Mommy Burnout is a common phenomenon these days. Mothers often, in an effort to be all things to all people, seven days a week, twenty-four hours a day for long periods of time, experience a crash. This is a feeling of being trapped, of having no escape, of having despair and it leads to resentment of their situation, their families, and their lives. It can become a downward spiral into a form of depression.
With a proactive approach, however, it can be avoided. With the support of a spouse, family, friends and others around you, mothers can avoid this burnout. Here are ten ways to set yourself up for success as a mother and avoiding mommy burnout!
1. Ask for help. In today’s industrialized society, women are often left to fend for themselves when they become mothers. Long gone are the days of the community of women that surrounded a new mother gathered round to pitch in and help. Now women get a stream of visitors rather than a stream of helpers when baby comes. I hear story after story of women who were expected to take care of guests shortly after giving birth. When you become a mother, ask for help from people. Assign jobs to them; give them something to do, let them take care of you. Carry on this tradition the entire time your children are with you, it will serve you well. And when your children are older and life becomes a little less hectic, remember the things that helped you the most as a mother and do that for another mother when she needs it.
2. Exercise. Regular activity is like insurance. Mothering is one of the most demanding jobs on the planet and strength and endurance are highly important. Walking is the easiest and most versatile way to get exercise, sturdy shoes, a baby carrier, stroller, older kids on bikes or if you can arrange it, a walk alone, while kids stay with grandma or dad or a neighbour is ideal. If you want to combine this with some social time invite your spouse or a friend along but make sure the walking is the priority.
3. Eat well. It’s well worth the effort to prepare and eat a garden variety salad everyday. Salads take a while to eat so you get to sit for a few minutes, a luxury most mothers appreciate. Throw two fruits into your day as well and keep sweets and junk food out of the house. You are setting a good example for your children and giving yourself nutrition at the same time.
4. Lower your standards. You do not need to polish the door knobs. You do not need to dust everyday and you do not need to have everything perfect all the time. If something has to give let it be the housekeeping. A perfectly tidy and clean home is nice to have but if you don’t enjoy keeping it that way, let it go a little. Set your home up so that it’s simple to care for, get rid of clutter instead of dealing with it daily and get your family involved in the day to day maintenance of the home. Kids are happy to help if you do it as a group job instead of a chore they have to do themselves. An evening tidy, everybody in the kitchen after dinner with a specific purpose instead of just mom, goes a long way to feeling less like a servant and more like team leader of the family!
5. Nourish your relationship with your partner. If you have a partner, and you love this partner, or even more importantly you like this partner, make time to spend time with him or her. Sometimes this feels like more giving to a mother who has given everything all day long, however if you look at it as something you do for yourself, then it becomes fulfilling and part of taking care of yourself. Often a woman’s libido takes a hit after her children come and if this has happened to you, look into ways to get it back. A fulfilling sexual life can be a gift and is highly effective at preventing burnout! Having fun, being a woman, instead of a mother, will work wonders for your attitude and ability to avoid burnout. If you are single, it’s ok to date and spend time with other people who might become partners. Give yourself permission to be happy.
6. Learn to say no. First of all you need to learn that it’s ok to say no and secondary to that you need to learn how to do so. Once you’ve accepted that it is ok, and it is, then saying so simply requires practice. “I’m overextended right now” is often true. Women often make the mistake of saying yes when it’s not in their best interest to do so. Saying no doesn’t make you selfish, it simply frees you to be good at the things you need to do for your family. You don’t have to say no to everything, just to the things that you really can’t or don’t want to or don’t have time to do. It’s about balance. And once you’ve said no, let go of the guilt. It serves no one, not you and not your family.
7. Sleep. This is a big one. Exercise, nutrition, stress reduction, all of the above will often encourage good sleep. Babies who frequently nurse often interfere with our sleep. Everybody in the family needs good quality sleep, learn to nurse lying down, learn to sleep sitting up, both of these help mothers get more sleep when babies are little. Hire babysitters and take naps. Hand baby to daddy and take a nap. Drop kids at grandmas and take a nap. Do whatever you need to do to get the sleep you need. Sleep deprivation will lead to mommy burnout more than just about anything else. Do whatever you need to do to get you some.
8. Enjoy the mundane. There will always be chores, there will always be work, enjoy them. Let your children see a mother who vacuums while dancing to rock music, who sings while gardening, who smiles while cleaning up a spill. Some days it’s easier than others, so start practicing on the good days and consciously work at it on the bad days. Instil joy into the mundane and see how it changes things for your family and for yourself!
9. Let go of guilt and worry. Just let them go. They add nothing to your quality of life, nothing to your family and when you find a worrisome thought in your head, change to something positive! Write in a journal, meditate, listen music, do whatever it takes to spend less time in wasted worry and guilt and fill yourself up with optimism and joy. The change will do you nothing but good!
10 Schedule regular and fulfilling activities for yourself. This is the most important thing you can do to avoid mothering burnout. This should be something you love to do, maybe take a course on something you always wanted to learn, work on a hobby you love, read a book, listen to a lecture, whatever your passion is, whatever your bliss may be, schedule one hour per week to do this. Hire a babysitter, leave your husband at home with the kids and just go do it. It should be child free and it should be off site. When babies are new, they can often go for a couple of hours without mommy, if you can’t leave them for long, bring them with you in a carrier and let them nurse while you do your thing or have someone take them for a walk nearby while you do your thing. Whatever you have to do to make it work, take that time. Often knowing you will have that few hours to do the thing you love will get you through the tough times, just like the weekend coming up gets one through the work week.
Mommy burnout can be avoided by knowing your children come first and doing that by making sure that the person they need the most is the priority. No child wants a sick mother, if you do not take care of your needs you cannot effectively take care of theirs. The human soul is a vessel and you cannot give of yourself if your soul is empty. Spend some time filling it up, you will have more to give your children and will stay the strong and happy team leader your family needs!