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 Guilt: A Breakdown (Literally)

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MUM GUILT! If your a mum you’ll know this term (if not the experience of it) all too well. It’s like a ferocious predator on the hunt. Even on the good days its laying low in the grass, watching its prey, waiting for the right time to pounce, keeping it’s victims on constant alert. Then it launches it’s attack, catching its prey when it’s at its weakest or most vulnerable. If you’re lucky you’ll make a narrow escape and come off with nothing more than a few scratches but if you’re anything like me and a million (I may be exaggerating for dramatic affect) other women out there, your predator will rip you to pieces and drain you of life, consuming your flesh and leaving your carcass for the vultures.

You may feel this is an overly dramatic analogy but others may relate to the overwhelming feeling that mum guilt can lead to. It’s that often overlooked element of Motherhood that we all try to pretend we are not experiencing because it may make us look like we are weak or not fit for this prestigious role of Nurturer/Carer/Teacher/Role Model/Mentor/Guidance Counselor, etc. It’s that wretchedly ugly, life threatening, self abusive demon called ANXIETY!


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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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What is Mum Guilt?

The dictionary describes guilt as: a feeling of having committed wrong or failed in an obligation. So Mum guilt in turn could be described as: a feeling of having committed wrong against one’s offspring or failed in a motherly obligation.

How does that apply to us? Because we wouldn’t ever do anything wrong by our kids or fail in any way to meet an obligation now would we? When we enter into the blissful wonderland of Motherhood we become perfect human beings in every sense of the word do we not? After all we are a representation of not just adulthood but womanhood and everything that encompasses, guiding the next generation of humans onto the path that leads to human perfection. Am I right?

No, of course not. No human being is perfect. Being human is hard. It’s messy, it’s scary, it’s ugly and its a journey of self discovery that takes practice and perseverance to simply become the best version of our imperfect selves that we can be.  So of course we are going to do things wrong or fail in an obligation, and guilt is inevitably going to result if we have any tiny morsel of empathy, sympathy or compassion toward our children.

Sometimes that guilt can be a powerful motivator, forcing us to make changes that create a better environment for our family and build better relationships but other times it can send us into a downward spiral of despair, hopelessness and self loathing that can leave us curled up in the corner wishing the earth would swallow our sorry selves and replace us with someone who would most certainly be better at doing what we need to do and handling it with all the class and finesse of a well polished british princess (or at least an unrealistically strong and courageous disney princess).

I can fall somewhere in between the two descriptions, handling it like a pro one minute and having a complete breaking down the next. My mind can wane between “I got this” and “I am a going to lay face down on the floor and die, if one more thing goes wrong.”

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Post Script (The Sequel to PS, I Love You) Buy it now.

Where does Mum Guilt come from?

When I read the dictionary description above, I feel an overwhelming sense that there is a staggering amount of circumstances that could be considered a slight, a wrong, an injustice or a down right tragedy and a plethora of reasons why those circumstance may lead to Mum guilt. 

How would you define a wrong against your child? Would it be the major things like, forgetting to pick them up from daycare one day (I fortunately have never done this by the way, but there’s a fear I might, so I’m constantly checking the time). Inadvertently booking a non-refundable flight for 2 for a romantic getaway with the neglected spouse, on the weekend of your daughters ballet concert? (all hypotheticals). Punishing a child (after accusing them of lying) for eating your once-a-month chocolate bar treat and then finding the wrapper under your own pillow? or in all-seriousness, not being able to provide for your child, whether it be physically or emotionally or mentally? Not being available (due to work, illness, or separation)? Exposing them (whether intentionally or unintentionally) to violence, abuse or criminal activity? All things that probably should cause guilt if you love your kids and want to change how you relate to them.

Or does your mum guilt like my mum guilt come from just about every scenario where your child might end up with a quivery lip, a shaky voice, tears in their eyes or a full-blown tantrum?  Scenarios including but definitely not limited to the list below:

  • You forgot to buy their favourite cheese, the kind in the individual plastic wrap, not the block cheese, the grated cheese, the smelly cheese or the one with veins in it.
  • You gave your child crackers in a bowl instead of directly out of the packet.
  • You refuse to press play ‘PJ Masks’ for the 200th time that day.
  • You ask them to stop throwing sand all over your head and down your shirt front.
  • You won’t let them empty all the contents of your cutlery drawer on the floor so they can find the wooden spoon in order to engage in a sword fight with their younger sibling in which you know fingers could be lost or at least severely damaged.
  • You gave them the wrong coloured plate, bowl, utensil, cup or straw.
  • You didn’t accurately measure the contents of the bowl or cup when dividing food or beverages between siblings.
  • You gave something to one child that another child wanted.
  • You spent more time with one child than the other.
  • You took 5 minutes to do something you wanted to do and ignored your child for the entirety of those 5 minutes.
  • You left the room momentarily to put some laundry away.
  • You dared to go to the toilet and not invite the child to join you.
  • Your dared to ask your older children to clean their rooms or do their chores.
  • You couldn’t get your teenager the latest iphone and instead they have to suffer the embarrassment of a pre-paid generic smartphone.

