Before I had my little boy, I wondered why my friends with children said they never had any time, why did they always look tired and stressed? I admit, I could even feel a little dismissive – I mean how hard could it be? Fast forward to having a child of my own, I was well equipped to answer to my own question – very hard! Here’s some tips on how to avoid family life burnout.
Of course after you have your child there is the overwhelming feeling of love for them, but also there comes an overwhelming feeling of doubt of yourself. Are you good enough? What is best for your child? Worries about their health, your own health, are you as good at this parenting business as others? The merry-go-round begins and the emotional stress is draining.
On top of all this, work is then added into the potent mix. Many families rely on two incomes to be able to achieve an acceptable standard of living. Over half of mothers with children under five work and this rises to 71% once a child is in the five to ten years age range, and work undoubtedly places extra stress and fatigue on the family. Achieving the work/family life balance is not easy, especially if shift work is thrown into the equation. Everyone wants a piece of you – is there enough to go round?
Everyone else seems to manage
Then there is the constant comparison you make with others – everyone else seems to be coping much better than you, making a much better job of it. But in truth, most parents if they were honest, would not say having children is a walk in the park. In fact a study undertaken by Mother & Baby magazine found that 56% of mothers said that they felt in a “state of despair.”
We have all heard of career burn-out and even offer sympathy to those who suffer from it, parenting burn-out also exists but admitting to it is rarely done. We presume others don’t find it difficult, so we too want to be seen as ‘having it all’ and ‘doing it right’. But all the stresses and strains can build up and pretending all is okay can leave us breaking down.
What’s the answer?
Firstly admit when you need help – it is important to ask for and accept help when you need it. Don’t pretend that things are easy when they are not – it will be a release to admit it, but also could help others realise they can admit it too and stop the circle of pretence.
Support other mothers
Have an honest conversation with them. You might be relieved to know you are not on your own once other mums find you are a welcome route to allowing them to be honest.
It’s okay to say no sometimes
If yet another party invite appears in the school bag and it’s going to be a struggle to fit it in on that particular day, politely decline, without the guilt! Rushing to fit everything in is just putting pressure on top of pressure – you will blow! There have been plenty of parties that have been attended and there will be more but on this occasion accept it’s a no!
Child free time
Much as we love our children, it is important to spend some time without them. If you have someone who can look after your children, spend a day doing something for yourself, even if it’s managing to get round the shops without having to keep your brood in check.
Try and do it as regularly as you can, even rotate with other mums, helping them and helping you. A bit of ‘you’ time can quickly refresh and restore, leaving you feel human again, and ready to re-enter the ring!
Grow a second skin
Try to become immune to those who constantly try to compete. You know the sort – they capture you at the school gates and tell you that not only do they have the brightest child since Einstein and manage to hold down a high powered full time job, but they also have a gorgeous home without so much as cat hair on the carpet! Ask yourself – really??
Cut yourself some slack!
Feeling guilty as a parent seems to come with the territory – whatever we do! But overdoing everything and pretending all is okay can cause burn-out and leave us barely able to function as a parent at all! Let’s cut ourselves some slack – accept that things aren’t perfect and won’t always go quite as planned. We will never get everything right, we’re human, but we can award ourselves some credit. Okay so we might sometimes let the kids watch too much TV and eat too many sweets, but that doesn’t mean you we are bad parents.
Reflect on what we have done right just today alone. We have provided love, a home, food on the table, got them to school and back safely, helped them with their homework, bathed them and got them tucked up safely in their bed where they are likely having sweet dreams. High fives to us!