You’re sitting on your couch, playing on your smartphone and you just want to be left alone.
There might be a small amount of guilt lurking under the surface. But not much.
Your kids ask, “Can you play this game with me?”
Nope, not right now, you reply.
You’re burned out. Every bit of energy and motivation has left your body. It disintegrated with that last tantrum or vaporized after your tween daughter gave her characteristic shrug when you asked how her day was.
You’re done and frankly, don’t really see a point in this whole parenting thing anymore.
I see you. I’ve been there.
By running around and doing everything for your kids to combined with the endless loads of laundry and meals to prep…you’ve forgotten yourself.
You didn’t mean to. It’s just that you didn’t feel like you needed any extra attention. You were focused on getting things done.
But… its never done.
There will always be more laundry, more dishes in the sink and the neverending slew of homework and school assignments.
If you’ve lost motivation to do anything else other than scrolling through your Facebook feed, here’s how to recover from mom burnout.
Define your values and who you want to be
Thought I would say rest and bubble baths, right? Nope.
Those are short-term fixes. (And for some of us, sitting still in a bubble bath makes us want to run from the house screaming.)
To recover from mom burnout, you need to know how to prevent it.
It starts with your expectations.
Right now, write down what you think a good mom does. All the tasks… I mean everything.
For me – and these are my delusional good mom fantasies so please don’t feel discouraged by what I write down because I’m going to revise them in just a few lines – a good mom:
- feeds her kids homecooked nutritious meals
- Volunteers for every special event in her child’s classroom
- Loves her kids
- Makes sure they shower and bathe every night
- Always maintains a cool temper
- Spends hours of quality time with her kids
- Keeps an immaculate house
Now, ask yourself…
- Is this realistic? And
- Does this sound enjoyable to me?
Looking at my list above, its a big NOPE to most of the list. Now’s the time to rewrite it. (Do this as well!)
A realistic, good mom:
- Feeds her kids (Ya, she may try to keep it healthy, but all that matters is they don’t starve)
- Volunteers for only events that she finds personally rewarding.
- Loves her kids
- Makes sure they bathe when they look dirty or start to smell
Always maintains a cool temper
- Spends time with her kids in the car, doing chores, helping with homework – basically every time we are around our kids, that counts as quality time.
- The house doesn’t smell like mice are rotting in the walls
YES!! (power pump fist in the air). I can do this.
Heck, I might even exceed these expectations. Won’t that be a joyous day instead of thinking like I’m never enough?
Don’t let the shame monster get you down
Oh, for shame.
Shame ties into our high expectations but it’s also a scandalous villain that seeks to rob you of all motivation and feelings of self-worth.
Shame is thinking that you fail to accomplish things because of who you are. It treats you like an inherently flawed individual with no hope of success.
For instance, yesterday, I skipped my workout because I felt run down and was fighting off a bug. This morning, as I climbed out of bed, I thought I would be nice to myself, give myself the day off from a workout and resume my plan tomorrow.
Those good feelings lasted for a second until that bastard shame stuck in his two cents.
“You always do this. I thought you said you were going to do the whole plan this time? Your sister-in-law did her plan (Get out of here, comparison!). You’re just going to lose all the muscle mass you put on.”
Predictably, my mood shifted.
I shut myself in the bathroom.
According to Brené Brown, a shame and vulnerability researcher, we exhibit one of three behaviors when we feel shame. We
Move away: withdrawing, hiding, silencing ourselves, and keeping secrets.
Move Toward: Seeking to appease and please
Move against: Trying to gain power over others by being aggressive, and by using shame to fight shame.
Because of this, she says that whenever she feels shame, she purposefully removes herself from all social contact until she can get herself back to mental stability.
Thus, why I was in the bathroom.
Being aware of the effects of shame helps tame it. I spent 5 minutes in the bathroom watching funny cat videos and felt much better.
We do more than our fair share
How often are you the one running around like an insane woman when the rest of your family seems practically lethargic?
I do this myself.
One morning, our entire family woke up late. My five-year-old son, who we honestly rely on as our alarm clock, usually wakes up faithfully every day at 5:30AM.
This morning, he fell back asleep.
It was still dark outside when I opened my eyes and saw my husband on his cell phone.
“What’s wrong?” I asked him.
“It’s 7 am.”
“WHAT?!?” We need to have the kids out the door by 7:40.
I jumped out of bed, let the dogs out, woke up my daughter, fed my son his first breakfast, made both kids lunch, shovel a bowl of raisin bran into my mouth and then raced back upstairs to shower by 7:20.
My husband is at the sink and I tell him all I did.
“Wow, I only brushed my teeth.”
And I took joy in having accomplished so much. Maybe you do this too.
But, if we’re being honest, that productivity comes at a price as you climb into the shower a stressed-out wreck. You can’t even enjoy the hot water because you’re thinking of the next thing that you need to “get done.”
That’s the problem. You’re not finding the joy in anything because you are rushing from one thing to another.
Some of us have been doing it so long that we don’t know what we find fun anymore.
How do you parent when you’re exhausted? These four simple strategies will help every overwhelmed mom recover from burnout.
Start really small.
We all need time in the day where we savor something good.
If like me, you have no clue what that is, start with something little.
Currently, I have homework from my therapist to do just that. She first asked me to think of something really little that I enjoy eating.
I chose the Dark Chocolate Sea Salt Caramel squares from Ghiradelli.
My homework? Every day, I need to take five minutes, by myself, to savor one of these squares. This is not mindless eating. It’s paying attention to every bite, every contrast. Noticing the bitter dark chocolate against the salty-sweet caramel.
Honestly, at first, it was torture. I wanted to devour the whole thing and be done with it. Actually, I had to set a timer to make sure I was taking a full five minutes to do it.
So what happened?
I felt completely satisfied after ONE piece. Before this exercise, I would devour five of these little squares until a stomach ache took over and told me to stop.
I enjoy this slow time. Especially when I tell my husband, “Honey, I’m going to go do my homework” and then I lock myself in the guest room and eat chocolate.
Here’s your homework. Start with a little indulgence like this once a day for at least 5 minutes. Once you master it and see that the world doesn’t fall apart when you’re away for 5 minutes, you can move onto harder ones.
Recovering from Mom Burnout takes time
And a complete mindset shift to stop it from recurring in the future.
As long as you manage your expectations, become aware of when shame is doing its dirty work and start small on your search for what you enjoy, you’ll start your journey into being a happier person.
I’m working on it myself every single day.