Are you burning out?
I find it very disappointing when I click on articles promising to offer me Five Ways to Overcome Burnout or The Ten Secrets to be a Calm Mum to read they are suggesting ridiculous activities more suited to a single, childless, millionaire. You know, things like take care of yourself by having a weekly massage or schedule regular date nights with your partner at your favourite restaurant.
Very lovely ideas indeed but do they have any practical benefit to us Mums here in the real world?
Rather than just adding to the problem by complaining about the lack of real advice for real Mums, I offer you the following strategies to minimise the harm of burnout. I can’t say prevent burnout because, really, for us Mums who are in the thick of childminding (a very physically, emotionally and mentally draining job) I think moments of burnout are inevitable. What we want to prevent is the accumulation of these “moments” dragging you down a slippery slope that is difficult to get climb back up from.
1) Change your expectations
Once upon a time you might have taken a morning walk, followed by a green smoothie, followed by half an hour of grateful reflection before you got dressed in clean, corporate clothes and drove in your clean, sticker-free car to your organised, productive workplace. You are in a different season now. Change your expectations. Expecting, and then trying, to still do all the things you did pre-children is one way to feel burnt out. Change what you expect. Take your morning expectations, for example. Instead of your self-care regime involving the walk, the green stuff, the affirmations (or whatever is your jam) try find something realistic you can do that evokes the same feelings. For me, I wake up before everyone else and drink a cup of tea (that is hot, yeeehaw!) from my lovely blue and gold cup. I say a speedy prayer of thanks for all the blessings in my life (because that is my thing, it won’t be for everyone) and then I put on my ‘Mum’ hat. For those few minutes (and sometimes it literally is minutes) I really enjoy myself!
It’s a ritual that does the job. It’s quality not quantity in terms of both time and activity but the feelings of well-being it evokes is the outcome I am after. And the cup of tea in peace gets the result.
2) Change your rules
If you don’t stop to examine and question the rules in your life, you probably haven’t explored if they are still working for you or if they are contributing to your feelings of burnout. What rules am I talking about here? Those type of rules that say, for example, all dishes must be washed, and the kitchen cleaned before you go to bed. Yes, that is lovely and if done, the next morning you won’t have to face the mess of dirty dishes while drinking a self-care cup of tea out of a beautiful blue and gold cup BUT if staying awake to clean the kitchen is a task you just- can’t- face, break the rules and let it go. Do the dishes in the morning. Have some flexibility around these rules you are living by. Who says school shirts must be ironed (or ironed by you?) Either teach the kids to iron (if age appropriate) or shake the wrinkles out when they are wet. Or better still tumble dry them and then hang them straight up to prevent them getting rumpled in the first place. Have a long, hard look at all the different ‘rules’ you are operating by and you might be surprised at how rigid your thinking is. Look at what rules you can change and, in doing so, you might just release some of the tension and stress that is adding to your feelings of burnout.
Okay. Delegation. There are two ways to do this.
First, outsource. If you can afford to pay someone else to do the various jobs that are contributing to your feelings of burnout, then that is really excellent, and I absolutely encourage you to do so. If possible, try support another Mum in her business. Try accessing websites and Facebook groups where Mums advertise their services (such as cleaning, ironing, ready-made meals, childminding etc) and help put money in another woman’s pocket. However, if this is not an option for you, and for most of us it isn’t, then consider who else is available to do the jobs you need help with.
Second, look closer to home. If your children are old enough, then start training them up. You will be teaching them excellent life skills and instilling in them a good work ethic. Instead of spending money on workshops and programs building ‘resilience’ just get them working around the house. It will achieve the same outcome and kill two birds with one stone. This only works if you can change your expectations of what ‘standard’ you want the job done to. We loop back to step one here. You need to embrace ‘done’ is better than ‘perfect’. If having a job done to ‘kid standard’ is going to stress you out more, then obviously completely ignore this advice. But if you are serious about addressing burn-out, and, how you are currently living is adding to those feelings, it might just be time to invite some change into your life and into your thinking.