we STILL have to do a lot of the learning the hard way! (Darn it!) 😉

      Thanks so much for reading, Ashley!

  • Reply
    Nisha Mary
    November 9, 2016 at 11:20 pm

    I am so happy to read this…with four boys youngest going to be one I thought am alone in this…. I soemtines feel am going to explode with all thus noise around…. I have been trying your ideas except #5… But not always able to …..but its consoling to know others share my dilemma😊 thanks for the post

    • Reply
      Erica Layne
      November 10, 2016 at 9:32 am

      Hi Nisha! You are definitely not alone in this! Man, I can only imagine the noise of four boys. I think my TWO are wildly loud! 😉 You’re amazing. And yeah, I think #5 is hardest for all of us! It’s like the ultimate mastery. I probably won’t fully get it down until my kids are OUT of the house. 😉 😉

      Thanks so much for reading!

  • Reply
    Jenn
    November 12, 2016 at 7:33 am

    What a relief to read this! My children are 2, 3, and 12. I have daily break downs because of the constant stimulation and noise. I feel so much guilt for not being able to “handle the noise” like I see other moms able to do. My husband doesn’t quite understand how it’s so hard for me or why it bothers me so much. I try to wake up early in the morning so I can enjoy some quiet time to myself but it doesn’t last me through the day. I’m excited to implement these steps and see if I can better handle the noise. I want to be a happy and fun mommy. Not a stressed out and exhausted one!! 🙂

  • Reply
    Zayne
    November 15, 2016 at 6:04 am

    Thank you for this! I have a 5 month old and a 5 year old who is homeschooled. Some days I feel like if I’m asked another question while the baby is crying I’ll collapse in a heap of tears. I’m an introvert so at the end of the day all the talking and touching and interaction has me spent. One of my coping methods is reminding myself that this is only for a time, so I try to focus on the positives.

    • Reply
      Erica Layne
      November 15, 2016 at 12:19 pm

      Oooh, Zayne – Reading this brought back such vivid memories for me! Why is it that kids always need stuff when a baby is crying?! So stressful! Hang in there, and good for you for trying your best to remember that this is just a season. Sending love!

  • Reply
    amy
    November 23, 2016 at 3:39 am

    When Emerson was a baby I regaurded her sleep as my peace and something I had to fiercely protect. Those precious nap times, were all I had holding me together. Noise became enemy number one. Actually it was always something that really bothered me, people who sneeze loud, yawn loud, talk louder than a normal volume. People who seem to want you to listen to them chatting away on their phones in public, I digress. My husband calls this my “noise rage”. I am highly sensitive. When I was younger I was tested and shown to have auto processing disorder, I’d best discribe as functional dyslexia (it’s something I’ve tried and failed to “fix” my whole life. I think having her took it to a new level. It added so much more intensity to the panic of dealing with a disturbing noise. She’s now 3 my nap times are gone. She’s not a loud kid. She tells me she needs to leave the room when I use the blender and similar things. I worry that I’ve projected this onto her or worse I’ve given it to her inheritly. I tell her things like it’s a tool, tools have to make noise to do their job & try to be aware of how I react when frustrated by noise. End novel. Thank you for this article. it is comforting to know I’m not alone.

  • Reply
    stressed out mama
    December 8, 2016 at 9:48 am

    Please, what do we do about this? Three boys are so loud. Even when it is “quiet” reading time, they make constant noises and monologues to themselves, as if they can’t tolerate silence.

    I try the “carve out time” and “use technology” tips, but the fact is, whenever I spend time with them, they’re chaotic and loud and unbearable — and so I hate spending time with them. They’re starting to pick up that I avoid them and try not to be in the same room whenever I can, and so we are just getting more and more distant.

    I am scouring the internet for tips on how to make myself less sensitive — I actually often start crying I can’t bear it it’s so painful to me to hear their screeches and whines — or how to get them to stop. No one seems to have an answer to either.

    Taking breaks occasionally or putting them in front of the TV just isn’t enough. Please, has anyone experienced this extreme distress from constant noise impingement and how to cope with it without just avoiding your kids?

    • Reply
      K. Jolie
      September 18, 2017 at 3:37 am

      I feel much empathy for you– my kids are 2, 5, and 7 and I have had many difficult days because of incessant noise and the outer and inner chaos it creates in our home and in me. I researched this a while back and found a website which has hypnosis sessions you can purchase for help in dealing with noise sensitivity. I don’t have the site name on hand at the moment. I plan to try this. Also, after three years of homeschooling, I faced the fact that I actually couldn’t handle the lifestyle as we were doing it– noise, was really breakung me down on all levels. I put my very active 5 year old is in kindergarten and he is loving it. I had to face the fact that my ideals were not matching reality. I still homeschool my 7 year old and ny 2 year old is at home

      • Reply
        Erica Layne
        September 19, 2017 at 12:54 pm

        It is a constant give and take, trying to figure it all out, isn’t it? Good for you for making course corrections as you go. I’m right there with ya. (Oh and I’ve done some hypnosis, although not about noise sensitivity, and really liked it!)