I could go on but I won’t as I think you all get the jist and don’t want to be reading my ramblings for the next century. The point is, does your mum guilt come from situations you can control and possibly avoid or is it coming from all the tiny little things that are simply products of this ever increasing out of control existence known as ‘Life’?

It doesn’t help that we live in a world that is critical, judgemental and sometimes down right nasty and we have now a universe of information blasting out of our computer screen or smart phone from a million different sources telling us who we should be and how we should parent.

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Too Many Opinions

Do you ever read an article or blog post and feel guilty because you never ever considered how textures and patterns had an emotionally stimulating effect on a newborn’s intellectual abilities and dramatically increased their chances of winning the nobel prize by the age of 20? I mean, how could you not have known that? What kind of a parent are you and why aren’t you stimulating your baby’s brain with copious educational pattern books?

Ok so I completely made that up but is it really that far fetched?

Once upon a time, back in the olden days (let’s say 200 years ago) when there were no such things as televisions, computers, the internet, radio’s or youtube, people relied on each other for both entertainment and information, imagine that! If you wanted to know something about raising a child, you went to your mother, or grand mother or even a neighbour. Your community was the only source of information available to you, if no one there knew it, you were pretty much on your own and had to just wing it.

I’m pretty sure most people survived, I mean, we still had Nobel prize winners, Presidents, Inventors, Medical Professionals, Government Leaders, Einstein, Men on the moon, the Hubble telescope, the Sphinx! The internet itself was created without the internet and the vast array of information it delivers every day, so why is it that these days we are relying on Instagram to get a picture of what the perfect family looks like, or facebook for all the opinions of the multitude or flicking through blog post after blog post (mine are acceptable of course) to find out what type of food can make our babies smarter or how many educational toys are enough to stimulate their cognitive reasoning without overwhelming their senses, or how many days at daycare they can do without becoming codependent needy adults with separation anxiety and addictions to alcohol, cigarettes, food or chocolate or all of the above?



The fact is that since the invention of the internet, there has been an enormous increase in not just the information available but in the opinions of others. If you want to know what someone thinks about a matter, just google the keyword ‘know-it-all’ (you can probably think of something better than that) and you’ll get a thousand blog articles, tweets or facebook posts about the topic filled with every Tom, Dick or Harry’s (or is it Tina, Didi and Hermeine’s) take on the subject.

Gone are the days when all you had to worry about was Aunty Joan’s comments at the Christmas party each year about how bottle feeding causes detachment issues. Now you can shake your head, roll your eyes and scoff at a hundred different people and their opinions every single day! There’s so much information available at our fingertips that you could search every minute of every day and it would take you years and years to get through it all.

Is it little wonder that we are feeling overwhelmed and anxious? Is it a surprise that we are never quite sure we are doing anything the right way? Can we ever be confident that we are doing what is best for our children when there are so many other ways to do things that could potentially be more beneficial for them? I mean surely that guy down the road who has never had kids but sounds like he knows everything and has a PHD in early childhood development would be correct if he said that co-sleeping was not at all beneficial for your child, even though you and your baby have never slept better since you started doing it, right? WRONG, you gotta do what works for you and your child.

We need to stop worrying about what everyone else’s opinion is because guess what? you have an opinion too and your opinion about your child is far more important than someone else’s opinion about your child.

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My Opinion.

I’m not saying you should ignore all the advice and research out there, but take it with a grain of salt. Read some things, listen to some people, try some things, but ultimately you are the mother and you have everything already inside of you to be the best mother to your children than anyone else can be, because YOU are their MOTHER, no one else is, they can pretend to be but they never will be. You know them better than anyone else, from their annoying little pet-peaves to their adorable individual little quirks and characteristics, you know them back to front and upside down and you know what keeps them alive, what excites them, what irritates them and what makes them laugh, cry, shout and jump for joy.

If you give them opportunities to learn, play, explore and experience and your doing the very best you can every day to keep them healthy and breathing, then your doing an amazing job. Stop listening to all the voices in your head that tell you your not doing enough, or your not giving them enough or that YOUR not enough. At the end of the day, when they wrap those little arms around your neck and kiss your cheek, you know your doing enough because they love you and love does make the world go around right? I mean if all they ever learn in their life is to love, would that be so bad?

Now all of this is of course, just my opinion as a mother of 5. That opinion is by no means the right or best opinion, because I haven’t got it all perfect and under control, I probably feel like I’m failing at least 50% of the time, I’m still working it out and still learning as I go after 16 years of being a mum, especially since my littlest ones (3yrs and 20mnths) are growing up in this world of information that was really only just beginning when my oldest ones were little. In my opinion, if you feel like you have to do it all, be it all, have all your plates spinning at once or juggle a hundred balls in the air, then you’ll inevitably fail. I don’t know anyone who can do all that without falling apart at some point, but that’s a blog post for another time.

A couple of other great articles I found from mums about mum guilt are ‘Calling Bullshit on Mum Guilt‘ from Mumming and Lifeing, and ‘Mum Guilt and Mental Health‘ from Motherhood with Added Extras.

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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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Photo Credits: ‘Eye with Tear Drop’ by Aliyah Jamous on Unsplash & ‘woman covering eyes’ by Anthony Tran on Unsplash