How to opt out of this crazy competition to be the perfect wife and mother, and avoid a maternal breakdown.
Between struggling to get the crying baby in the car seat and dropping a distracted big brother off at kindergarten on time, all while remembering to send that crucial work email or pick up the dry cleaning by 9 a.m., it’s no wonder that moms are often at their wits’ end these days. But what happens when these feelings seem uncontrollable?
You could be on the brink of a burnout — you know, that feeling when you’re pulled in all directions and just the slightest everyday task seems totally insurmountable?
Luckily, help is just around the corner, if you’re able to identify the problem and adopt a few good habits.
What’s going on?
Ladies, there are times when it’s hard, when we hit our limit and feel like hiding in the bathroom and crying. I’ve been there too.
After my baby was born, when friends announced they were planning a visit, I set to cleaning the house from top to bottom. I wanted everything to be perfect, including the homemade cake I’d just prepared. After all that effort, I didn’t have the energy to take a shower. And did I learn from this? Of course not! Each time, I find myself following the same routine. I feel I have to do it. I imagine my guests casting a critical eye over the slightest speck of dust, checking to see if the laundry is spilling over the basket (or even baskets), and basically, judging me by the state of my house.
Looking after a child is a monumental task for any mom. Striving for perfection with the desire to meet the demands of others – or what we think they expect — makes us feel like permanent failures. But that’s not all …
I imagined that after the birth of my child, I’d regain my pre-baby figure. And I think this is where a lot of my disillusionment begins: my whole life had changed and I didn’t know what to do. I no longer had any energy or desire. I wanted to be a super-mom on every level: to be feminine and attractive, while also being the perfect homemaker. On top of that, I also wanted to make the most of my maternity leave to do some training for work and keep my career going. I wanted to be a super-wife, a super-daughter-in-law, and a super-daughter.
All of that was eating me up from the inside. It was too much for one woman. I hated myself for having one single desire: sleep!
Let’s opt out of this crazy competition to be the perfect woman. A mom’s day is full enough already, without adding in all of this unnecessary (and often self-imposed) pressure. So take a little break. Give yourself a well-deserved rest. After all, a woman’s well-being affects her role as a wife too. Marital disputes are often founded on a lack of sleep, and on not being able to do everything that’s expected of us. Women believe that the model of femininity is to be gentle, amenable, and with well-groomed hair; yes that’s right, bright busy bees who are orderly, calm, and… exhausted.
Every woman has experienced, at least once in her life, what Stasi Eldredge described in her book Captivating: “Women almost universally feel that they are ‘too much’ and ‘not enough.’ At the same time.”
Conquer that burnout
We all need to find our own way of overcoming burnout; we have our own habits, our way of looking after the house, our children, and of course, our families, and also our idea of what makes a model family.
But the first step is to ask for help: ask your husband, grandmother, or an aunt to look after the children. Then, as simple as this may sound, get out of the house. Go for a stroll, go to the hairdresser, get a manicure, or go buy yourself something – even if it’s a tiny something. Just avoid any stores for kids.
Take a bit of time for you
And while we’re at it, here are some more suggestions:
– Take a shower or a bath, put on a bit of makeup, or take a long nap. The aim is to have no interruptions!
– Ignore the mess – don’t do any housework if you don’t have the energy; rest up and enjoy some simple moments with your family.
– Get sporty, do some physical exercise, dance! Just have a bit of fun, even if it’s dancing with your kids while listening to music you love. This will leave you feeling more positive and optimistic.
– Choose friends carefully: avoid those who constantly complain and carry the weight of the world on their shoulders; surround yourself with happy and joyful people.
– Try to discover what you’re really passionate about: having a weekly dance class, hiking, or a friendly bake off can do a world of good.
– Be present in the here and now, and don’t plan anything excessive.
– Always remember that you don’t owe anybody anything, and you don’t have to say “yes” to everything. You can say no! You are allowed!
How can you avoid burnout?
Being a mom is not a competition – there’s no exam. What counts is your husband, your kids, and yourself. During a discussion of “what makes a couple” in our work group, one woman said, “Motherhood is a challenge. It’s not about shutting yourself off. Motherhood should not prevent you from following your dreams.”
Life has many facets, and being a mom is just one of them. So vary your interests; pick up something new! You’ll feel less burdened and your zest for life will be contagious.
This article was originally published in the French Edition of Aleteia and has been translated and/or adapted here for English speaking readers.