MUM LIFE BURNOUT: 10 ways to cool down

Mum Life Burnout PT 2 cover

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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!
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

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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.

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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. 

  1. 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.
  2.  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. 
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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. 
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. Drop the guiltMum 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. 
  9. 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’.
  10. 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! 

More

If you like to read there are some insightful books out there with helpful advice on getting “yourself” back.

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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.

 

 

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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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MUM LIFE BURNOUT: 5 Ways It Can Effect You and Your Family.

mum life burnout article cover

So I recently went out with a few mum friends for the first time in forever. That’s right! No kids. No rushing little people out the door with a dozen bags full of spare clothes, nappies, wipes, snacks, drink bottles, etc. No wet patches on my clothes where I’d quickly scrubbed off spew, poop or food at the last minute.

This time, I had clean clothes, a face full of makeup, my hair was actually done half decently instead of just brushed through and dried naturally and I wasn’t dreading a night full of chasing little tornadoes around the table, cleaning up their inevitable spillages and half-eaten morsels of food that have been thrown on the floor with a cheeky giggle and mischievous grin, or the embarrassment as fellow diners cringe at my 20-month-olds fascination with squealing at a pitch that even a Galah would envy.

Instead, I walked out the door with a bounce in my step and an excitement about the prospect of being able to eat my dinner while it was still warm.

After a fantastic night of conversation (uninterrupted), laughing, drinking and dining, I realised that it was exactly what I had been needing for a long long time. I had convinced myself that I didn’t need a break, that the hour or so I had each evening after the kids went to bed (where I would work on my blog) was enough to keep me sane and the couple of days a week when I only had 3 teenagers (instead of 3 teens and 2 toddlers) was respite enough to start the crazy cycle all over again, but I was WRONG!

Yeah, take note of that because you won’t hear me say it too often, I was WRONG! Haha



A Full Life

I’ll break it down for you. In a nutshell, I am a single mum of 5 kids (2 x 16 yr old boys, a 14 yr old girl, and 2 boys 3 yrs and 20 months) I have my 3 teens full time and the 2 little ones 5 nights a week. If anyone has toddlers they know how full on they can be. I literally feel like I am cleaning my house all day. I once heard the quote “cleaning your house while the kids are awake is like shoveling snow while it’s still snowing” and I live by that statement.

My son keeps asking me why I don’t wait till the end of the day and clean it when they are asleep and then I only have to do it once. I tell him (and I don’t know why he still hasn’t got it):
1) I’m too tired at the end of the day to clean the whole house.
2) That’s my time to write, and
3) I like to be in a clean house, if I let the kids destroy the place all day, I’d be slipping on peanut butter sandwiches, tripping over toys and walking around in wet socks (because for some reason, even though they have cups with lids, their drinks always end up on the floor. I’ve lost count how many times I’ve washed the lounge room rug).
So I chase the kids around all day with the vacuum cleaner and a chux super wipe.

On top of cleaning, my boys have become very clingy of late. My 3 year old is constantly asking me to pick him up, play with him, tickle his hand, sing ‘spider-man’, ‘ABC’s’, ‘twinkle twinkle’ (although we change it to tickle tickle and I tickle him), and ‘God Loves you, and I love you’, not to mention numerous toilet trips throughout the day. My 20 month old is a little less demanding but he likes to eat, as often as possible, so we’ve had to put a lock on the pantry, plus locks on all the utensil drawers as he was forever throwing all the contents all over the kitchen floor.

Jetpack

Basically, when the boys are home I am on my feet all day. Between cleaning, changing nappies, wiping bums, picking up after them, spending time in educational play and getting them outside (including playgroup once a week) if they are awake, I am on my feet and working hard. If I sit down for even 5 minutes, they are climbing all over me, fighting each other for the best position, or asking me to come and play. I am often tempted to say “not now, I’m having a rest” but my mum guilt kicks in instantly and I feel like a neglectful mum for not being available when they want me, and so of course I get up and play with them.

When my little boys are not home, it’s teenager central at my place. My older boys both have girlfriends so I’m either running them all around town to various date locations or they are all at our place, or I take them out somewhere. I enjoy the company of all the teens (I’m not sure many mums can say that). I have amazing kids, they are a lot of fun to be with (although there are sometimes dramas to mediate and friendship dynamics to navigate), but it’s only a couple more years before they will be off living their own lives and making their own mistakes, so I want to relish every moment I have left and make as many memories as I can.

