Mommy burnout. A phenomenon I’m all too familiar with in recent times (I’m sure many of you readers are as well). My natural inclination was to discuss the psychology behind mommy burnout, how to prevent it, and what the professionals will tell you. But then I realized Psychology Today has done a pretty good job providing that text book advice. So instead, I decided to write from the heart, and share my experiences. Rather than diagnosing and prescribing, I thought maybe normalizing and relating to the feelings you may be having might be a better tack.
I remember when “Flash” was still a bun in the oven, and I daydreamed about how perfect life was going to be as a SAHM. I thought about how I was going to make a home cooked meal every night, keep spotless floors, stay in great shape, have kids who were going to be well-mannered ALL THE TIME all while sugar plums danced on my head…. What the hell was I thinking?? Assuming I was going to be supermom did little but set me up for feelings of failure, inadequacy, and burnout.
A few months ago, I had a conversation with one of my best friends, Lauren. She said to me, “You have really high expectations for yourself.” She knows me since I was 10, and she clearly knows me well. I’ve known for most of my life that I’m a perfectionist, and I now realize it’s biting me where it hurts. And then about a month ago, I had brunch with my other best friend, Pam. It was an emotional meeting where I think I cried more than I ate. I cried about work. I cried about feeling like a bad mom. I cried about missing my mom (who passed away two years ago). I cried about everything. She sat next to me, nodding her head because she understood. We connected by having a real conversation about real life. The catharsis hurt so good.
I realized after talking with my friends that it was time to change my frame of mind and take action. I no longer wanted all my responsibilities to feel like a chore, even the ones I love. I no longer wanted to unenthusiastically respond with “sure” when my oldest son asks me to play with him. I knew my inner candle was burning at both ends, so I made some changes. Here’s what helped:
- Accepting my life and responsibilities. I decided to be a SAHM, and for the most part, I love it. I realized I needed to accept my responsibilities, try to manage them as best I can, and move forward. This reframing gave me the strength to act in positive ways to help me feel better and happier.
- Counting my blessings. Life can look and feel like a pile of dung sometimes. I remind myself that in the grand scheme of things, I have an amazing life. Counting my blessings puts my stressors in perspective, and I’m left feeling grateful, “lighter”, and happier.
- Acknowledging my perfectionism and applying it to areas outside of my home. This is a work in progress, but the self-talk I make is important to achieve the behaviors and results I want. “Perfection doesn’t exist” is a daily mantra. My goal is to get to a point where I no longer feel the need to have a “perfect” home, etc. Instead, I will use this energy in other areas of my life (for example, work projects).
- Expecting less of myself. Sometimes just feeding the kids and putting on a pair of pants is an accomplishment #aimlow
- Meditate for at least five minutes every morning. For me, meditation is the greatest gift for relaxation, peace of mind, and insight. By doing this first thing in the morning, I feel calmer, more positive, more patient, and better equipped to handle my kids’ misbehavior. It sets the tone for the rest of the day. It literally changed my life.
- Doing the things I love and stop worrying about the rest. Thinking about my blog and working for my blog ALL DAY LONG started sucking the life out of me. Even when I was in bed with Bronchitis, I was working. I made a conscious decision to enjoy my life more and “turn off” when I’m at home with the kids. I now love harder, play harder, and laugh harder. #bestdecisionever
- Asking Husband to pick up some slack. Husband works very hard. Despite this, he lovingly helps me do the things I need a break from. For example, cooking, cleaning the kitchen and bathrooms, or doing laundry. These breaks provide me with more energy to cook on those other days. #teamwork
- Frequent date nights or me time. I needed more time away from my kids. Spending extra time with Husband and friends (who don’t suck the energy from you) helped to get my mind off of my stressors and further connect with people I love.
- Not feeling guilty about wanting to spend more time away from my kids. I swear my brain developed a new lobe dedicated just to making me feel guilt after I had kids. Moms have so much on our plates but feel bad when we need a break. I let them watch too much TV. I don’t play outside with them enough. I didn’t want to play the one thousandth game of “Go Fish” today. I stopped feeling guilty about wanting to get out of the house once in a while.