Overcoming mom burnout
Every night I fall into a deep and peaceful slumber, as my mind is bathed in glowing pictures from the day—my child greeting me warmly, my tender and thoughtful responses to my child’s concerns, my spouse’s blissful adoration at my impressive ability to parent our child… said no mom ever!
Being a mother is rewarding. But it’s tough. Some days are tougher than others. Some days are pure hell—you are beyond frustrated with your kid and with yourself. You don’t know what to do next. You are overwhelmed. You feel like you’ll never make it up to your child. And it doesn’t matter what else you have going on in your life—whether you are running a business, working a night shift at the hospital, managing your own home and multiple children, trying to work virtually from the house—if you are a mother, you are juggling.
Endless thoughts repeating in my head
And jugglers sometimes drop a ball. It can be easy to stare at the dropped ball—the unanswered emails, the pile of papers that need to be filed, the mound of laundry that needs washing, the unread book that you’ve been meaning to read to your child, the family meals that just aren’t happening as everyone grabs a bite on their own schedules. Whatever the “dropped ball” is, it is not the whole act—but I’ll get back to that “big picture” idea in just a moment.
First, let’s acknowledge that sometimes a mom feels like all the balls are on the floor. And maybe she doesn’t care. When life dished out some really dark days to me, there were stretches of time when I was constantly irritable and prone to snapping at my son. Devolving into fits of yelling became all too common, and there were times when I just felt like I wasn’t up to this whole mom gig. Sound familiar at all? When “completely exhausted” seems like a grand understatement of your state, and you feel like you are making no headway in your life or with your children? It’s commonly called Mom Burnout.
But no matter what BS was thrown my way, in the back of my mind, I knew my strength. I knew my son’s worth. And I knew I had to overcome that feeling of being overwhelmed. The key thing is that my son needs me. And he needs me at my best. Not exhausted, frazzled, and defeated. How are we going to get over Mom Burnout and reach our best selves? Sometimes it’s by doing less. We need to eat well, exercise well, and sleep well to keep our bodies, minds, and spirits healthy and ready to care for others. If you are so busy planning meals and making sure everyone else in the house has a warm dinner and healthful school snacks and so forth, then run off to do the laundry and answer emails and find yourself grabbing a bite at 11 p.m. standing up in the kitchen, you have put yourself way too far down the to-do list. Make your own health a priority. Let something else slide while you sit down and have a meal with your family.
It’s ok to ask for help
Delegate, if possible, for the sake of your health—and the sake of your sanity—and the sake of your child. Do you have a friend who might watch your child for an hour while you nap in the afternoon? Ask; there is no shame. Better a well-rested mom than a flipped-out, yelling, stress-ball mom. Do you have a child or other relative with a knack for cooking or an interest in being in the kitchen? Try giving away some of those meal-planning or meal preparation duties. It’s really OK for you not to do it all. Do you know that even very young children can fold clothes? It’s true. It is perfectly acceptable to train them to do this—and not crater if they don’t do it perfectly. Do you feel like there isn’t even time in your schedule for a 20-minute workout video or a walk down the street? I promise you, something else can wait while you get a few endorphins flowing. Everybody in your house will be glad you did. Remember, if mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.
Also learn the art of saying “no.” If you are experiencing Mom Burnout, you need to be carving out time to care for yourself, not adding to your duties. Are you the parent who always volunteers to bring snacks to the school function? News flash: You do not have to be this parent all the time. Set some reasonable boundaries for yourself and others in your life.
Setting boundaries can be difficult. Perhaps you are naturally gifted as a caregiver, and others are drawn to you. If people often come to you seeking help or advice, it cannot be easy to turn them away. But if you personally are also experiencing this overwhelming feeling of not being able to do it all, acknowledge that you cannot. This is the truth. None of us can “do it all.” Recognize that you may not be in a season where you can wade deeply into other people’s problems. Sharing your own struggles may, in fact, be a gift to others. And then celebrate the little victories. Did you plan a new routine that includes a little exercise time? Yea, you! Pat yourself on the back; you have taken one step toward overcoming burnout and decreasing your stress. Did you answer or delete this month’s backed-up emails? Way to go! It is a baby step in re-claiming some organization in your life. Did you put down the laundry and read that special book to your child? Good job, mom.
Each of us will have moments when we get a glimpse of that dreamy ideal when we feel pride in a job well done as a mother. Treasure those moments. But understand that none of us is perfect. And the bumps we hit one day are just that—bumps in one day out of a whole, big life as a mother. You will get past this season of feeling overwhelmed.