Like any other job, motherhood involves highs and lows. Running-on-empty is an easy trap to fall into if your self-care recipe isn’t right, which can put you on a fast track to burnout. Here I outline some strategies to help you avoid this common parenting hazard.
PACE YOURSELF MAMA
Motherhood is a marathon, not a race and it’s vital to pace yourself if you want to enjoy sustainable wellbeing as the matriarch of your family. This includes everything from your social schedule (too many activities and play dates are tiring!), to your domestic duties (the never-ending hamster wheel of cooking, cleaning & laundry!), to your professional aspirations as a working mum (hello hiding in the bathroom to get some quiet privacy!). It’s important to remember that not all stages of motherhood are as intense as others. So while your baby is still waking up 5 times a night, ease off your social life. Similarly, if you’re raising kids and working from home, delegate some of your domestic duties to your hubby (or just accept that your house is always a bit messy). And while some mothers can smash out a Masters Degree between nappy changes, most of us don’t resurrect our careers until the kids start school or university. The reality is, motherhood is a lifetime commitment, so try to pace yourself for the long-haul.
GET A MAMA MENTOR
If you were starting a new business or enrolling in an educational course, you would probably seek advice from a professional in that field before embarking on a life-changing activity. Why should motherhood be any different? Whether its your mum, a friend with older kids, a mother’s circle or an online support group, having a mama mentor is a great way to learn from others. Anecdotal wisdom is a vital element of child raising. And while it can be overwhelming to receive advice from too many sources, finding a mama mentor or tribe that resonates with your parenting values and style is an invaluable tool that can help you avoid lone-wolf burnout.
SEE THE RED FLAGS (AND ACT ON THEM!)
Are you feeling exhausted and depleted? Irritable and snappy? Anxious and/or depressed. Or maybe you are feeling the mum rage and are lashing out at your partner and kids as a result. These tell-tale signs of burnout are your soul telling you to slow down and take five. So often we see the signs yet ignore them, which only leads to more stress and one unhappy burnt out mama. The solution? See your red flags and honour them. That means, admitting to yourself and your partner that you’re starting to drop the ball and need to take steps to lighten your load a little until you get back on track. Review your schedule and take anything that is negatively depleting your energies off the list. It’s also important to communicate with your children and explain that mummy needs some extra hugs right now because she’s feeling overwhelmed.
KNOW YOUR LIMITS
A wise mama once told me, ‘You can have it all, but you can’t have it all at once!’ This statement rings true when it comes to parenting boundary-setting. It is impossible to be everything to everyone at all times. Something’s gotta give. And as a mother it’s vital to know your non-negotiables so that your mental health doesn’t crumble. Whether it is a weekly yoga class or a kid-free coffee catch up with a girlfriend, it’s important to draw healthy parameters around your needs. So ask yourself…What feeds your joy? What gives you energy? What fills your cup? Write a list and make sure those things are prioritised, otherwise it’s easy to slide into feelings of resentment and frustration if you’re constantly taking care of everyone else’s needs.
REACH OUT FOR HELP
Burnouts are inevitable from time to time. So even if you fall in a heap, know that it’s ok! Letting people know you are struggling is the first step to climbing out of the burnout pit. Sometimes people don’t know you need help until you ask for it. So, make sure you communicate your feelings to those closest to you and see if there’s anything they can do to better support you as you find balance again. That might mean asking a friend to carpool so you can save time with school drop-off’s, or hiring a weekly cleaning service until your time and energy levels have recalibrated. We all know the saying ‘it takes a village to raise a child’. It’s the truest cliché that’s ever been written. So reach out to yours and stop mama burnout in its tracks.