When we were little girls, pushing Cabbage Patch dolls in Playskool shopping carts, we dreamed of having babies, what we would name them, how we would bounce them on our hips while we chatted with our girlfriends on our corded phones. Oh, how we loved those pretty babies, all cherubic and bright-eyed! What a dream; what a life we would have.
Now here we are, big, grown-up mamas with our real-life baby dolls, and while we do push them in shopping carts, the angelic quality of our dreams seems to have worn off a little. Or a whole awful lot. This is HARD, what we're doing. And these baby dolls whine and fuss and are constantly hungry! And none of us is mothering in a vacuum. We have houses, we have jobs, and we have mother-in-laws. Mom burnout is the hottest of topics, because we are all juggling too much, and expecting way too much of ourselves. But just because the job is stress-filled doesn't mean we have to be. We CAN commandeer some peace, and with any luck, a little quiet, too!
1. Identify Your Stressors
You know you're stressed, but what are your specific stressors? What's making you feel like staying under the covers all day long? What're the most stressful things about motherhood? Get out a notebook and a Sharpie. Be honest, and be thorough. You don't have to love what you're doing, don't have to save face to anyone. This is a truthful look inside. The more straight-up you are with yourself, the more you can take action against the stress. Lay everything out on the paper, everything wrong with your life as a mother. Go ahead, it's okay.
2. Visualize Your Goals
In the muck of the mothering moment, you are not thinking about ideals. You are wondering why you're stepping on so many Legos and why dinner doesn't plan itself. But to begin to ease the feelings of burnout, go back to who you were when you first became a mother, or think about who you'd LIKE to be versus who you are right now. Write it out, draw pictures. Go big, even: what kind of legacy do you want to leave your children? What do you hope they'll say about you when they're grown? BE THAT MOM. Or, begin to reimagine her, anyway. She's in there, under all the Legos and dinner plans. Promise.
3. Write an Action Plan
So, you've identified the problems, and you also have the vision. Now you need a plan. What will help? Honestly asking and answering that question is the beginning of a whole new way to be a Mom. Do you need some time away? Chances are you can get a little of that. Do you need to hand off some of the household chores? Making a plan to delegate more work to your children may feel overwhelming, but a little hard now will be easier for you in the long run. Would better sleep or some healthier eating habits help? When you're feeling stressed, watching long on Netflix while downing a carton of Ben & Jerry's will not actually add to your wellbeing (at least not after the initial hour!). Give yourself a plan of action for each of the problems and visions on your list. Dream big; this is YOUR motherhood.
4. Acknowledge Your Value
Sometimes as mothers, we are busy doing everything for everyone else all the time. Okay, let's be honest: that's how we function, all the time. But in order to de-stress, and to really avoid burnout, we have to believe we need breaks and treats and care. Maybe what you really need is to spend some time telling yourself the truth about what an outstanding job you are doing, what a great mama you really are. Be your own best friend; what would you tell her if she was feeling burnt out? Don't beat yourself up about every little thing. None of us is perfect, and no one expects you to be. Believing in your value will give you fuel as you start hammering out your plan for de-stressing.
5. Re-frame Your Perspective with Gratitude
When all else is failing, counting your blessings really is an instant boost. Instead of focusing solely on what's going wrong, take some time to focus on what (and who!) is going right. You have beautiful children who love you. You have a home and a job and the sun shines every single day. Taking a few minutes in the morning and again at night to jot down even three small things you are grateful for (in a pretty journal! With a pretty pen! Just for you!) can set you on a road to much happier mothering.
Motherhood burnout is the real deal. Raising great human beings (or even just reasonably polite ones) is an enormous task; a marathon and not a sprint. You are doing it, and you can continue doing it in the best of ways. Your kids need you to; the world needs you to. Take care of you, and keep dreaming of who you want to be. That mama is in there, and she's ready to roar (peacefully, of course).