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How to beat mum burnout

Mum Burnout Is A Thing. Here’s How To Beat It.

There’s no denying it – motherhood is a full-on, often chaotic time. It’s no easy thing to raise a baby, but neglecting our own needs and aiming for perfect parenting can push our stress levels too far. And while some stress is a good thing to have in our lives – and goes hand-in-hand with parenting – too much can be a negative, leaving mums depleted, exhausted and BURNT OUT.

We spread ourselves too thin

It’s no surprise that new mums can end up exhausted in those first few months – motherhood takes some getting used to – but feeling depleted and wiped out is something a lot of mums experience, regardless of how long they’ve been parenting. Stephen Carbone from beyondblue cautions that spreading ourselves too thin and not allowing for time-out makes us vulnerable to chronic exhaustion. He adds that motherhood isn’t something that gets easier as the kids grow older, which makes it crucial to take care of ourselves along the way.

And that’s part of the problem – we mums spend so much time taking care of other people in our lives that we don’t make ourselves a priority. We give our best to our families and shrug our own needs off. We don’t make room for relaxation, good eating or exercise, or pleasurable activities that take us outside of the family, citing guilt or lack of time as the obstacles.

The other part of the problem is the expectation to be perfect at what we do. Thanks to social media, we are continually exposed to images and stories of other mums, leading us to question our own mothering skills and choices. But the problem with aiming to be perfect, and comparing ourselves to some ideal person is that we’re setting ourselves up for self-criticism and disappointment, says Stephen.

When good stress goes bad

It’s this combination of running ourselves ragged, not taking the time to rejuvenate our batteries and aspiring to be a perfect mum that can push our stress levels too far. This is when burnout – a state of chronic stress and exhaustion – can be a real risk to us mums. Typically a term used in the care-based professions, burnout signals that we’re emotionally and energetically spent, and that something needs to change, pronto.

Chantal Gazal, psychologist and author of The Happy Toddler, agrees that ‘mother burnout’ is an appropriate term to describe unhappy, exhausted mums who are no longer enjoying motherhood. She adds that the key to keeping a burnout at bay is to make ourselves number one in the family, meaning we have to put our needs first. This means earnestly taking the time to look after ourselves in order to be healthy and happy, because if we’re burning out, how are we going to look after anyone?

Here’s how you can stay healthy as a mum and keep burnout at bay

1. Be kind to yourself

This is no time for tough love. You’re a caring, patient mum to your children, so why be hard on yourself? Practice positive self-talk or use a mantra that both calms and energises you when you need it. And next time you catch yourself using ‘I should …’ or ‘I have to …’, stop the thought in its tracks and question whether it’s a necessary one.

2. Streamline your day

Take a moment to list everything that you do in a day. What could be done more simply, or shared with your partner? What doesn’t really need to be done at all? Aim to cut your list down by half. Now make sure there’s room on there for some relaxation, even if it’s just putting your feet up for 10 minutes before the school pick-up, or reading in bed before you go to sleep.

3. Say no when you need to

For such a tiny little word, ‘no’ can be a hard one to say when we need to. But making yourself a priority means standing up for your needs, and that means being firm and assertive with other people’s requests. So next time someone asks to add something to your day, try a firm, resounding no (and you don’t have to explain yourself, either!).

4. Book in some regular me-time

There’s more to you than being a mum. What else gets your heart pumping? Whether it’s dancing, running, writing or painting, why not find an outlet where you can escape regularly to do something you really enjoy?

5. Throw guilt out the window

Guilt is an unfair and pointless emotion when it comes to mothering. Plus it makes no sense – sure, spending time away from the family might feel strange, but if it makes you a happier person, how can this be a bad thing for the kids? The experts are saying it’s crucial to start allocating time for ourselves that is separate from the family unit. So it’s virtually doctors’ orders to be self-indulgent on a regular basis.

6. Let go of perfection

Repeat after me: “Being OK is perfect enough.” You don’t have to be the greatest at everything.

It’s an exhausting, relentless and futile pursuit. If this means easing up on social media time, or throwing away the perfect parenting manuals, then so be it. Trust me on this one: your kids think you’re perfect, just the way you are.

 

* Original version published on Kidspot

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