10 Ways to Avoid Mama Burnout (Part 1)
When our 5 kids were little I ran away. Well not exactly, but I do remember standing by the front door at the end of a horrible, rainy day of being cooped up with sick toddlers, fighting siblings, a hormonal pre- teen and a hormonal and burned out me! With my coat on and purse in hand, I watched for his car to pull in the driveway. Greeting him at the door, I exclaimed, “They are all screaming, they are all yours; I am running away.” And I did. I went to the mall where I walked around in utter silence for about 3 hours and no one spoke to me or pulled on any of my body parts or needed me right now! Ah bliss.
I was overwhelmed, exhausted and tottering on the edge of “mama burnout.” Since then I’ve learned a few tricks that will help us when we feel like we’re about to burn out!
1. Learn to see life in terms of seasons. Every season has challenges unique to that season and every season has blessings unique to the season. We need to be honest about the challenges but then choose to focus on the blessings. A challenge of the little years is monotony. Routine caring of little ones gets boring and is never finished! You wake up the next day to the same things. However, little kids say the funniest things. When our daughter Libby at age 4 saw the ocean for the first time she exclaimed, “Mama, it’s too full you need to let some of it out.” Write down the funny things your kids say. It’s a blessing of this season. Teenagers don’t say funny things. This season will pass.
2. Do something crazy. One of my big events in bad weather was to go to a mall and ride the escalators. Now you can go to a mall and play at an indoor playground. Declare a crazy dress-up day. Dress up in the wildest costumes you can make from clothes in the house. Put make up on everyone. Paint toes and fingers crazy colors and eat green eggs. Or blue pancakes. Craziness relieves monotony and makes a day fun instead of merely an endurance race.
3. Restore perspective. Part of burn out comes because our world gets too insular. It’s about us and our kids and our needs. It helps to do something totally unrelated to us. Go to a museum. Rent head phones and really study the paintings. Or go to an interesting lecture or demonstration. Don’t discuss your kids. You’ll need to get a baby sitter for your children but you will come home a refreshed Mom with a restored perspective. Life isn’t all about us.
4. Find an older mentor. I will be forever grateful to Edith, my next door neighbor. An elderly widow she saved me in my years of parenting little ones. Many times I ran across my front yard, sometimes barefoot in pj’s and knocked on her door. When she opened it, I’d burst into tears. “Edith, I am the worst mother and wife in the world..,” Sweet Edith would take me in her arms, sit me on her couch and say, “You are not the worst Mom or wife. It’s just this season in your life. It will pass. You will be alright.” Edith gave me perspective because she was older. She had been there. She understood.
5. Have girl friends in the same season. Too often we look to our husband to understand, to empathize, to meet our needs for affirmation and appreciation. Sometimes we can look to others to meet needs that they were not created to meet. We should be going to God first and some girlfriends second. A husband just won’t “get” what it was like to wipe poop off the bathroom walls, pick up cereal under the table, separate wrestling boys…and then do it all over again. We need a friend in the same season whom we can call and say, You won’t believe what my 3 year old just did! She will! And she’ll comfort you and laugh with you. Oh how we need to laugh with other women. Pray for God to give you some women who make you laugh and seek to reach out to some other young Moms who may be on the verge of burnout too! Invite some to your home for a time together. Tell your grossest stories. Pray for each other.