When Resignation is NOT an Option for a Burned Out Mom, What is?
|The kids enjoying the sunshine...|
Yes, I only go out to work once a week and am compensated very well for all that trouble of dressing up and looking presentable. Most days of the week, I stay at home or work from home. I know, I'm more than blessed.
But yesterday I wasn't feeling blessed. I was feeling burned out... and feeling so alone in my struggle to keep up with all the things that I had to do as a mom, that I was ready to throw in the towel and resign.
Then I remembered. I am a mom. A mother. One who has to be on duty 24/7 and has no idea where to hand in her resignation.
During the past days, my kids were confused why I was curt with them. I was confused, too. I bet now, even my husband is bewildered. He had been trying to be extra nice and thoughtful so I would allow him to go off with his buddies hunting and fishing, and act uncivilized as most men would when no woman is around, but I had been cutting, restless and listless. There was no way of pleasing me.
I felt bad. But I also felt more exhausted than bad. I felt like I had the right to be selfish and mean. But a few times after an unpleasant encounter and a time-out for me, I would regret what I did and usually ask the kids' forgiveness if they were still awake.
However, the sight of dirty dishes in the sink, the laundry still waiting to be taken out from the washer, the mountain of clothes that had to be sorted out, ironed and folded, and the effort needed to cook while trying to keep my eyes at the back of my head for the baby, who has morphed into a Super PacBaby, able to climb two flights of stairs on her own, explore rooms and put everything she encounters along the way into her mouth, proved to be too much and put me down on the dumps again. It seemed like a long time ago since I had been able to go through my tasks with joy.
So here I am, all for motherhood and commitment, but feeling like there was nothing I wanted more but to escape.
Nine years ago when I first became a mom, I was bushy tailed and wide-eyed all ready to tackle anything that comes with being a mother, excited despite my fears of being incapable. Now, even when I get to experience some joys, it is often drowned down by stress. I am overwhelmed. I am frustrated. I am exhausted.
I am burned out. I am no longer the dreamy eyed newbie mom but at times can get all cynical and resentful. What happened along the way? I need my sweetness back!
I know I am not alone on this. Motherhood and the commitment that it entails, most often consumes us that there is no room to breath and we find ourselves dreading, even resenting, the day-to-day hustle and drudgery. We need an exit. A breathing room. But what is there to do when mothers can't resign? Besides, there's no retirement to motherhood!
So tonight, I'm sitting down here in front of my computer, rejecting the call of the dirty dishes to be washed before sleeping or the mounds of clothes to be ironed and prepared for the kids' to wear tomorrow or the baby's toys strewn all over the floor waiting to be picked up, and instead I'm thinking, trying to think my way out of burning out completely. (I did stop for awhile when the baby called for me. So the time reference of *yesterday here may not only be applied to last Tuesday but also to many other times of joyless mothering these past few weeks. If you're reading this, it means I did get to finish writing this post.)
And this is what I need. Recovery. Healing. Renewing of strength and spirit. Restoring of what I've lost along the way. For this I need...
1. to identify the cause of my condition.
Okay, I lack sleep because of the baby's sleeping patterns. She wakes up too early and I go to bed too late trying to complete tasks while the baby is asleep. I cram as many tasks as possible before midnight and after I am done with them, I relax and cram for myself some ME time. Or it may be PMS. Or the lack of opportunity to do what I enjoy doing--- writing, reading, exploring, going out with friends. Or the lack of friends while living in a foreign land. Or the chronic stress of my relationships with the adults at home. Then, I need...
2. to act on them.
Lack of sleep? Sleep when the baby sleeps. Too much chores? Delegate. Or don't be a slave to perfectionism. Allow myself some slack. Lack of ME time? Carve out a regular ME time. Every mom deserves it. And it's also important to let others know that you deserve one. Don't skip the basics--- look after myself. PMS? Know and be prepared when it'll strike. Haha!
And adult relationships should be taken cared of so the stress of these situations doesn't spill into my children. Our poor kids often bear the brunt of our adult relationships. I know. Mine do at times even when I try to protect them. My prayer is that God will shield them and I'm thankful that He made children to be very resilient. This tells me...
