Little Sis is usually an easy-going baby but she has been fussy lately and I have her teething issues to thank for that fact. She was particularly cranky this afternoon because she hadn't taken her afternoon nap and her brothers were not helping matters by banging up and down the stairs.
I, on the other hand, had my work cut out for me trying to leverage them into cleaning their room instead. I was also trying to get Little Sis to eat one of the home-made baby food combos I'd been offering her all afternoon.
She is not usually such a picky eater and neither does she usually make a habit of consistently dropping her teething ring as she was doing at that moment. I, of course, was basically in and out of the kitchen washing that thing and making yet another baby food combo in the food processor.
My stress level was building, mainly because I knew I needed to get some food into the baby's belly soon otherwise the nap wouldn't stick and then where would we all be?
I honestly really did my best to keep it together, but how can you when it all gets too much?
Ha! What can I say? Parenting and being a mom is hard work and there is no denying it. Moms work their butts off every day and it really doesn't matter if we work outside the home or not. Actually, I have come to the conclusion that the phenomenon of a mom who does not work is a fallacy. All mothers everywhere work and it's just a question of whether they work inside the home or outside of it.
And so I really think SAHMs should be called WAHMs (Work At Home Mom)s because all mothers work and all work has the potential to be stressful.
I have to say I have experienced both sides of the fence at various points in my EthnicMotherhood journey. As a rule, I usually stay at home with a new baby until they are walking and then go back to working as a nurse. So I have done the grueling 12-hour shifts in world-class hospitals and also stayed home with a baby (like I am doing now) and I can categorically say that hard work is hard work however you slice it and however you experience it. Hard work can lead to stress and unmanaged stress can lead to Burn-Out.
What is Parental Burn-Out?
So every mom experiences parental stress at some point, and we all try to cope with it in our own way. But are all moms burnt out? As a mom, I really feel it's important to understand what Parental Burn-Out is as an initial step to learning to conquer it. Moïra Mikolajczak and Isabelle Roskam write extensively about parental Burn-Out and actually describes its three dimensions:
An overwhelming physical and emotional exhaustion:
This is when everything is just too much and it's overwhelmingly hard to deal. It's that feeling of being completely zapped of physical and emotional reserves and you just want to curl up in a ball and snooze the rest of the day away.
Emotional distancing from children:
This dimension piggybacks of from the first dimension. The feeling of being drained leads to the need to follow a coping mechanism of distancing emotionally from the child(ren) in the hopes of preserving what reserves one has left. So talk about just doing the bare minimum of taking care of the child’s basic needs or going through the motions of day to day life while losing the intentionality of being in the moment.
A feeling of ineffectiveness or powerlessness in parenting:
This is that deep feeling of inadequacy like nothing we are doing works or that none of our parenting strategies are in constructive or useful.
Now I know for a fact that during the course of any given day, I have felt one or more or all of the three dimensions mentioned but does that mean I am burned out?
Moïra Mikolajczak and Isabelle Roskam mention that in situations of Parental Burn-Out, all three dimensions must be present over a sustained period of time, for Burn-Out to occur. Parental resources, at our disposal, play a huge factor in determining if the daily stress of parental demands eventually leads to Parental Burn-Out.
Parental stress does not always lead to Burn-Out if enough Parental resources are present.
Parental Burn-Out occurs when there is a chronic or sustained deficiency in parental resources to meet with parental demand. I like to think of it as a seesaw with Parental demand and Parental resources on opposite ends.
How to Conquer Parental Burn-Out
Conquering Parental Burn-Out in moms is all about striking a balance between parental resources and parental demand. Parental demand changes as we go through the motherhood journey. For instance, the parental demands I experience from my baby are quite different from those I experience with my 9-year-old and will also change when I have teens and so on.
It would be challenging to manage the extent of parental demands. What we can have better control over are our parental resources.
As a mom, I try to cultivate robust resources so that I can still maintain balance even if parental demands grow. Sure, I might experience parental stress from time to time, but activating my parental resources keep those stressors in check. So how do I activate my parental resources and manage Parental Stress? Here are 4 tips that have helped me:
On any given day, I have a million things to do and to keep track of, and I quickly start to feel overwhelmed if I haven't made my daily to-do list the night before. I always try to make the list the night before, because once morning comes, I need to be ready to hit the ground running.