  • Reply
    Karyn
    December 10, 2016 at 12:47 am

    Oh Stressed Out Mama. I hear you. I’m normally okay and wouldn’t put myself in a category of sensitivity but there are some days that I feel the need for some space and can’t get it. Then I tried another way. I immersed myself in it. Tried to give my whole heart and being over to engaging with my noisy kids. I set a timer and then just plunged in.
    By setting a time limit and trusting that I could “escape” when it went off, and engaging fully, my kids and I didn’t feel so distant and I found even after I stopped playing, the “noise” was in context and more manageable.
    I started with 15 minutes. The rest of the things demanding on my time just had to wait for those 15 minutes. Some days after the timer went off I just kept playing, other days I’d bolt at the first chime. But it did actually reduce the whine and allowed me to also say some days “Hey, I know you are happy playing, but can you play with inside noises”.

  • Reply
    Nicole
    June 14, 2017 at 6:27 am

    I thought I was alone in this,
    I’m a single mom so the noise does get to me, when my kids play in the pool abd are screaming or they “play cry” those truggers go off because I’m the only one respinding to emergencies in my home. It has gotten to the point where I even get super annoyed with happy loud giggles and silliness especially when I’m driving the kids because the noise is distracting and I just need a break. The constant fighting and sibling rivalry especially in the car is out of control. It can be overwhelming at times

    • Reply
      Erica Layne
      June 14, 2017 at 6:41 am

      I’m know what you mean, Nicole, and my heart goes out to you. I hope these ideas help!

  • Reply
    Christina Shoemaker
    June 15, 2017 at 5:47 am

    Noise is so hard for me, even as a kid! And I can perform onstage but a loud television is too much. We have a 5 month old, 2 year old and my 7 year old step son is here for 6 weeks. And I’m right in the transition since I just left my 40 hour a week job to be home with the kids. Talk about over stimulating! Yikes. But reminding myself that my kids are happy and that we are blessed helps me calm myself. And drinking coffee. And hiding in the bedroom when it’s time to breastfeed the baby 😂

    • Reply
      Erica Layne
      June 18, 2017 at 9:23 am

      Haha, I love all those little coping strategies! I’m the queen of hiding in the bedroom! (Although I don’t have a baby to cuddle with anymore! 😭 ) Many best wishes to you in this transition, Christina. You’re right—it’s a big one!

  • Reply
    Amy
    August 31, 2017 at 10:50 am

    I’m introverted and HSP as well. And my son has ADHD and gets up by 5:30-6 am loud and ready to go. He often wakes his sister and I’ll hear her screaming at him to go away. It’s a horrible way to start the day. I’ve woken up tired and cranky as a result for weeks/months. I can’t start the day that way, so my husband (who gets up earlier and leaves by 6:30) has started keeping my son in his room to get ready and clean up or in the dining room to eat and get ready for school until I’m up and ready for breakfast. The loudness, especially the kids fighting, throws me off and leaves me feeling negative. I’ve struggled to overcome it. As a result of my need for quiet, I had often stayed up late at night, when everyone’s in bed, but then that just makes me sleep deprived and more cranky in the morning. The kids are back in school though, so luckily I get all day to read stuff like this, and get my alone, quiet time before they come back home! #itsaworkinprogress!

    • Reply
      Erica Layne
      August 31, 2017 at 12:31 pm

      It’s a work in progress for all of us, Amy! I’m with ya! It’s a continuous process of tweaking our family routines to make things work a little better for us, right? I think you’re doing GREAT because you’re identifying your triggers and figuring out ways to work around them. Have you seen the “okay to wake” clocks? You might want to take a look at them on Amazon! My daughter waits until her light turns green to come out of her room in the mornings. It’s taken us a good amount of practice, and she’s not perfect at it, but it HAS helped out mornings. Just thought it might be a good resource for you!

  • Reply
    Emily
    September 1, 2017 at 10:51 am

    Fight noise…with noise! My kids actually make LESS noise when I have music playing! And it’s relaxing for me.

    We do have to take turns so I don’t end up with Disney 24/7 🙂

    • Reply
      Erica Layne
      September 1, 2017 at 3:25 pm

      That’s a great mom hack, Emily! Thanks for adding that here!

  • Reply
    Sophie Mattos
    September 4, 2017 at 11:05 am

    This is so me. I say this to my husband all the time – I just can’t take all the noise. 2 year old twins and a 6 year old on the autism spectrum. They are ALL crying, screaming, whining and fighting all day long and all at the same time. Sigh. Summer was rough but at least I will get a couple hours to myself now 🙂

  • Reply
    Kristie
    September 4, 2017 at 10:58 pm

    This post really resonated with me as well. Our kids are early school-age now but one strategy that has worked well for me when I’m feeling particularly triggered -and I know this might sound bad – but i put earplugs in just halfway. it enables me to still hear what’s happening around me, participate in the conversation as I need to but turns the volume down. One of our kids had regular ear-piercing meltdowns for what felt like years and I found this helped me stay calm so I could connect rather than react.

  • Reply
    My ears are tired
    September 5, 2017 at 10:31 am

    Aaaaamen. I homeschool and work from home. The kids are too old to enjoy playing outside much these days. One is terrified of bugs so she spent almost all summer inside. We have a pool out back that they swam in maybe 4 times all summer. They have been in here. With me. All the time. It’s been a heck of a morning and it’s almost “quiet time” here (1-2:30) and I absolutely plan to eat ice cream for lunch without witnesses.

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