So you are not perfect. You are not the mom who is home schooling four children, the mom who teaches Sunday school, the mom who cooks vegetable soup for the church’s soup kitchen from her own organically grown vegetables, the mom who volunteers every Saturday at the local hospice, the mom who is the head of the home schooling association, the mom who sews all the costumes for the ballet concert, the mom who is at every sport match her extremely well balanced and over achieving children are the stars of and you are not the mom who can still make time to train for an ultra marathon and attend the marriage enrichment course to make sure her marriage is in perfect shape. You are also not the mom who collapses at 8 pm to only wake from a coma like state to resume her daily tasks at 4 am in order to prepare a healthy balanced breakfast for her family of 6, but forgets to eat herself. I say, count your blessings.
Many mommies do not realize, but many are already burnt out or on the verge of burnout. If you thought it is only lawyers, stock brokers, doctors and other people in high powered jobs who can suffer from burnout, you were truly mistaken. We found that outside the world of paid work, caregivers are most prone to burn out. Caregivers are those people who devote their time and energy to serving people who cannot take care of themselves or need assistance in taking care of themselves and do not get remuneration for it. If you follow that train of thought, aren’t all mothers caregivers 24/7?
Why do mommies burn out? I think mommies are doing too much. We often forget that moms are daughters, wives, sisters, employees, friends and many things more. We do not just fulfill one role in life, motherhood is just added to the mix of roles which all have their demands on our time and energy. Moms also tend to do too much for our children. Why do we still set the table, wash the dishes, fold the laundry and make their beds when our children are old enough to help with all these tasks. What we see as mindless routine tasks might even give your child a sense of being an important member of the family who is needed to help things run like a well oiled machine. Moms are so worried that our children will be weighed and found too lite in comparison to their friends, that we fill their schedules with endless activities and therefore we are rushing from one end to the other. Nobody gets much needed free time.
Mommies feel so guilty about me-time. When you finally take some time for yourself, you tend to spend it worrying about the children. Are they okay with the babysitter? Did they eat enough without my supervision? I hope they are not getting to many sweets! Oh my goodness, I did not tell the sitter to make sure that they have to brush teeth and go to the loo before bed time! Instead of enjoying the precious moments alone or with friends, you worry and end up talking about the children the whole time. To reiterate: we are more than just moms, enjoy being a friend, a wife, a daughter fully without feeling that you should have spent this time with your child teaching her some important skill.
Mommies mother in isolation. Being a mom nowadays is an extremely competitive occupation and we do it all alone. Why? Because if everyone else can do it, it will make me a bad mom if I need to ask for help. My mother and her mother had to take care of even more children without any support, I will be a failure if I ask a granny to pick up my children from school and do homework with them. Times have also changed and many extended families are scattered geographically – making it difficult to ask for help.
Burnout, I think, is a result of unrealistic expectations we set for ourselves, constant self-criticism if we do not meet those expectations, feelings of not getting acknowledged for what we put into parenting and taking on too many responsibilities because of thinking it will make us better mothers. These negative thoughts leads to a mom being in a constant state of exhaustion physically, mentally and spiritually. It leads to a loss of enthusiasm, energy, idealism, perspective and purpose. We end up where there are too many demands and way too little resources.
Burnout is a serious psychological condition due to the prolonged stress experienced when we keep up the negative thought cycle, which might warrant some psychological assistance to overcome. There are certain symptoms to look out for:
- Feeling tired and drained most of the time
- Lowered immunity, feeling sick often
- Back pain
- Muscle aches
- Change in appetite and sleep habits.
- Feeling like a failure and doubting yourself often
- Feeling helpless
- Feeling alone
- Loss of motivation
- Negative outlook on life
- Decreased sense of satisfaction in thing you previously enjoyed
- Loss of sense of accomplishment.
- Withdrawing from responsibilities
- Isolating yourself
- Using food, alcohol or medicines to help you cope
- Being irritable and quick to react with anger
If you suspect that you are on the road to burnout it is important that you slow down, cut back and get support from friends and family. You have to sit down and reevaluate your goals and priorities in life. It is time to make sure that your basic needs are met – eat regular meals and get enough sleep. Spend your free time wisely without worrying about your children. Most importantly change your mindset from trying to be SUPERMOM to just being yourself. Do what you do with love and authority and have fun being a mom. Many women would love to have the privilege you have to be a mom!