The twins (16 yr olds) have their learner driving licences, and so I have the awesome responsibility of supervising 100 hours of driving time, EACH! So that’s 200 hours of driving time I need to supervise before they can get their licences. On top of this the boys and I have begun construction on a pallet bed for my king size mattress. If anyone is confused, that’s a bed made from pallets. We are complete novices and are learning as we go, but we are enjoying the process and the time together, and hopefully we will be instant masters at it and can start another career in furniture construction. I know, I know, it sounds rather ambitious but I think we can do it.

Keep an eye out for the blog post on our efforts in a month or so.

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Last but not least we have Church commitments. There’s 3 services on a Sunday (we usually only make it to one or two though) and we help out on a fortnightly basis with whatever needs to be done with set up and pack up, etc. I am also going to start training for a bus licence so I can help pick up people who do not have transport. So as you can see a lot of our day’s without the little ones are full of busyness.

I say all of this, not to gloat about how much I do but to explain how I’ve let myself get to a place where I am so obviously suffering from Mum Life Burnout. I believe over the last 6 months, I may have put a little too much pressure on myself to be everything for everyone. I may have let the world and other people in my life, make me feel like if I’m not constantly moving, then I’m lazy and not doing enough. If I’m not constantly giving all my time to my kids, then I’m neglectful and selfish. If I say ‘no’ to anything, I’m mean and nasty and on the flip side if I say ‘I’m busy’ then I’m making other things a priority and my kids will inevitably feel like they are not a priority to me and in turn end up insecure and codependent on their future spouses. My goodness! With that much self-induced pressure, it’s not wonder Mum Guilt and anxiety where starting to steal my joy.

So what does Mum Life Burnout Look Like?

Do you ever have one of those days where you just feel like your going completely insane?

Where every little thing just ticks you off to the max? You find yourself ranting to every member of the family (and even the guy at the grocery store checkout) about how sick you are of being everyone’s slave, because you spend all day cleaning and at the end of the day it looks like you’ve done nothing (even worse sometimes). You could swear that your family deliberately make messes just so they can irritate you with unnecessary housework, your positive they are wearing their entire wardrobe everyday so that they can replicate Mt. Kilimanjaro with the washing pile.

You find yourself cursing the tv remote because you “once again” pushed the ‘return’ button instead of ‘ok’ whilst trying to let Netflix know for the 200th time that your still watching ‘The Wiggles’ (Well your children are) and the two buttons are just too damn close together. The cat or dog becomes your biggest nemesis, trying to trip you over with every step and your sure the vacuum cleaner has the same mind set. Life and the world just becomes too much to handle and you really wish Aliens did exist and one of them would beem you up and whisk you away to another planet.

If you have days like this then chances are your suffering from Mum Life Burn out.

To better explain Mum Life Burnout I’m going to reference an article from Gallup.com entitled “Employee Burnout, Part 1: The 5 Main Causes” (Gallup.com, July 12 2018) Yes this article is about burnout in the workplace but let’s face it, is there any worker that works harder than a mother? Our job is 24/7 and the pressure is all too real. The same basic principles apply.
The article states “A recent Gallup study of nearly 7,500 full-time employees found that 23% of employees reported feeling burned out at work very often or always, while an additional 44% reported feeling burned out sometimes. That means about two-thirds of full-time workers experience burnout on the job.” If this is the case for full-time workers, how much more would it be the case for mothers (or even dads, if you take on a lot of responsibility in the home)? Whether you work full-time outside of the house and come home to take care of a family, or you are home with kids full-time, your job never really ends so there is a high chance of experiencing ‘Burnout’ at some point in time.

The effects of Mum Life Burnout

The below table (from the Gallup report) briefly highlights some (but not all) of the effects of employee burnout.

