According to a study done by Duke University Medical Center researchers, working mothers experience a rise in stress hormone levels that begin each morning and stay elevated until bedtime.
So it´s no wonder that I received the phone call that I did last night.
My friend, a working mother to a one and a half year old, said she had a little meltdown in her bowl of spaghetti last evening. She told me she´d felt it coming on for days, but had avoided the warning signs and plowed forward, never taking a moment to stop and recharge.
We are a lot like batteries. We need to plug ourselves in sometimes to get those energy juices flowing again. Avoid doing so and eventually we will burn out just like a pair of Triple A´s.
And mothers, we all know that it is true: We experience physical symptoms of mommy overload long before we actually crash. These can include headaches, anxiety, shorter attention span, and a shorter fuse. They can include crying during a State Farm commercial. Or going back home four times to check to see if the coffeepot is unplugged.
Oftentimes they include screaming at the people we love the most.
The key to avoiding burnout, whether it is at home, in the workplace, or in another area of our life, is to first recognize the warning signs and then do something to prevent it from happening.
We need to make sure that we plug ourselves in.
As we all know, being a working mom is a juggling act. We try to grab onto each ball as it comes our way: the job, the family, the house, the friends, and the personal time. Ultimately, it is the last of these that gets skipped altogether.
Why do we cut ourselves short? Why not skip folding a load of laundry and instead opt for a nap while our toddlers are resting? Or schedule a girl´s day out that includes something relaxing, like a movie or a trip to the spa?
Many women feel guilty if they admit to needing a break. They believe taking a break is selfish. Instead, we should see this as a sign of being giving toward our families, because as the old saying goes, "If mom isn´t happy, isn´t anybody happy."
A few weeks ago I posted a blog about guilt and the working mother. In it I listed a few tips from Natalie Gahrmann, a success coach and author. She has also written tips on defraying stress that a working parent faces. I like her opening point, which is that parents are a key influence on a child´s development. We understand this as we sit down with them each night after dinner and work on homework together, or as we teach them to say please and thank you when they are first learning to talk. We understand the need to expose them to a variety of life´s beauties: the arts, the outdoors, other children. Yet when it comes to understanding the correlation between our children´s development and our state of mind, we fall blind.
Imagine this through the eyes of a two year old: Mommy comes home after a hard day at work. She´s frazzled and frustrated because dinner needs to be cooked, the dog needs to be walked, the house needs to be straightened, and Joey has to be bathed, fed, and put to bed. When Joey begs for attention, mommy tells him in a stern voice that she has too much to do-can´t he go play with his toys for a while as she fixes something to eat? When he persists, she snaps and yells at him.
As we all know, children internalize everything. If this scenario happens often enough, Joey is going to believe that he is the cause of her frustration and stress. As mothers, we have to recognize that when we need a break, we need a break: not only for our well being, but also for that of our children. We want to send our children positive energy. We want to share with them positive moments.
We can´t do that if we can´t even scrape enough energy together to smile.
Natalie suggests several tips for reenergizing. These can be seen at her website: http://www.nrgcoaching.com/resources/articles.php
Below are additional websites devoted to helping moms regain some "me´ time during their hectic schedules. I would also love to hear from readers: How do you find time to unwind? How do you fit it into your schedule, and once you´ve found the time, what is it that you enjoy doing?
And if you don´t want to share your ideas, just give them some thought and make sure that you have at least a little chunk of time in your schedule each day when you can sit down, read a book, flip through a magazine, paint your nails, or stare at the television while sipping a cup of hot tea. And at least once a month, schedule a "me´ day that involves doing something you WANT to do, not something you HAVE to do (in other words, errands are out, pedicures are in.)
Once you recharge those internal mommy batteries, you´ll not only find more enjoyment in family time, but your children will as well.
5 ways to avoid feeling burned out:
31 mommy-time ideas: