We have had quite the crazy 2017. After baby boy got stung by the scorpion we; moved into my parents house, bought a new house, rented out our old house and moved into the new house- in less than 3 months time. It was quite the whirlwind and I have felt pretty frazzled but we have also been really excited about our new home and attempting to get completely unpacked. Just recently I felt like we were finally getting into our own groove- and things have been running pretty smoothly. Earlier this week we went to visit friends about 2 hours away. The first night we were staying there our 3 year old puked, then did again the next morning- so we packed up and headed home where our 1 year old proceeded to get the same thing and has continued to have diarrhea (this a mom blog not for the faint of heart) all week. Diarrhea and diapers are not pretty- so I have been covered in my fair share of poop. Then Aunt Flo decided to make her first appearance in last the 20 months to top it all off.
Fast forward to this morning- where I found myself hiding in my pantry drinking my coffee and eating a tub of chocolate almonds- it crossed my mind that maybe I am little burned out.
"Burn out"- I have always found this saying to paint a good picture of what it actually describes. I picture a candle that has finally burned all the way down to the stub and needs new wax to keep going. When you have hit the stub and have no more fuel- you feel spent- emotionally, physically, and mentally. When I was in grad school we talked a lot about burn out in regards to what it looks like for therapists. Therapists have one of the jobs where burn out is felt quite often and self care is super important in order to do your job well because you are emotionally and mentally supporting your clients- and when you have nothing to give it effects the work you are doing. It is also recommended as a therapist to have different "hats" (they loved this metaphor in school)- before seeing a client you needed to take some preparation time to take off your "Aubrey hat:" and put on your "therapist hat". The transition helped you keep your work separate from your personal life, because when you spend all day listening to sometimes very depressing and horrific stuff- you have to be able to go home and turn that off. I always had a hard time with this. When I first started working I was at a foster care agency and then I was at a transitional living community for homeless women and children. The stories I heard and the sessions I had were intense and growing up a white female in a loving, sheltered home- they left me pretty emotionally drained. I remember for the first couple of months I would just cry all the way home on my drive back from work. Almost everyday. I learned really fast that self care was a necessity and that my natural emphatic personality really needed it in order to do my job well (and needed it to just survive being a therapist). I got really good at noticing when my candle was starting to run low- and when I needed more wax (yes, I am taking this metaphor ALL the way). In my pantry this morning I started to wonder where that self awareness had gone and why I was not treating my current "job" in the same manner. I think the answer to that question is pretty complicated.
As a SAHM it is really tough to have different "hats". Since, it is a job, in the sense that I complete different tasks and work towards an end goal and purpose- but I have so many roles that morph together into one jumbled identity. I am a Mom, and I am Aubrey, and a wife...who cleans, and cooks, and cares for kids. I can't really take off my "Mom" hat- because it has become such a key part of my identity. I also can't switch between roles and it is kind of funny to think of doing that,
"Oh sorry sweetie, wipe your own butt Mommy isn't here right now I am "Aubrey" right now and she doesn't wipe butts".
So how in the world can a Mom fight burn out? I think I have been fighting it in the wrong ways- which is always fun to recognize when you are failing in an area- yay for self awareness (not). I think I have been using the wrong kind of wax to fill my candle back up. I have been trying to take "time for me" throughout the day in small segments with things like, "Oh I will just drink my coffee and play on my phone for a few minutes to escape". I have learned this is a maladaptive way of coping with stress and leaves me feeling MORE stressed. Nothing like surfing on Instagram and looking at pictures of people at the pool, sipping margaritas, perfectly posed and seemingly happy- to make you feel better while you are in your sweats, with poor personal hygiene and baby diarrhea all over your left arm (its cleaned off but we all know that smell lingers). So lets go ahead and take ALL OF THESE things OFF the list for ways to cope with Mom burn out:
- Phone surfing
- Watching a show
- Hiding in the pantry and eating chocolate
- Online shopping
- Going to Target to shop
- Junk Food in General
I know. I am a fun killer. But ALL of these things are maladaptive, fast burning wax. They may feel good temporarily- but leave you more stressed in the end. Why? These things are empty and will leave you feeling that way.
Can you do these things? Yes. I think a glass of wine at the end of the day and watching a show with your husband is totally fine and if you live near me you will probably run into me at Hobby Lobby or Target- but they are not to be used as coping mechanisms for burn out. I started one of my days last week with a bible study. I put my phone away- and had the time to sit down during nap time and just got into the word. My entire day was changed because I felt FULL and that was some slow burning wax that kept me going even past that day and into the next. Here are some other GREAT ways to combat burn out and practice self care:
- Bible Study/Spiritual rejuvenation- spending time in prayer, reading about the bible, reading the actual bible, etc.
- Exercise- even if it just getting outside for a walk around the neighborhood, exercise equals endorphins and endorphins equal happy and happy people don't eat chocolate in a pantry
- Coffee date with a friend- sitting with someone and having a genuine conversation free of distraction is a wonderful way to feel recharged
- Playdates- letting your kids run around and play while you connect with another mom is also a great way
- Journaling- this has ALWAYS been something I have loved and this blog is like my journal now
- A date night/ girls night out
- Eating healthy and taking care of your body
If you are strapped for time- and you are running on low and your kids are sick or you just don't have the time for any of these things (although I encourage you to put your meal health on top of your list of important things but understand sometimes it is not possible)- then take FIVE minutes. Go into the bathroom and look into the mirror and just do a FIVE exercise. I just made this up so you won't find this anywhere.
- Say 5 positive things about yourself
- Say 5 positive things about your kids
- say 5 positive things about your husband
- Say 5 positive things about your life
- Name 5 things you take for granted
That will give you some perspective and that will temporarily give your candle some wax until you can do one of the other things on the list. Now- how often do you need to implement self care? For me- I need it daily. That is just my personal experience and is something I have learned about myself. It may take you time to figure out how often you need self care but here are some tell tale signs your candle is on its last few drops:
- You wake up dreading the tasks you have that day "not another day of laundry and picking crumbs off the floor- I CANNOT DO IT" may be a thought you have
- You find yourself escaping on your phone
- You are short with your kids and snapping at them for things you wish you weren't
- You are avoiding things in order to not have to do other things (EX: I have not cooked dinner this week because I have not wanted to clean dinner this week or your kids are naked to avoid laundry- not good).
- You are heading for the sugar and carbs and coffee and wine
- You are sad and feel overwhelmed
- You feel like you have hit a wall
I get it- being a Mom is hard. We all get burned out. It is not easy being in charge of the well being of other human beings. Especially human beings that are tiny and soil themselves. But you matter too Momma- your well being MATTERS. So in the midst of loving on those beautiful little ones- save some of that for yourself, because you deserve it.