Mothers rarely admit that behind all the happy photos on social media, there are boring days, irritation caused by their child’s screaming, a constant mess around them, and the fact that the child wants 100% of their time.
This article is not about how to raise children, but about how to support yourself. We recommend that you not ignore your feelings and emotions, but instead be more attentive to them. Here are several ways to overcome the situation when your parent’s energy is running really low.
1. What parent burnout looks like
But the nervous system is just as much of an organ as any other and it can get ill too. Chronic tiredness often leads to emotional burnout. This state is included in the International Classification of Diseases and it has several stages: from irritation over little things to complete apathy. And even though they are no universal ways to fix yourself, there are some recommendations that you can follow to make things better.
2. Comfort yourself.
We are usually ready to provide support to anyone but ourselves and we have nothing better than to say to ourselves: “get yourself together!” — guilting ourselves for yet another emotional breakdown. But the feeling of guilt makes you exhausted and tired, and all the changes for the best happen when you restore your energy, and when you believe that good things can and will happen. When you are feeling irritated or even furious, psychologist Ludmila Petranovskaya recommends listening to your own feelings and, instead of blaming yourself, comfort yourself.
Ask yourself, how you can comfort yourself at the moment, what you can do, not because you need it, but because you want it. In the end, taking care of yourself means taking care of those you love, because in order to share your energy with others, you first need to get it somewhere for yourself. Remember the plane recommendations? Put the oxygen mask on you first and then on your child.
You have the right to live your own life and it’s the child that needs to adapt to how you live. This is what nature planned: follow the adults and do as they do. It’s the adults that have children, not the other way around.
Psychologist Katerina Murashova says that modern parents entertain their children as much as they can, but they forget to give them time to be by themselves and learn to entertain themselves. Live your own life. A parent is not the only role you have and maybe not even the most important one.
4. Don’t try to be perfect. Be a good enough mother.
Studies show that the parents that try to give their children all the best things, burn out faster. The wish to be ideal takes up so much energy that parents start treating their children indifferently or even angrily. It’s the “perfect mothers” that yell in the supermarkets at their crying children and scream “Don’t embarrass me!” because the reality of a child crying in public doesn’t match the imaginary picture in the mind of the parent.
The people that give up in the very beginning are the winners. These parents admit that they are not perfect and that there are no universal rules for raising children. Whatever you do, you will make mistakes. A good enough mother just do whatever is in her power, she listens to her instincts, and tries to stay connected to her child, understanding that she can’t control everything and that she can’t be responsible for everything.
5. Lower your standards.
Mother and blogger Hailey Haingst writes that motherhood is like a million balls you are juggling, and you probably feel like you are dropping most of them. Nobody can do this alone. Ask for help. It is perfectly normal.
6. Find a source of energy.
Parents invest a lot of emotions and energy into raising their children and if these resources are not restored, there is an imbalance and the parent will burn out. Look for ways to restore your energy: go somewhere without your child, do something that you like, don’t wait for your relatives to realize that you need help, ask for it, spend money and time on yourself — for a child, a happy mother is 100 times more important than a new toy.
Psychologist Laura Mazza, the mother of 3, that survived the postpartum depression, and has a blog The Mom on the Run, writes, “But entering motherhood for the first time is like a tornado that swirls you in and spits you out. Those days are by far the hardest. Getting a babysitter, sleeping, passing your baby over to your partner like a football, or putting the baby down in her bed nice and safe while you take a minute — is ok. You’re still a person. You don’t have to exhaust yourself to be a good mother. You don’t have to lose yourself. No one has it all together. Even Becky with the good hair.”
If you feel that you are on the edge, and you have no power to do anything, see a therapist. You can also call a helpline in your country.
7. Stay connected to your child.
When your crisis is behind you, think about what you can change about your relationship with your child. It doesn’t matter what you do: train your empathy, test the attachment theory, or find your own way, it is important to let the child know that any of their feelings, even the negative ones (fear, jealousy, insecurity, irritation, sadness) are perfectly normal and that you can help them get through the hard times. The well-being of a child doesn’t depend on the financial situation they live in, but more on the relationships that surround them.
How do you deal with being tired as a parent?