I was at the store the other evening when I ran into a friend and her family. "How are you doing?" She asked. "Good," I replied, but then I thought about it for a second. "I'm actually feeling pretty burnt out at the moment. I really need a break." I was referring to the fact that I haven't have time off of work since December and I take my daughter everywhere. I can feel it everyday when I get up, I need some time away. I have mommy burnout. I've been neglecting myself and now it's time to take action. But HOW? How can I find the time or the energy to let myself take this much-needed self-care? If you feel like you suffer from mommy burn, you may use these five ideas from other mothers about how to deal with and prevent mommy burn out.
1. Take an hour for yourself a couple times each week
One of my favorite researchers, Dr. Christine Carter, describes how to "Put on your own oxygen mask first" in her book, Raising Happiness: 10 simple steps for more joyful kids and happier parents. Go out with your friends and have a few laughs (sans kids), take some quiet time for yourself, or get some exercise. These pockets to "me time" go a long way, especially if you make them a regular habit. (See Dr. Christine Carter's blog also see some other "me time" tips from the mommy below)
2. Can't get away? Visualize your haven.
I got this one from my mom. As a New Yorker, she has a deep connection to the ocean which is not nurtured in New Mexico. "I have my Santa Monica sidewalk near my local coffee shop," she explained to me. "When I am feeling like I need to be at the beach, I walk on this stretch of sidewalk right behind the gas station near a busy intersection. It's always sunny there and when I close my eyes, the traffic almost sounds like the water." Can you visualize (and possibly simulate) your happy place? (For more resources, ask my mom)
3. Redefine responsibilities
Are you finding that you're not accepting help from your partner, family and friends? Parenting is not all about the mother. Have you noticed the resentful stream of thoughts going through your head as you clean up the house or brush your child's teeth? Maybe it's time to re-open the conversation about who has which responsibilities. Get back into a balance that works for your family. (See #5 on "10 Ways to Burnout as a Mom")
4. Stop trying to be the perfect parent
One of my favorite pieces of advice I ever heard was, "If you were the perfect parent, you would be failing your kid because they wouldn't know how to interact with anyone else in the world." Forgive yourself for not making the most of your weekend, or for watching tv while your child delightfully plays on their own. Giving up the impossible goal of being the perfect parent lets you take a break. (See "No More Perfect . . .")
5. Leave the dirty dishes in the sink
I am particularly guilty of not doing this one. If I have a moment to rest, I feel like I'm wasting my time. The smallest task beckons my attention before I let myself rest. Getting through the dinner dishes is the worst. But you know what, washing the dishes in the morning is not the worst thing in the world, and by releasing this one emblem of control, I can start to refocus my energies on me. (See #2 on "20 Bad Habits that Contribute to Mom Burnout")
Doing any one of these things can help with preventing mommy burnout (or regaining your mental health if you've already reached burnout like me). Try one for a week and see if it makes a difference. Have you found other ways to maintain your sanity? Please share and post comments below or on Facebook or Twitter!