Sometimes I use a paper planner and then go all out with colorful stickers and pencils but most times I use an App on my phone. My electronic To-do List reminds me to plan my day the night before and I am also able to set reminders throughout the day to keep me on track.
Yes, life happens sometimes to throw things off a bit, but the to-do lists keep me accountable and feeling productive even if I only accomplish a few things off my list that day.
I can’t even begin to tell you how helpful this is for me. I find that when I commit to exercising on a daily basis, I literally feel my energy level increase and I subsequently feel more relaxed. The one problem I had with my first baby was continuing to find the time to drive to the gym.
I quickly realized that to squash all excuses and to consistently exercise I had to introduce the option of exercising from home.
And I am not saying I had a home gym built into our basement. No, I got a simpler solution: Video exercises on TV! Back then, I literally exercised by following routines on DVD and Youtube! And it worked! There was no fancy gym but I literally broke a sweat and got my heart rate pumping and I was able to exercise from the comfort of my home, so no more excuses for me. These days you will see me sweating it out, still in front of the TV on my balance board and Wii remote and the result is the same. I find that however, I do it, the point is to break a sweat, get my heart rate up and reap the benefits of stress reduction.
During this my EthnicMotherhood journey I had to admit several times to myself every day that I am not perfect and frankly, no one is.
My parenting style is not perfect and it is ok to safely make compromises.
One way I was able to compromise safely was to write down my non-negotiables. Two of my non-negotiables are a daily shower for all three of my kiddos and a home-cooked breakfast and dinner. So once I had those non-negotiables down, I could safely compromise around them. For instance, some busy days, I take the kids out to lunch or offer them a sandwich as opposed to cooking a meal from scratch, knowing they had eaten a home-cooked breakfast and would be eating a home-cooked dinner.
As mothers, we all have our own non-negotiables and things we can safely compromise on.
Do I always remember to compromise? Nope! But I am a working progress and that's ok.
Grow your MomTribe:
Let's go back to the baby food excitement from this afternoon. So I was in the kitchen trying to figure out what else to mix up for Little Sis knowing I needed to fill her belly for her nap to stick and leveraging everything I could think off to get the boys cut the ruckus down to a minimum.
Suddenly I notice all was very quiet and honestly, that is usually not a good sign. So I rushed out of the kitchen and almost bumped into hubby. As it turns out, it was so quiet because he had given Little Sis her bottle and she was fast asleep.
He was coming into the kitchen to tell me the boys were putting on their shoes and he was taking them out for soccer in the park. So I took a deep grateful breath for the blessing of safe compromise, a functioning MomTribe and as it happened, Little Sis eventually settled for a macaroni-carrot combo after her nap.
How do I grow my MomTribe?
Well, the good news is that with growing my MomTribe, the distance was not a barrier. I found supportive tribesmen and tribeswomen right at home (yeah, my loving hubby is one), and in groups, I am a part of.
Joining virtual and face-to-face groups has been crucial to building my MomTribe.
For instance, Facebook groups around parenting have been helpful for receiving encouraging messages throughout the day. Another group I participate in is a national face-to-face women's’ Book Club that has chapters around the United States. And so in every State, I have moved to, I have been able to tap into this Book Club and gained an instant tribe of women around a similar interest.
I also grow my tribe by acknowledging my limits and accepting help from family members and close friends when it is offered.
My tribe is my support system and I can fall back on them when things get overwhelming.
Do I always have perfect days?
No, I don't. Parental demand is always present and finding equilibrium between parental demand and my parental resources is an ongoing seesaw process.
So there are no perfect days but I do have perfect moments like the one I have right now. It was a hectic day but we did end up going to a Dino O'Dell concert/Family Fun event and we got back an hour ago.
Big Bro and Little Bro had their fill of the bouncy houses, hot dogs, popcorn and snow cones. All Three Musketeers have had dinner and a shower in that order. Big Bro and Little Bro are playing Nintendo Wii with their dad in their room, at the moment, and Little Sis is watching her siblings quietly from her swinger. She will be fast asleep soon.
I take all this in as I sit lounging in the parlor with my feet up writing this blog on my phone. Yes, I am embracing my perfect moment, even though it was not a perfect day, and that's ok.
How do you handle parental stress and/or burnout? Let me know in the comment box below. Until then,
Best regards and talk to you soon!