3. to take charge of my reactions.
So okay, as a mom I may not have a crazy, overbearing boss, but I do have people who can act like one--- bossy, critical. I don't have any control on how they behave, but I do have control on how I react. In other words, manage up. Like if an adult throws a tantrum and shouts at me or my children or simply to vent her displeasure, I may not be able to do anything about it; but it's not acceptable for me to take it on the kids and throw a tantrum myself or internalize it that it defeats me. I have to learn to avoid, ignore, and learn skills in coping the stresses that I get from my bossy people, like walking it out, journaling, and praying.
Also, kids may behave poorly. Most moms feel terrible and get so frustrated over their children's misbehavior that they often react, if not overreact. This includes me. Instead, I can act, reminding myself that I am responsible for how I behave and not for my children's ultimate choices, even when they choose to behave poorly.
This brings me to my parenting goals. I need...
3. to reassess my personal goals for my children.
As in any business endeavors and professional work, moms also need to examine their work, where they are going, and where they are on their plans. We cannot teach everything to our children all at once. In order to avoid feelings of frustration and being overwhelmed, I need to decide on what is most important for me to teach my children. I need to focus on the majors as to avoid getting bogged down with the minors.
For example, I want my children to read more or be more nice to each other so I would concentrate on reminding them on these, reinforcing the good behavior by rewarding them when they do. Or I cannot allow my children to take or use other people's things without permission or scream and shout at each other, so I deal with these right away by correcting such unacceptable behavior. Other things they may do may only be an annoyance to me, so I can decide to deal with it only after I have taught them the acceptable and unacceptable behaviors. If I deal with all kinds of behavior at once, even minor infractions, I would be expending energy and may not have enough to deal with the major ones.
That would make me a very negative, nagging mom--- nagging my children with every little thing that I don't approve. And that, would make my children the most miserable on earth--- robbing us all of the joys of parent-and-child relationship.
At times, many problems that our children have may not be our problem and it is up to the person to own it and decide to act on it when they are ready. All we can do is help when asked and not expend energy on fighting our children.
Lastly, I need...
4. to feed on life-sustaining food, and not binge on chocolates. (Yeah...)
Is it just a coincidence that I am feeling low on energy, life and passion when I forgo my daily reading of God's Word so I can get a lot of mileage on my daily legwork? Or is there a connection to my being burned out at this time of my life to my recent neglect of breakfast and other mealtimes, choosing instead to run around and finish what was written on my to-do list, while popping one chocolate after another, thinking to replenish my energy through them?
Aha! I'm glad I'm sitting down here right now and thinking/writing these things. This may be the beginning of my recovery. After this, sleep. Then breakfast--- a life-sustaining one. This means, I may have to avoid teatime like plague. I have come to love this one Russian tradition. But to recover, one has to make sacrifices... and resign her lot to the Lord's hand.
My prayer, "My soul cling to the dust, revive me according to Your Word" (Psalm 119:25).
Resignation is not an option, but may be the ONLY one there is if a burned out mother like me wants total, full recovery.
Resignation to what God has said is best for us. He has the blueprint. After all, He made us. He want us to be healthy physically, emotionally and mentally. He has asked us to rest in Him. He gave us the Sabbath (Genesis 2:2,3). He has showed us in the beginning what food is good--- every fruit bearing tree (Genesis 1:29). He gave us work as a blessing (Genesis 1:28, 2:15). He has blessed us with an abundance of fresh air, sunshine and water... even from the day our world began. He only asks us to have self-control (2 Peter 1:6) and to trust Him.
"Trust in the Lord with all your heart... Do not be wise in your own eyes, fear the Lord and depart from evil. It will be health to your flesh and strength to your bones" (Proverbs 3:5,7,8).
Okay, I'm off to rest, giving God all that I have at this time. What's next? Right, breakfast. But before that, I need to feed on God's life-giving Word. And chocolates? A sound mind and a healthy body is all I can offer my Lord. With what He is doing for me, it's too small a price. Besides, munching on carrot sticks is much more satisfying, even the kids agree with me. Crunch. Munch!
Just as He desires for us, I also wish the same for you. "Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers" (3 John 1:2).
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