So here’s a story most mums can relate to. I told my 3 year old and 20 month old the other day that I was just going to the toilet for 2 minutes and would be right back. Now I always leave the door open a crack so I can hear what’s going on in the other room, in case I need to bolt out to rescue a toddler under attack (see ‘Big Brother Syndrome’) or one that is under a ‘toddler attack’. Literally 10 seconds after I sat down to do what I needed to do, my adorably chubby toddler, barged his way in and presented me with a book which I was supposed to read to him. I was about to lose it (I mean can I not get just 2 minutes of privacy to do my business?) but he smiled at me with his precious little dimples and puppy dog brown eyes and I couldn’t help but laugh.
If he’d come in and started unravelling the toilet paper or tried to run off with the toilet brush again, it may have been a different story. My Mum Life Rage may have burst out of it’s metaphorical straight jacket and left a trail of smouldering debri in its wake, because it wasn’t the first frustrating event of the day, or week for that matter. I had been scooping him off the dining table at least 20 times throughout the morning, not to mention giving him numerous ‘time out’s’ inside the house every 2 minutes for continually throwing the sand pit toys into unreachable places. He’d been hitting his brother with wooden spoons stolen from the dish rack and turning his toys into projectiles, bashing both his brother and I in the head more times than I could count. To say I was at the end of my tether would be a gross understatement.
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The Effects of Mum Life Burnout
If you read the previous article ‘MUM LIFE BURNOUT: 5 Ways It Can Effect You & Your Family‘ then you’ll understand why my patience was thin and why I felt a second article was necessary. In the last article I talked about 5 effects Mum Life Burnout can have on you and your family, here’s the very condensed version of the list:
- Your more likely to get sick: If your so busy that getting a chance to rest is as rare as finding a matching pair of toddler socks in the clean washing, you could find that it takes much longer to recover and you could be more susceptible to recurrent illness.
- You can become less organised and productive: You just go with the flow, going into autopilot or survival mode and not putting effort into sticking to a routine or schedule.
- Your more likely to suffer from stress, anxiety &/or depression: Being overworked, under pressure and suffering Mum Life Fatigue can lead to all sorts of physical symptoms, from racing heart beat to fainting, palpitations, nausea, migraines, stomach problems, etc. A trip to the emergency department could be your Friday night out!
- Your at a higher risk of family separation and divorce: The unintentional pressures from family members, especially spouses can add to the burnout and if not dealt with, it can sometimes feel like the only option is to ‘get out’ of the relationships.
- You can lose confidence in yourself and your ability to be a good mum: When we put too much pressure on ourselves to be everything to everyone we will inevitably fail and this can lead us to feelings of discouragement and unworthiness.
So the effects of Mum Life Burnout are not at all insignificant and require some major changes to bring us back to a balanced, positive place.
Why are we getting burned out?
I saw this video on CNN that talks about “the good old days” of parenting, when things were a lot simpler and we didn’t have the internet with it’s plethora of information about what parents “should do” and it really resonated with me. As I talked about in my article “Mum Life Guilt: A Breakdown (Literally)” there are far too many opinions out there about what a good parent looks like, not to mention all the perfect pictures on instagram and Facebook that give us a very false ideal to live up to. Our heads are filled with constant noise telling us that pretty much everything we are doing is not good enough.
On top of all that there is constant pressure on women these days to ‘have it all’, the perfect marriage, the perfect family and the perfect career. You need to be a professional housekeeper, nanny, chef, taxi driver, teacher, nurse, accountant, social media expert and the financial provider all rolled into one and do it without dropping a single ball.
As mums we are expected (including by ourselves) to be physically, mentally and emotionally available for every member of our family 24/7. The more family members you have the more time and commitment is required, and every member has different needs dependent on their personality, their emotional and mental development stage, their physical and mental capacities, etc etc. The role of Mum is so complicated and diverse that it’s like a thousand jobs rolled into one. Even the toughest, strongest Mums have moments where it all just becomes too much.