The effects of Employee Burnout
Employees who say they very often or always experience burnout at work are:

  1. 63% more likely to take a sick day
  2. Half as likely to discuss how to approach performance goals with their manager
  3. 23% more likely to visit the emergency room
  4. 2.6 times as likely to leave their current employer
  5. 13% less confident in their performance

Gallup

Let’s break that down in terms of Mum Life Burnout:

  1. 63% more likely to take a sick day – Well wouldn’t we love to take a sick day occasionally? The truth is, there are no sick days in our employee contract as a Mum. If your sick, the best you can hope for is putting off a few of the household chores for a day or two but you’ll inevitably have to work twice as hard to catch up on it all. Most of us just keep working through, unless we are close to death and succeed in our pleadings for our other half or a family member to take over for a day. If you never get a chance to rest when your under the weather, you can become run down, it can take longer to recover and you can become more susceptible to illness in the future.
  2. Half as likely to discuss how to approach performance goals with their manager – Sometimes I wish I had a manager, someone who could organise my life and just tell me what to do and how to do it. The reality is as a mum you are your own manager. So I see this one as being ‘half as likely to spend time thinking about how to better manage and structure their time and activities with the kids’. So in other words we just go with the flow, going into autopilot or survival mode and not putting in the effort required to stick to a routine or schedule.
  3. 23% more likely to visit the emergency room – In all honesty a visit to the emergency room would be a welcome break. If you have someone to mind the kids, a visit to the emergency room could be on the cards, anxiety, stress and Mum Life Fatigue can lead to all sorts of physical symptoms, from racing heart beat to fainting, palpitations, nausea, migraines, stomach problems, etc. If you don’t have someone to take responsibility for your kids then you will inevitably feel like you just have to push through which can lead to more anxiety, illness and possibly depression.
  4. 2.6 times more likely to leave their current employer – Stress, burn-out, fatigue etc can put a lot of strain on a relationship and a family. Partners can sometimes unintentionally put more pressure on us by expecting us to be available for their needs whenever they have them. If your suffering from Mum Life Burnout, your unlikely to be able to give your partner what they require of you, leading to strain in the relationship. If this goes unchecked for a long period of time, separation can result or in the worse case scenario, leaving your family all together.
  5. 13% less confident in their performance – I feel this percentage is much lower than it would be in the case of motherhood. Motherhood is basically a one person owner operated business with the odd casual worker coming and going. You are responsible for every aspect of the job and therefore expected to be an expert in all areas of operation. The pressure can sometimes be overwhelming and with no holidays or sick days, there’s not much opportunity to take a load off. Most of us will eventually cave under such pressure and find that our confidence in our ability to Mum right, is dramatically reduced, by more like 80% than 13%.

From these results it’s easy to see that burnout can have a dramatic affect on work performance. It’s no different with Mum Life Burnout. Our job comes with a huge responsibility. Not only are we responsible for the safety and care of our little humans but they are watching us all the time as an example of how to act, how to cope with life, how to be a complete human and in the future a good parent. If you weren’t feeling the pressure before then here’s the reality. Everything we do matters!

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Or does it?

That said, not everything we choose to undertake, matters. Our actions, our words our responses matter, but there are some activities or objectives that don’t matter as much as we think they do. Having your house spotless all the time for example.

Sure, it’s important to have a clean house and to show our kids that keeping clean and tidy is both better for hygiene and for promoting organisation and productivity, but if we have the unrealistic expectation that we have to have a perfect house 24/7 then we are putting undue pressure on ourselves to reach a standard that is close to impossible with little children in the house. Kids don’t need to see a perfect house, they need to see a well-maintained but lived-in home that is clean but full of all the things that make each person who they are and give them the freedom to learn, explore, experiment and play.

We need to stop putting so much pressure on ourselves to be the perfect Mother and start making our health a priority so we can be the best Mother for ‘our children’ that we can be. Get out with the girls every now and then, be the you that you are when your not being a mum. Explore new hobbies or interests or simply spend time doing what you already know you love.

There are many ways that you can combat or prevent Mum Life Burnout, but that’s a topic for my next article ‘Mum Life Burnout: 10 ways to cool down‘ or some other super helpful sounding title like that.

Thanks

Thank you for reading this article. You can read more articles like this here, including ‘Mum Life Fatigue, Big Brother Syndrome, Mum Guilt: A breakdown (literally).

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How To Accomplish More In A Fraction Of The Time eCOVER WHITE

The pace and intensity of our lives, both at work and at home, leave many of us feeling like a person riding a frantically galloping horse. Our day-to-day incessant busyness — too much to do and not enough time.

With this ebook you will learn to approach your days in another way, reducing stress and getting results through prioritizing, leveraging and focus!

 

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