I recently saw floating around on social media a quote that said, “I’ve thought of running away a lot more as an adult than I ever did as a kid.” The quote made me laugh, and sadly, I could relate. I remember one time as a child thinking about packing my little red travel case and running away. I think the thought lasted about five minutes until my mother called me downstairs to go grocery shopping with her.
Although I haven’t ever packed my bag in runaway preparations as a mother, I would be lying if I didn’t admit there have been times I’ve daydreamed about it. And sometimes my thoughts have lasted longer than five minutes! I’m fairly certain most mothers can relate, and it is for that reason I’m not ashamed to admit such thoughts.
When the Power of Moms Facebook page asked mothers recently what were sure signs they are close to (or already at) “Mommy Burnout” here are some of the mothers’ responses:
“I start acting like a control freak. It’s impossible to relax.
“Losing control of myself and my emotions.”
“I stop enjoying watching them (my children) and begin to fantasize about boarding school.”
“Get impatient and yell too much.”
“Feeling detached, checked out and bothered by my children.”
“When I’m not enjoying the little things.”
“When my husband and children are a bother.”
Seriously! Who can’t relate to one or more of these thoughts??
At the risk of sounding like an expert on this subject, although unfortunately, I do have a little too much experience in the area of “Mommy Burnout”, I offer a few suggestions.
I know, I can see the eye-roll coming on from you already. We KNOW we should simplify. But unfortunately KNOWING doesn’t always translate into DOING. Maybe you have an overwhelming project, or perhaps you have too much on your plate, and maybe, just maybe you’ve set your expectations a little too high. Simplify! Absolutely need to take dinner to a family? Pick up a pizza instead. April Perry has an article on the Power of Moms website that has some great suggestions for this very thing, How to Renegotiate with Yourself.
Recently a good friend, who is a wonderful mother of a growing family wrote the following, “It’s a drive to Dairy Queen and eat a chocolate dip cone in the car alone kind of evening. That’ll be a large cone please.” Can you see what she did? She could sense the “mommy burnout” coming on, and she likely did what she needed to do, to avoid it going from bad to worse. I know this mother well enough to know she likely felt little guilt as she drove away from her family home that evening. She knew separating herself for a brief period of time was the best thing for her and her family. I’m pretty sure when she returned however many minutes (or hours) later, she was better equipped to deal with the challenges of motherhood. Sometimes we need to get away from our children and husband and that is OK. Don’t give yourself guilt about it. Go to the library and peruse magazines, get a pedicure, go on a walk sans stroller and children. Do something YOU want to do. (Leaving will not always be an option, so feel no guilt about putting children in front of a television, or laying them in a crib with toys,
or another safe environment you can walk away from briefly and go in a different room and do something FOR YOU. Paint your nails, take a bath, or take a nap!)
Put Yourself First
Motherhood for the most part requires selflessness. We give up sleep to feed a crying newborn, to change wet sheets on a bed, or to clean-up throw up on a bedroom floor. We often eat the leftovers for dinner, and end up with only cold water left in the shower. Sound too familiar? Should that always be the case? NO! Sometimes? Yes. But remember we are mothers, not martyrs. Take a shower first. Eat the meal alongside your children. Take a nap instead of cleaning the toilets. Tell your child you’ll read their book when you are finished reading a little more of yours. We can not live a life of only giving, it won’t last. We can only give when we have something to give. How do we get more to give? Don’t be afraid to put yourself first. The old airline adage comes in here…put on your own oxygen mask first, then put one on your child.
These are merely suggestions, they are no guarantees that Mommy Burnout will dissipate entirely. It is a reality at certain times in our lives. But the more we are aware of the reality of Mommy Burnout, the more we can prepare for it. Especially during those days and weeks that we know will bring on higher stress levels: big commitments, vacations, moves, holidays, job changes, etc.
Motherhood is beautiful, having a family is a blessing. Yet the beauty and blessings of our life are intertwined with real life, which all too often isn’t naturally beautiful and at times feels more like a curse than a blessing. Perhaps there isn’t beauty in an
over-flowing sink of dishes, or a toddler tantrum, or a teenager eye-roll. But there is beauty in the after-math. Imagine your clean and sparkling sink void of dirty dishes. Think of those times you’ve held a toddler close minutes after the tantrum has passed. Recall the times you’re laughing with your teenager within hours of the eye-roll.
The occasional Mommy Burnout is real. Accept it, pamper it, and then move on.
It will pass.
**It is important to note that there are circumstances where a mother is experiencing more than a temporary “burn-out”. Depression and anxiety are real for a lot of mothers, and we recognize that these approaches will not work for everyone.**