10 Steps to cool down and get your sanity back.
So how does one combat Mum Life Burnout and regain composure? I can honestly say that I haven’t as yet worked out the perfect solution, but I know without a doubt that both “getting enough sleep” and finding “me time” are 2 things that are vitally important to our ability to cope with pressure and maintain a certain level of “self identity” that we can often lose as mums. As mums we feel it’s our job to take care of everyone, but who takes care of us? We need to take care of “us” if we are to be the best “us” that we can be and therefore have confidence in ourselves to “teach” our kids how to be the best “them” that they can be.
After researching all over the internet (yes, that place that both creates and solves our problems) and digging into the deep dark recess’ of my brain where past conversations with my sisters in motherhood are kept till such times as they are needed in a blog article, I have come up with 10 tips on how to reduce the risk of Mum Life Burnout.
- Get some sleep – It is oh so tempting to fall into that trap of staying up extremely late to get some time alone, to switch off the noise of the day and drown yourself in something you find either so mind-numbing its euphoric or so exciting it returns life to your zombified brain, but lack of sleep can cause all kinds of problems, from irritability, memory loss, confusion, brain fog, anxiety and depression to physical symptoms like impaired immune system, increased heart rate, tremors, aches, dizziness, migraines and weight gain. Getting enough sleep at night could not only save your sanity but increase the quality of your life.
- Just say No – Come on practice it with me “No”, “Noooooo”, “N.O.” see how it just rolls off the tongue. If your schedule is already overloaded and you know without a doubt you couldn’t possible add another thing to it, DON’T! I know this is easier said than done, most of us like to be able to help our family, friends and associates whenever possible but sometimes it’s just not possible. If saying “yes” is going to lead you to burnout then your not only going to be less helpful to that person but you’ll be under so much pressure that you’ll dramatically reduce the quality of your help in all the other things you’ve said “yes” to.
- Take some ‘me time’ – Even though a month long European vacay would only just touch the sides of the empty glass that is your personal life, I’m sure most of us would do anything to get one. It’s not exactly realistic though when you have an entire tribe of villagers reliant on you as chief life planner, so a little bit of time here and a little bit of time there, is about all you can hope for. Make a regular time each day or week that is “your time”, time when you can do whatever you want uninterrupted. Whether its nap, read, write, make some pottery, go for a run, take salsa dancing lessons or plot world domination, you need this time to feel like a human being, a human being that is just as important as all the other human beings in your life.
- Delegate – I was going to call this one ‘get help’ but come on, lets face it, if there were more hours in the day, we could do it all because we are all capable, strong women who can do anything we set our minds to, but there are way too many responsibilities and not nearly enough time, so lets delegate some of that work to other family members (like our partner or older kids) or even pay someone (if you can afford to) to do those things that have been sitting at the bottom of the to-do-list for far too long. I recently noticed the pavers in our back yard had gone mouldy from a lot of rain and I thought to myself, I could go get a cheap pressure cleaner and spend 2 hours doing it myself or I could use the same money to pay someone else to do it. Once upon a time it would have been a no-brainer, I would have done it myself, but in an effort to reduce my Mum Life Burnout, I hired someone instead and it felt amazing to have the pressure taken off my shoulders to get it done.
- Spend time with your partner – If your blessed enough to have a partner, schedule regular date nights where you can spend time with just the two of you, behaving like adults (or not) for a while, just kicking back with your bestie, not talking about work or kids or how many bills you have due in the next week or so. Make each other a priority because that relationship is the most important one you have. If your family is to function well, you need to be working well with your team mate, the stronger your relationship is, the better you’ll be able to work together to lesson the load on you.
