Mommy Burnout

Coral Gables Counseling Center - Wednesday, October 30, 2019
By Nicole Herdocia-Oria , RMFTI, MS

Queen Mom of House Barbarian, First of her name, the Master of Multitasking, and rightful queen of the 7 AM toddler maelstrom, protector of the realm and breaker of fights, Khaleesi of kisses, the… unburnt?

As I edited her article (and unbeknownst to her, as I write this introduction) my wife, mother of our two children, light of my life, object of my adoration and love, trailed off to sleep mid-sentence, finally succumbing to exhaustion and sleep deprivation after a typical week. A typical week which included but was not limited to, waking up at the crack of dawn, getting the kids ready for the day (our son, Lucas (age 2) for school, and our daughter, Anabel (age 1) for her following as an influencer on social media, #anabelhateseverything), making daily breakfasts, taking out the dog, milk breaks, countless diaper changes, laundry, feeding the dog, nap time battles, laundry, dishes, school pickups, making several lunches for our picky eater (Lucas), the odd mid-day phone sessions, play dates, Dr. visits, clean ups, second rounds of nap battles, more play time, and did I mention the laundry? Who then nearly every evening heads off to work just as I come home to the occasional home-cooked meal and the night shift…

Being a mom is a relentless 24/7 job with no breaks or sick days, zero pay, no vacations or benefits like dental or 401k, and your bosses tend to have terrible communication skills and will literally throw a shit-show if you fail to meet any of their unreasonable demands or expectations (ok fine, you can chew on Papi’s glasses, he doesn’t need to see… just please stop crying). And then, as if that weren’t enough, more and more women, like my wife, take on all of these responsibilities and still seek to work. It’s no surprise then that mommy burnout is all too real. I won’t be as presumptuous to speak for moms in this regard but luckily what follows are my wife’s views and first-hand experience on this topic…
First, thank you to my delicious husband, Humberto, for always having my back by which preventing my burnout. And to the architects of my demise, my toddlers, thank you for being you and making me a better woman, even though sometimes I leave the house with one blue shoe and one black shoe on. Humberto always edits my stuff for me and this was an amazing surprise addition with his take on things. I like him.
First, thank you to my delicious husband, Humberto, for always having my back by which preventing my burnout. And to the architects of my demise, my toddlers, thank you for being you and making me a better woman, even though sometimes I leave the house with one blue shoe and one black shoe on. Humberto always edits my stuff for me and this was an amazing surprise addition with his take on things. I like him.

Here goes…

While the “traditional” family structure has been redefined over the last few decades, Studies still show that stay at home parents account for about 1 in 5 of US parents. And of those roughly 83% are women. As such, many of the child rearing and household responsibilities fall squarely on the shoulders of moms. There’s no doubt that moms are rock stars of multitasking and can take on most anything like champions. Perhaps… but why do we have to? Why do we feel compelled to take on so many responsibilities at once and often at the expense of our self-care? Why does our health take a back seat to getting everything else done? Who is making us do this? Is it those little dictators running our lives? It can’t be, they’re so cute! Is it our bosses or partners making us feel that we need to be perfect all the time? No? Then who could be behind all this stress? The exhaustion? The fatigue that so many moms feel? Oh, it’s ourselves?!?! Fantastic.

As a relatively new mom I can attest to how easily our wants and even needs can be swept by the wayside in prioritizing the needs and wants of our children. Did I brush my teeth this morning? I definitely didn’t brush my hair. It’s only natural for any parent, after all, to seek the best for their kids. But there is a fine line between self-sacrifice and self-neglect. It’s when that line is blurred that we begin to see the negative effects of mommy burn out manifest. We take it all on and wonder why we’re tired, anxious, moody and feeling overwhelmed. It’s a struggle… I know… and it seems counter intuitive or even contrite to focus on yourself. But you mustn’t feel guilty to put yourself first every once in a while. After all, if you’re not first you’ll be a lesser version of yourself and by extension offer less of yourself to your loved ones. Remember, you are as good to them as you are to yourself. Fortunately, this is but one of a few simple things we can do to reduce these self-imposed pressures, and hopefully avoid feeling The Burn.

Your time is a commodity and spending some of it to center yourself is a great way to strike a balance in the things you need to do (eat, sleep, Dr. appointments) and things you want to do (everything else).

As I write this, I check myself as well. I’m trying to do this too and it’s rarely easy. Today I ate some crumbs from the high chair table left over from my son’s organic blueberry muffin and that was my breakfast. (I know Emy, don’t be mad! (my friend/nutritionist)). Every day I say I’m going to wake up earlier to hit the gym (what’s that?), which I never do, but I’ll feel guilty canceling the membership so I pay the fee every month. (My BFF calls it a fat tax.)

So yes, I’m a work in progress as well.

Incidentally, understanding this balance leads into the next technique we can employ: managing your expectations. Effectively, it’s an exercise where you give yourself realistic goals and achievable objectives so you don’t set yourself up for failure. When we try to do it all it can be very easy to feel at fault for failing in accomplishing everything. Know that it’s OK if you won’t be able to do everything (in fact you probably won’t), so it’s a question of figuring out what matters most and letting go of the things that don’t.

For example, if you try to simultaneous feed, bathe, and dress multiple kids while packing the car and putting on your makeup, you may find that when the kids are ready looking adorable they come across some curious yellow water that they decide is just ideal to have a splash fight in. That yellow water is dog pee because in the craziness of trying to get it all done at the same time you forgot to take out the dog. Everybody back in the tub and now we’re late. Good times.

Now that you figured out what you want to do, next let’s figure out how you’re going to do it. Pacing yourself is key. While we may often feel obligated to engage in every single activity that comes our way (birthday parties, play dates, shows, family outings, playgrounds, pumpkin patches, Disney… just to name a few), we don’t have to do them all at once. Prioritizing these activities, you can stride to accomplish these desires at your own pace: let’s go to the pumpkin patch today and maybe leave the park for next weekend, and we can always go to Disney when the kids are a little older and might actually remember it. (the Disney comment was definitely edited in by my husband because I would take them every day because I’d remember, LOL!).

So far so good… we’ve made a lot of progress. I think it’s time to take a break and rest (what’s this rest that she speaks of?). This is perhaps the most difficult one for a lot of my mommy clients (and me) as they feel there are too many things to do, and constant challenges, so that there is never a time for a respite. The truth of the matter is that there will always be something to do, but if we never take time for ourselves we can’t truly make time for others.

Granted, there may be times when we’ve tried to employ the techniques mentioned above and still feel anxious, overwhelmed, and spiraling towards a mommy burnout. Here it seems that very few of us stop and ask for help. It’s important to understand these feelings are normal and it’s perfectly OK to ask for help. Don’t feel guilty for needing a little assistance here and there… It’s ok and you may be surprised and relieved to know you have a hand to hold, an ear to listen, or a shoulder to lean on like I do with my dead sexy husband, but I digress.

We’re not superwoman, so it is perfectly acceptable and normal to ask for help when we need it. In the meantime, don’t eat the cheerio you found in the car seat – it’s probably not a cheerio, just sayin’.

Are you running around after toddlers?
If so what do you do to avoid burnout?
Can you use some of the techniques Nikki uses?
Leave your comments here.