I’m not going to lie to you. 2018 beat the crap out of me. More like tried to beat the life out of me it feels. 2019 has been a slow reawakening, sandwiched in with mountains I didn’t (and don’t) have the energy to climb.
I am a mom of two children ages 3 and under. But, honestly, my kids don’t wear me out. Don’t get me wrong, the lack of sleep, breastfeeding, keeping them fed, keeping me fed, keeping up the house, making appointments, going to appointments, driving, keeping food in the fridge, all of it is exhausting. Let’s add on societal pressure to be a “good” mom, doing all the right things- it’s heavy.
We can all tell each other that “it doesn’t matter what others think.” But, the truth is- parent shaming is real. Small talk is full of assumptions and quiet judgements that get tiring and beat you down if you’re not in a place to be constructive mentally.
Let’s talk about what burn out looks like, and how we (yes we) are going to keep trudging through to the more joyful pages of this chapter of life.
Before we get started, I just want to remind you that I am not a mental health professional. Nothing about this post is meant to diagnose, treat, or tell you how to mange your own mental health. Now, let’s get started.
What is Burn Out?
According to the Mayo Clinic, Burnout is: “a state of physical or emotional exhaustion that also involves a sense of reduced accomplishment and loss of personal identity.”
Whoa, that sounds really heavy and dark when we relate it to parenting. But, let’s look at how it can present in our lives as parents.
Trouble finding motivation or getting started on your day.
Becoming irritable and impatient with family and friends.
Lacking energy to be productive consistently.
Feeling disillusioned about your place in your family or family roles.
Sleep habits changing not due to family needs or external causes.
Now, what’s tricky is that many of these symptoms are often regarded as just normal, everyday parenthood. It’s so easy to go for that 4th, 5th, 6th cup of coffee. It’s normal to be cynical about our children’s tantrums and moods being so taxing on us as parents. It’s normal to not sleep for years on end as parents.
“The days are long, but the years are short” is a fine saying until you realize that these years aren’t joyful and you know you’re missing the magic in the day to day due to your personal burn out.
Self Care Can Be a Joke
Self care can look like a million things. While I’m trying to instill in my child the skill of recognizing when she needs to self regulate and fill her own cup- I’m not a shining example of that. I eat irregularly, don’t make great choices for fueling my body, there will be full days when I’ve had maybe one glass of water to go with those 5 cups of coffee, and when naptime comes around, I just want to sleep on the couch instead of doing a quick workout or catching up on housework that would lower my stress in the evening. Yes, self care can totally be going for a massage, getting your nails done, taking a pottery class, or joining a prayer circle. But, let’s all just realize for a moment that if your basic needs aren’t being met daily (shelter, food, hydration, peace, joy, warmth, laughter) a full day at the spa isn’t going to do crap for you.
And while we are on the topic, if you feel like your burn out is not something you can see a way out of, or if you feel uncomfortable talking to a friend about this- Please, call your doctor and make an appointment to talk about your life, what’s going on, and if you need external help. There is zero shame in putting your mental health at the forefront to make sure your basic needs are met. Let’s forget the saying “you’re the only one who can give your children a happy mom” and instead talk about the fact that you deserve to have good days. You deserve to see joy in things. You deserve to be at your best.
Let’s Make Self Care an Extension of How We Show Love
Next time a friend tells you that she hasn’t showered in days, instead of nodding our heads and talking about dry shampoo- why don’t you offer to watch the kids while she goes and showers, shaves (if that’s her thing), and puts on something hydrating and drinks a glass of water. Let’s take friendship and make it more practical this year instead of just “sending good vibes”. I don’t know about you- but I’m over good vibes. Let’s put our love for each other in practical use.
This isn’t meant to come across as judgement by the way, I’m a total offender of this. I’ve totally just commiserated with friends who hadn’t had a shower in days, or complained they were wearing 4 day old yoga pants. But, I want us to think forward into the future in how we can be our best.
Move Your Body
This is a massive part of what 2019 is going to mean for me personally. I don’t move my body. Sure I track 7-10k steps on my apple watch during the day, but I don’t exercise, and I stress eat. Which means, I’m not happy with how I look or feel. So, we are changing that. I’m showing up for myself this year. I don’t want to give you the illusion that I will be the next Victoria’s Secret Angel by Christmas or that you will see me in a bikini come summertime. But, I want to have the energy to keep up with my kids. I’m sure at some point there will be a follow up post about how the process has been going and what has somewhat worked and what’s been a massive fail. But, we will cross that bridge when I’m not feeling so cynical.
Dang, This is Negative
Here’s what I want you to take away from this blog post. If you aren’t struggling, I am so proud of you. I am proud of the work you’ve put in, the priorities you have set, and I’m proud of the journey you’re on.
If you are struggling, you are not alone. You’ve never been alone. And I want you to reach out and tell someone you’re struggling, but most importantly, I want you to take a moment and let those feelings of exhaustion, burn out, anger, and disappointment wash over you, and then pick yourself up and decide what it’s going to take to make tomorrow a little better. It won’t be like turning a page, because life isn’t a book. But, over time, we will have a better, more joyful year. And we deserve it.