- Be creative – Now you might say to me “I do not have a creative bone in my body” but creativity is simply something that comes out of you as an expression of who you are, so whether you like doing Maths equations, re-organising the linen cupboard, gardening, baking delicious sugary treats, sewing, writing, taking photographs, revamping old furniture or flipping houses, you have some creativity inside you that is bursting to get out. Whatever makes you feel alive and gives you satisfaction is what you need to do every now and then to express yourself and keep that ‘identity’ alive.
- Stop comparing yourself to others – No two people are the same and no two families are the same. Everyone is different and every family has different needs. No one knows your family like you do. Stop comparing yourself to the perfect photoshopped family on Instagram, you don’t know what goes on behind closed doors and chances are things are far less than perfect. You are your children’s entire world and they love you unconditionally, to them you are already perfect and they wouldn’t trade you for any one else in the world, so be the best you, you can be. Go technology free for a day and see what a difference it can make to your perspective and how much you enjoy your day without the distraction.
- Drop the guilt – Mum Guilt is all too real. We all suffer from this monster from time to time and it can be at times a great motivator to make positive change but at other times our greatest enemy, taking us down and out when we least expect it. We are never going to be able to make everyone happy, life happens and we deal with it the best we can. Things don’t always work out the way we want them to or believe they should but feeling guilty about it doesn’t help us to move on. Use the guilt as a reality check, if you can do something to change the situation, do it but if you can’t, let it go and move forward.
- Don’t overschedule your families life – It’s great for your kids to have activities outside of school to develop their fitness or talents and giftings but if you have them doing activities every day and all through the weekends, then your going to be running around like a lunatic all week long with no opportunity for rest or for being spontaneous. Believe it or not, your kids will have more opportunities as adults to try all the things they didn’t get to try as kids. They won’t be deprived if they don’t have a wall of trophies by aged 12 or know how to speak 3 languages by high school graduation and chances are less activities and more rest or spontaneity will help your kids feel happier and more like, well ‘kids’.
- Be kind to yourself – Lastly, remember how far you’ve come. Take a mental note of how much you’ve accomplished and give yourself credit for being the amazing woman that you are. Your kids are alive, they are fed, they are dressed and they have a roof over their head, everything else is a bonus! Look after yourself and love yourself so you can better look after and love your family.
You can only do so much, so be proud of what you have done, enjoy your family, enjoy your time alone, do what you can and delegate the rest, don’t worry about the little things, don’t compare yourself to others or take too much of what other people say to heart. Be the best version of yourself that you are capable of being and your family will thrive!
If you like to read there are some insightful books out there with helpful advice on getting “yourself” back.
One of them is ‘Motherhood Is a B#tch: 10 Steps to Regaining Your Sanity, Sexiness, and Inner Diva‘ by the very successful business woman and Writer/Producer Lyss Stern.
Description (from Amazon): This guide tells it like it is and explains how women lose their sense of self once they have children and why it’s so important to reclaim it. Motherhood is a B#tch! tackles the toughest issues facing moms today and empowers you to regain your once fierce and fab self. In the end, you’ll be happier, healthier, and hotter than ever.
How To Be a Happier Parent: Raising a Family, Having a Life and Loving Almost Every Minute. Written by KJ Dell’Antonia (former lead editor of the New York Times Motherlode blog).
Description (Amazon): Drawing from the latest research and interviews with families, KJ discovers that it’s possible to do more by doing less, and make our family life a refuge and pleasure, rather than another stress point in a hectic day. She focuses on nine common problem spots that cause parents the most grief, explores why they are hard, and offers small, doable, sometimes surprising steps you can take to make them better.
Mommy Burnout: How to Reclaim Your Life and Raise Healthier Children in The Process. Written by Dr. Sheryl Ziegler, a Mum of 3 herself, this book is described as the ultimate must-read handbook for the modern mother: a practical, and positive tool to help free women from the debilitating notion of being the “perfect mom,” filled with funny and all too relatable true-life stories and realistic suggestions to stop the burnout cycle, and protect our kids from the damage burnout can cause.
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