Monday, February 22, 2016

Can You Burnout on Parenting?

Proverbs 3:24
When you lie down, you will not be afraid; When you lie down, your sleep will be sweet.

I read an interesting article today. And, honestly, it hit home in the worst way.  The article is about burnout. While they obviously address the stress in a workplace, for a stay at home mom, the home is the workplace. It's a 24-hour a day, seven day a week job. There's no time-off. There's no sick leave. If you happen to pick up what your kids have, then you get to enjoy cleaning up your own puke next to theirs. And, basically, it's a completely thankless position. Hopefully you get a nice nap on Mother's day, and a cute card saying that "we love you" from your littles. Hopefully your husband helps and pitches in, but by now you've probably realized the Great Mom Truth: If YOU don't do it, it doesn't get done.

Anyway, I've started doing some research, and I'm finding a serious issue here: burnout is being pushed under the rug for far too long with Moms. Maybe because it isn't a "corporate issue" it isn't considered a problem? For many families, though, Mom is the center of the universe. Shouldn't we at least look to see if burnout for Moms is a real thing?

Moms, we tend to feel guilty everything. We worry. We compare ourselves to other moms. But what if what we're going through is really more than just some good, old-fashioned mom guilt? What if instead of a second cup of coffee, you really need more than that? Does any of this sound familiar?

1. You're overly cynical.

Being overly sarcastic, making fun of stuff that wouldn't normally bother you is actually a symptom of burnout. Think about it: if normally you're encouraging and positive on social media, and now all of a sudden someone says something and your first instinct is one that may be hurtful or sardonic... it may be time for a break.

2. Messing up normally easy tasks.  

All of a sudden, a recipe that you've made a million times, and you forget the key ingredient. Lack of attention to details, difficulty remembering things, or keeping your
Photo courtesy of freelancemd.com
mind on daily tasks are all signs of burnout.

3. You're always tired.  

Ok, I read that and pretty much laughed myself silly. It the last week, I've had a total of 6-7 hours of sleep. Between sick kids, teething, nightmares, weird temperature changes that have made the bedroom a meat locker and hard to sleep in, I'm tired. I can't be the only mom that's tired. But really, I'm not tired all the time, right? Most of us I think try to sneak in some naptime when the kids are napping, but if it starts really hampering what you're trying to do that day, take a step back. Are you dehydrated? When was the last time you've had something to eat that isn't coffee?

4. Always being disgruntled.

This isn't a case of "my husband doesn't love me enough." This is a real, deep, hatred and conviction that everyone is really out to get you. This is the always being negative about every opportunity. Nothing goes right. The problem is: once you get the attitude that bad things always happen to you, then - you guessed it - everything that happens to you, good or bad, will be a downer scenario. It's called a self-fulfilling prophecy. Once you expect something, or are convinced already, then you'll find proof wherever you are.

5. You're constantly doubting yourself.

Mom 101, right? Is there a day where you don't second-guess yourself?! Is there a second where you're not praying that you have the wisdom and sense to know how to handle a situation? But I think there's a time when it gets extreme. There's times where I'm honestly so numb I just start fumbling at the problem like I had boxing gloves for hands. I don't know why he's crying; but instead of staying calm and just sticking a boob in his mouth... I freeze. Sound familiar?

I think it's interesting that another symptom is a total lack of satisfaction in your achievements.  I read that, too, and thought, "exactly how much enthusiasm am I supposed to have folding socks?" But in reality, I am responsible for what my kids learn during the day. Whether it's manners, counting, or building blocks, my kids learn what I teach them. I should probably feel good about that, but some days... I honestly don't.

What I think is interesting is that the cure for burnout goes far beyond just adding a little self-care. The cure for burnout is a few drastic measures and some real, lasting change. In a typical office setting, the cure would be using some of the 1000 hours of vacation time you've racked up and actually using it to take a vacation. In motherhood, especially at the beginning, taking a vacation away from the kids is next to impossible. I can't get my youngest to even take a bottle. So, I either get "vacation time" in two-hour chunks, or I leave the oldest with Daddy and take only the one that I can nurse at will.

So, what's the solution? I don't know. But here's what I have gathered so far, both from research and personal experience:

1. The kids know you're stressed out. They know it and feel it, too. As hard as the mother guilt pill can be to swallow, it has to be done. YOU HAVE TO HAVE TIME AWAY. As long as you can find people that you trust, and that you know love your kids, then get some time alone. Even if the working parent uses their vacation time from work to stay at home with the kids for a day, it's better than nothing. This is more than just a cup of coffee in peace; this is more than just a Bible study one day a week.

2. You may have to have a "company meeting." It doesn't have to be a finger-pointing, blame-finding argument where you figure out who is at fault and who is working harder. Maybe it's a brainstorming session where the two of you figure out how you can both manage the chaos a little better.

3. I don't know what the answer is for your situation, but I can tell you a huge solution is prayer and going to church together. Even if that's the only time you get with your spouse without the kids: do it. It helps. Find a good church. Together. Pray. Together.

4. For me, right now, it's really paying close attention to what I'm watching/hearing on TV and social media. If it's not positive and encouraging and hilarious, it's not worth my time. Putting ideas in my head of death, zombies, etc. is just asking for problems. It's also proven that the more time you spend on FB, Instagram, etc that the satisfaction of your own life decreases significantly. Why? Because people post the good stuff, brag about their accomplishments, and sweep the rest under the rug. It's human nature to put only the good, and to make ourselves look as good as we can. It's not bad to brag about our accomplishments; it's just damaging to look at other's and think that it's a personal dig against anything you're doing.

5. COMMUNICATE!! Talk about what's going on. Odds-wise, if you're experiencing burnout, so is your partner. You BOTH need your needs met in order to be effective. You BOTH will have to work together in order to combat this. And, honestly, you'll BOTH have to admit that you're probably doing something wrong. It'll take some humility on both your parts to figure out what needs to change.

Burnout is real. It can lead to serious physical symptoms, and I think is a contributing factor to the demise in some marriages. We can get so numb and so exhausted that taking the time to do anything, to care about anything takes energy we no longer possess.

Take care of yourself, mommas. You deserve it. So does your family.

Oh.... those articles? You can read those here... and here.... and here...

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