When I was pregnant with my first baby, I remember my mom telling me a story about a time when I (her first baby) had just learned to walk and would follow her everywhere. She said she just got so overwhelmed that she would climb up on the couch to get away from me. I remember being appalled by this story. WHY would my mother want to get away from ME, her only baby? And I’m sure I was a perfect baby! I just didn’t get it!
Then…I had a baby. Then I had 3 more babies! And somewhere along the way, I totally understood. Sometimes I just get so overwhelmed with the all-encompassing task of caring for small children. Many times isolated in the home, cut off from contact from the outside world. It can be stressful and even depressing at times. Maybe I’m the only one? Anyone else with me? Please tell me I’m not alone! Anyone? Anyone? Beuller?
Here are a few tips I’ve learned over the years first, for coping with the stress of Mommy Burnout and second, for preventing it.
How to Deal with Mommy Burnout:
1. Mommy time out: Take 5 minutes to yourself. Breathe, meditate, sing a song, listen to music, read a few pages of a book, use aromatherapy. Do whatever calms you down. Sometimes you just need a break! But if you can’t get a break out of the house without your children, lock yourself in the bathroom or the closet and take a breather. If you really cannot pull yourself out of it, call a friend or relative to come get the kids. You’d be surprised at the amount of moms I know that have been there when it comes to “Mommy Burnout.” I think people are more willing to help than we realize and we need to not be afraid to let others know that we are not perfect. We are not and neither are they! I promise!
2. Count your blessings: If you want you can go into the closet or bathroom to do this. Or close your eyes or write it down or say it out loud. Whatever works for you. List all the things you are blessed with. Even if it’s something insignificant. Focusing on the positive always helps pull me out of a chain of negative, toxic thinking.
3. Watch your children, really watch them: This one sounds counter-intuitive, but trust me. Put down whatever you were trying to do and just watch your children play, throw a tantrum, whatever. Focus 100% attention on THEM! It sounds silly, but it works for me.
4. Hug your children, be affectionate, be funny, fake it to make it: Even if you are sick of having your kids crawl all over you, hug your child. Kiss your child. Tell them you love them. Rub their backs. Tickle them. Laugh with them. Really connect with them. Even if you think you can’t stand it, just fake it until you make it. You may want to do this one AFTER you take your time out!
5. Serve your children: Do something nice for your children. Make them a treat, offer to play a game, clean their room. Service helps you to be less selfish and focus on the feelings of others rather than your own negative feelings.
6. Tell your children: If your kids are old enough to understand, don’t be afraid to let your children know that you need a timeout or that you’re having a hard day or you just need some space. Kids are more understanding than we give them credit. Give them a chance to give you a break before you run to the closet! Maybe they need a break from you too. They might rather go to their own room for a bit while you chill out.
Now that we’ve talked about ways to cope with Mommy Burnout, let’s talk about how we can prevent this from happening on a regular basis. Doing these things won’t make you immune to it, but they will help you establish good habits to prevent those overwhelming negative feelings towards yourself and your children.
Preventing Mommy Burnout
1. Take regular time away from your children: I’m not saying that you have to go get your nails done once a week or pamper yourself any time that you’re away from your kids. Not that there is anything wrong with that, but having a purpose outside of your children is healthy. Serve at your local charity or church. Organize a ladies night out group. Help a neighbor. Get a part time job. Start a blog. Do something for yourself and the world outside of the wonderful work that you do inside the home. I have found that it has helped me to be a better mother all around.
2. Date night: I do not budge on this one. Even if my husband and I only go out for 1 hour, we do it! We have a standing appointment with our babysitter every Saturday night. If something comes up and she can’t come, we have a back up sitter. We just do not budge on this. If I don’t get date night in, the following week is just rough for me. I need that time to reconnect with my husband. Having 4 kids, we don’t get a lot of time to just be a couple. We are always “mom” and “dad.” Date night doesn’t have to be anything fancy. Go for a long walk. Sit in your car and talk or make out. Try and talk about something besides your kids, work or money. Remember why you fell in love and started a family with that handsome hunk of yours. Just do it. Put it on the calendar and don’t let anything get in the way of that special time each week.
3. Routine: Children thrive on routines. Almost any doctor, therapist, Childhood Development specialist will tell you…children need routines. Especially toddlers, who tend to be the biggest cause of Mommy Burnout (in my case). I’ve struggled with this one. I’m kind of a “fly by the seat of my pants mommy” and I’ve had to learn to be a little more scheduled to prevent feeling overwhelmed. This doesn’t mean you have to be so strict that lunch must be at 11:47 each day and bed time is 7:22! But do things in generally the same order. If children, particularly toddlers can predict what comes next in their day, things run a lot more smoothly. When you say “it’s nap time” and they are already expecting that, they have already prepared their little brains for nap time!
4. Stop Multitasking: I’ve struggled with this one…a lot…and I’m definitely not near perfect. I’ve heard this advice from several moms. Don’t multitask. It’s counterproductive. Work or parent, clean or talk on the phone. When you’re with your kids, be present. Put down the phone, get off the computer, stop cleaning the house. All that can wait. Your children are only young once. Set a timer on your phone if you need to. Have it go off every 30 minutes. You can check email, facebook, instagram, text, return work calls, do the dishes, fold the laundry. Set it again. Do what works for you, but be present with your children. I’m going to start following my own advice better!
5. Hope for the best, plan for the worst: I learned this from my realist mother. The one on the couch hiding from me! Always hope for the best, but be prepared to handle whatever life throws you. In the context of motherhood, 2 of my children napping at the same time is what I most hope for, but I’m planning on neither of them napping! Do you see what I mean? You don’t have to be a pessimist to live this way, just be real with what is actually possible in your life. Always shoot for what will be best, but when it doesn’t happen, try not to fall apart because it’s not what you planned on. This way, if my two littles end up sleeping at the same time and I get a little break it’s an awesome surprise, but if they don’t it’s not big deal, because I’m mentally prepared for that possibility!
6. Ask for help: If it’s all just too much for you, ask for help. Tell your significant other, relative or friend. Hire someone else to clean your house, watch your kids or cook your dinner. If you can’t afford to, swap childcare with another mom or cooking or cleaning services. At different stages of my life I’ve hired someone to cook, clean, and watch my kids. Not all at the same time, but I’ve had different needs at different times. Recognizing where you need help is key. And sometimes just taking ONE thing off your plate can greatly reduce your stress. There’s nowhere in the motherhood manual that says you have to do it all. Find the balance in your life that works for you. No one will, or should, think less of you for not being able to do it all. Chances are, they probably aren’t either.
7. Don’t compare: My favorite quote is “Comparison is the thief of Joy” (Theodore Roosevelt). I just love it. It is so simple and true. Don’t compare your weaknesses to someone else’s strengths. It’s simply not fair to you or to other moms. We are all in this journey of motherhood together. Let’s start acting like it!
I hope these little tips help you to handle those moments of stress we all face as mothers. They have helped keep me sane dealing with 4 kids under 7. Just know that you are not alone! I remember after having my 2nd baby being so ashamed that I was struggling to take care of two kids. Tons of people do it ALL the time. I felt inadequate and I was too scared to ask for help. I’ve since learned my lesson. I ask for help. I hire help. I know my limitations and set boundaries for how far I push myself physically, emotionally and mentally and I am a much better mother for it.
Do you have any tips for handling Mommy Burnout? We would love to hear what works for you! Leave us a comment, or tell us on Facebook.