Some days I am just all mom’d out. I just want to sit back and stare mindlessly at the TV or read a book. I don’t want to play another game of peekaboo or build another block tower. I am way too tired to give him a bath (after which I’ll have to dry the walls and floor), and I really don’t want to change that dirty diaper I can smell from five feet away.
But of course, that isn’t really an option. I have to get over it and push through my lethargy; change that diaper, let him splash in the bath, and play pat-a-cake for 30 minutes straight. Sometimes I’m just too worn out for my heart to be in it, so sometimes I have to adopt a ‘fake it ’til you make it’ attitudes. I also try to keep in mind that I am definitely not alone.
Moms–whether they work outside the home or not–get mommy burn-out. It’s a fact of life. Some mothers deny it, others admit it sometimes happens to them (although they don’t tell you just how often), and a few will be honest and tell you that some days they just don’t want to be a mom. I’m one of the latter: I want to be open about my mommy burn-out. I don’t want mommas to feel guilty for it or think they’re a bad mom. Because guess what? Suffering from mommy burn out doesn’t make you a bad mom. Let me say that louder:
Suffering from mommy burn out does NOT make you a bad mom.
According to a study conducted by The Pew Research Center, 94 percent of working moms needed a break from being a mom, and 97 percent of stay-at-home-moms felt the same. In addition, in households in which both parents are employed full-time, 54 percent of mothers are primarily responsible for managing their children’s schedules, and 47 are primarily responsible for taking care of them when they’re sick. In two-parent households, regardless of employment status, 59 percent are responsible for children’s schedules and 55 percent take care of the children when they’re sick.
It’s really no wonder moms get burnt out so much! So if you’re like the majority of mothers and have just had enough of the whining or disobedience today, here are some heartfelt tips:
#1: Don’t feel guilty.
Virtually all mothers feel overwhelmed at some point because, let’s be honest, kids are hard. It’s hard to have someone totally dependent on you 24/7, especially when that someone has trouble processing or controlling their emotions. So don’t be ashamed of wanting a break or just wanting to be away from your child for a while; you aren’t alone. It’s okay if you don’t enjoy every single moment of mommyhood.
#2: Ask for (and accept) help.
When you’ve been feeling burnt out for a few days and you can just feel the anxiety and anger building, ask for help. Find someone to watch your kids so you can go relax. Ladies, this includes your partner. I don’t care if he works full-time outside the home. He still needs to be helping you.
Let me put it into perspective a little bit: ask yourself how many hours you work a week. You take care of your kids all day, and if they’re young, you probably still get up with them at least once a night (multiply that by about four if they’re under six months old). So not only do you work a minimum of 40 hours a week, you’re also sleep deprived and being yelled at all day by your coworkers. So when your partner gets home, he needs to give you a break, even if it’s only for an hour.
Part of this is not trying to be a martyr. If someone offers to help, accept it. Don’t try to be that perfect mom who never needs a break, because let me tell you something: that mom doesn’t exist. Everyone, no matter their job (and being a mom is definitely a full-time job) needs a vacation sometimes.
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#3: Have realistic expectations.
When I first had my son, I thought I would be able to do it all: exclusively breastfeed, continue working full-time from home, continue being a full-time student, and still keep the house clean, all while being happy to do so. I quickly realized that was laughably unrealistic. My body couldn’t produce enough breast milk, so that quickly went out the window; working full-time while home alone with a newborn, who also had tummy issues, was a no-go; and keeping the house clean? Pfft. I was lucky to only be two loads of laundry behind.
It took me a while, but I finally realized I didn’t have to fulfill every single one of those roles. I could still do some of the things I was doing before I had my son, but other roles either had to be given up or heavily adapted. And that’s okay; like I’ve said before, there is no such thing as a supermom. What’s important is that you and your family is healthy and happy. Beyond that? Well, it’s okay if your house is messy for a while.
#4: You will adapt, and this won’t last forever.
Learning how to be a new mom (or how to be a mom to more than one) is hard. It’s a complete system shock: you’re suddenly sleep-deprived, you have a tiny baby 100% dependent on you, and you can’t take a break whenever you want one. But no matter how hard it may seem at first, you will adapt. This also goes for whatever stage your child is going through. Is your toddler suddenly refusing to nap? Has your five-year-old started hitting to express anger? Is your potty-trained child starting to wet the bed again? It may be (and probably is) frustrating, overwhelming, annoying, you name it…but it won’t last forever. This too shall pass. So when your previously-bath-loving little one starts screaming every time you try to put them in the tub, make it your mantra that it’s just a stage.
#5: Don’t focus on the negative.
Yes, sometimes being a parent sucks. Especially on those days when your child refuses to eat anything you offer or when they just won’t stop screaming despite all your best efforts. But try not to think about how awful today is. Focus on the good things, no matter how small: you made the perfect cup of coffee this morning. You got to sleep in thirty minutes longer than usual. Your baby smiled at you for the first time. You got a lot of likes on your latest facebook picture. Whatever good thing has happened, focus on that. It may not seem like much, but the more you get in the habit of looking at the positives in your day-to-day life, the easier it will be to handle the negatives.
#6: Be honest with yourself: Is this more than burnout?
Sometimes burnout isn’t burnout anymore. Sometimes it turns into continuous, easily-triggered rage or drowning depression. If that’s the case, I urge you from the bottom of my heart to get help. Don’t be ashamed to tell your doctor you’re mad all the time or you feel like you want to run away, because I can guarantee it won’t be the first time a mother has told them that. I’m saying this as someone who has been in the pits of postpartum depression before: please get help. The longer you wait, the worse it will become. And no matter how bad you think it is right now, or how horrible of a mother you think you are, let me tell you something I’ve learned from experience: it’s your depression (or anger) talking, not you. It does get better, but in order to get better, you have to get help.
The bottom line
Moms (and dads!) get burnt out. It’s a fact of life, and one that a lot of parents don’t want to admit. Parenting is hard, but for some reason it usually isn’t socially acceptable to admit that. But I can promise you that when that perfectly manicured and make-up’d, has-everything-together momma goes home, she’s just like you. So don’t feel guilty for asking for a break and thoroughly enjoying your time away from your kids. To be a good mom, you need to be a healthy mom, and taking a break is part of that.