Parental burnout is real. If the pressures of being a mum are stressing you, but you never take time out for yourself, you could be heading towards anxiety, depression and burnout. The consequences for you and your family could be serious.
The demands of motherhood can be overwhelming. Life can feel like a never-ending cycle of jobs and expectations along with feelings of isolation and not being worthy. The myth that women need to ‘have it together’, look great, keep an immaculate house, raise well-behaved kids and maintain a perfect marriage needs to busted once and for all.
You may be a professional woman who works outside the home or you may be staying at home to care for your kids. Either way, self-care is not an option, it’s essential, if you want to stay well and enjoy your family. It’s really this simple: if you give to everyone else but not to yourself, you’ll end up running on empty and wishing you could run away.
I talk to lots of women who struggle with the question:
“Is it OK to take a break from the family?”
My answer is an unreserved YES!
Many women have the faulty notion that if we love our family, we shouldn’t want or need time away from them. The fact is, time out is a necessity and not a luxury. If you want to live a guilt-free life of purpose, meaning and happiness – which will benefit your family as much as yourself – time out is essential.
Modern mums are under a lot of pressure. Life in a nuclear family can be isolating without grandparents or extended family popping over to support us. On top of this, more is expected of the modern mum. These days we can’t let kids play freely in the streets and we’ve become responsible for entertaining them, keeping them safe and driving them to all sorts of after school activities. And with all that’s going on in the world our kids have more stress to deal with too, so we also feel the pressure of looking out for their mental health.
Parenting is a huge job and it makes good sense to rest from time to time.
Here are my SIX tips for how to avoid parental burnout by making time for yourself.
#1 Create the support you need
Early in my marriage I thought it was my husband’s job to be my main support. I would spill all my problems about the day with the kids as soon as he got home. As you can imagine, it didn’t do us any good as a couple. We soon worked out that I needed to reach out to other women to get the emotional support I needed. Our women friends know from their own experience what we’re going through and they often enjoy talking about it. Meeting up once a week with one or more women is all you need to get started.
TAKEAWAY: Make a plan to create your own support.
#2 Keep doing what you love
When I became a mum, I spent all my time with the kids and soon realised that I was losing me. I’d stopped reading for pleasure and going to pilates and my herb garden had become completely overgrown. Every thought in my head was about the kids: washing, cooking, cleaning, helping. I knew I was missing something. I started gardening again and spending just 10 minutes a day weeding helped me start feeling like myself again.
TAKEAWAY: What have you stopped doing that you love?
#3 Challenge any guilty feelings
As a young mum, I found it difficult to spend time away from the family. It didn’t feel ‘right’ and I was overrun with guilt. Once I realised this response had been modelled by my own mum, I was able to understand that guilt was not appropriate. And once I saw and felt how much better I was with the kids (and they with me) after I’d had a little time away, the guilt soon faded away.
TAKEAWAY: Work out where your guilty feelings have come from and challenge them.
#4 Start small
My first breaks from the family were short and sweet. Coffee with friends, dinner with a cousin, a day spa or movie with an old school friend. At first I fretted but it turned out my family coped just fine without me. Their dad was more than capable of caring for them. They may have had vegemite on toast and worn the same clothes all weekend, but they were always healthy and happy when I got home. This helped me relax.
TAKEAWAY: Make a ‘time-out’ plan for yourself for next week. Remember to start small.
#5 Enjoy the benefits
Apart from avoiding parental burnout, there are other important benefits of spending time away from the family. I come home more grounded, calmer and happy to see my husband and kids again. When the kids were little, it was great to see their interest in where I’d been and before long, they even had suggestions for what I could do on my next weekend away! Before long, I began to feel more interesting as a person and my confidence grew. I felt like a better mum and happier partner. You can experience this too.
TAKEAWAY: Notice what changes when you practice self-care in this way.
#6 Seek Professional Help
If you feel you are not coping with the demands of motherhood, please make the time to reach out for support. Many women think that it is a failure or a weakness if they seek professional help, that they should be able to work it out alone . But the truth is, you don’t have to work it out alone, there is support available. Sessions with a counsellor can be a great investment in your wellbeing, and can help you develop strategies to deal with what life throws at you.
TAKEAWAY: It does not mean you are weak or a failure if you seek professional help.
Contact Honni hayton Counselling for more information on how counselling can help you. Phone: 0419 641805.
For more tips on how to care for yourself and avoid parental burnout, you are invited to join my Facebook Self Care Group for Women .
If you feel you are not coping with the demands of motherhood and may be experiencing Anxiety, you can read my blog : What Are The Symptoms of Anxiety?